Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dino Melaye, representing
Kogi West, is currently sponsoring a bill at the National
Assembly seeking to criminalize facial mutilation under the guise of
cultural and tribal marks.
The bill named “A Bill for an Act to
provide for the Prohibition of Facial Mutilation, the Offences,
Prosecution, and Punishment of Offenders and the Protection of Victims
under Threat of Facial Mutilation and to provide for Other Related
Matters ” has already passed through a second reading at the Senate.
got me wondering how the practice of tribal marks began in Nigeria,
what was the motive behind it, was it a fashion trend, a beauty mark,
for identification or trade? My discoveries will wow you.
marks are specific marks which comes in different shapes and sizes,
commonly found on the face; which gives it another name of “facial
According to history, tribal marks practice in Nigeria
dates back to the colonial era when the colonial masters were capturing
people and taking them to foreign countries for slavery. People started
giving family members marks to identify and recognise them when if they
were captured and later found.
these permanent marks became ways of identification passed on from
family to family, members of the same village, identification of royal
lineage and people from the same lineage. Different lineage, town, and
village have different tribal marks, some with similarities and some
Reasons For Tribal Marks
mentioned above, tribal marks were mainly for identification. At some
point in history, every clan/village have their distinct tribal marks
and that made it easy for either of them to identify their kith and kin
in the event of invasion, war, getting lost, or been captured for
But later, it became a form of creativity and tattoos on
bodies, especially the women. In fact, at some point, women with better
looking were valued possessions and were more expensively married.
marks are mostly given to people at a very young age most especially
when they are babies. This is because, at that age, the child doesn’t
have a say on decisions to giving him/her tribal marks.
people who make these marks use either razor blades or sharp knives to
cut the face and they have native dye, pigmentation or black paste
usually from grounded charcoal dust which is put into the open wound to
stain the marks, stop the bleeding and to make the wound
Types of Tribal Marks
tribal marks are used mainly to differentiate ethnic groups, they vary.
There are marks on the cheeks, forehead, on the temple, under the chin
and so on.
These marks can be in vertical lines, horizontal, or
both. They could also come in slanted lines on both cheeks. These marks
are in patterns based on the ethnic group of their bearer and have
different meanings and different names.
Yoruba tribal marks
is really an interesting feature of Yoruba nation; although no longer
common or in vogue, it is fast disappearing due to extant laws, and
are various tribal marks, by different ethnic groups within the Yoruba
nation: Ijesa (a town in Osun state) people are known by “pele.” Pele is
a-four-horizontal-line; an-inch-long mark made on the cheeks on both
sides of the mouth.
Ondo natives of Ondo State are identified by half-an-inch-vertical
lines on both sides of the nose down to the mouth (marks are thick and
long) called “Soju”. Another tribal mark which can also be found in Ondo
state is called “Jaju” which is just a single horizontal line on both
sides of the face.
Other Yoruba ethnic groups have different types
of facial marks; Ogbomosho natives of (Oyo State) are identified by
multiple straight marks drawn from the head which curves on the lower
chin straight to the corner of the mouth on both sides of the face
Also prone to Ibadan, Oyo town and the Ogbomosho
People (all these three towns are located in Oyo State) is a tribal mark
called Abaja. Abaja is made up of four horizontally drawn lines with
two or more vertical lines standing on the topmost horizontal line.
Other Yoruba tribal marks
Other types of tribal marks that exist among the Yorubas includes Ture, Bamu, Keke, among others.
Igboland, tribal marks were scarification process is called igbu ichi,
and scar called ‘ichi’. However, tribal marks in Igboland cannot be
compared to that of the Yorubas as they were much smaller in size and
fewer in number of markings.
Like the Yorubas, the Hausas also have names for tribal marks like zube, yan baka, doddori, bille and so on.
PICTURES OF TRIBAL MARKS:
|Tribal mark tatoo
|Neat tribal mark