The Yoruba tribal marks are scarifications which are specific identification and beautification marks designed on the face or body of the Yoruba people. The tribal marks are part of the Yoruba culture and are usually inscribed on the body by burning or cutting of the skin during childhood.[1] The primary function of the tribal marks is for identification of a person's tribe, family or patrilineal heritage.[2][3] Other secondary functions of the marks are symbols of beauty, Yoruba creativity and keeping mischievous children alive (ila Abiku). This practice was popular among Yoruba people of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, tribal identification and facial stripes became important.[citation needed] Some repatriated slaves later reunited with their communities by looking at facial stripes.[4][5]

Bust of an Ile-Ife king of the 12th/13th Century with tribal marks
Man in the 1940s with tribal marks

However, the use of tribal marks is fading in Yoruba land due to colonialism and modernization.

Background edit

In traditional Yoruba societies, every child is born into a patrilineal clan called idile baba in Yoruba language. The clan share clan names (orile), poetry (oriki), taboos (eewo) and facial marks (ila). The facial marks on the child assigns the child full clan membership rights. The children with facial marks are called Okola. Families or individuals lacking the normal features consistent with the tribe are not considered as acquiring full standing as agents in Yoruba society. They would also lack the capacity for meaningful behavior, such as greeting, stating and commanding.[6] Each tribe of the Yoruba ethnic group had different inscription patterns which appears in different sizes and shapes at different locations within the face or body. The location and position of the mark's inscription depends on the tribe and culture.[7] The tribal marks could be inscribed on the breast, arm, lap or buttocks, but they are usually on the face.[8]

Style edit

Facial marks

Pele edit

The Pele style of tribal mark is a three vertical lines inscribed on the cheeks.[9]

Pele have different variants. The variants include; Pele Ife, a three vertical lines inscribed on the cheek. It is peculiar to the Ile Ife people. Pele Ijebu and Pele Ijesha are other variants of Pele. Both variants are three short vertical lines inscribed on the cheeks.[10][11]

Owu edit

Owu tribal marks consist of six incisions on each side of the cheeks and peculiar to the indigenes of Owu, a historical city in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, Nigeria. The Owu tribal mark was inscribed on the cheeks of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was a former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.[12][13]

Gọmbọ edit

The Gọmbọ style, also known as Kẹkẹ, consists of multiple straight and curved lines about a half of an inch apart inscribed on the cheeks on both sides of the mouth. Indigenes of Ogbomosho in Oyo State are usually identified by the Gombo or Kẹkẹ style of Yoruba tribal marks.[14]

Abaja edit

Abaja can be both a basic and also a complex style. In its basic form, it is either three or four horizontal stripes on the cheeks. The Abaja style also consists of twelve horizontal lines, six lines per cheek. It is often referred to as "Abaja Alaafin Mefa Mefa". This tribal mark is unique to the indigenes of Oyo, Nigeria.[15] The Abaja style of Yoruba tribal mark was inscribed on the cheeks of Lamidi Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo. [16] Other Yoruba tribal marks include Ture, Mande, Bamu and Jamgbadi.[17]

Use of tribal marks today edit

The use of tribal marks as a means of identification and beautification among the Yoruba tribe is no longer a norm and some Yoruba states have enacted certain laws that prohibit the use of the marks.[18] Violators of the law are liable to fines and/or imprisonment.[19] In Oyo State, for example, the prohibition of tribal marks is an integral part of the state Child Rights Law, a law that imposes a fine or one-month imprisonment or both for violation.[20] According to the law "No person shall tattoo or make a skin mark or cause any tattoo/skin mark to be made on a child".[21] Various pigments are typically injected into the dermis to create tribal markings. The most effective removal technique is a q-switched laser.[22]

Significance of tribal mark in Yoruba culture edit

Some tribal marks are associated with the thrones of certain towns, so that whoever becomes the king is expected to have the tribal mark that is associated with this traditional office. For example, it is still very much expected in Iseyin, Oyo State, that any new king will have the Pele tribal mark.[23]

Prominent Yoruba people with tribal marks edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Lefèber, Yvonne; Henk W. A. Voorhoeve (1998). Indigenous Customs in Childbirth and Child Care. Guinevere Van Gorcum. p. 53. ISBN 9023233662.
  2. ^ Orie (2011), p. 1.
  3. ^ Chioma, Gabriel (18 October 2014). "Marked for life? Are your tribal marks attractive or repulsive?". Vanguard News. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  4. ^ Usman, A., & Falola, T. (2019). The Nineteenth Century: Wars and Transformations. In The Yoruba from Prehistory to the Present (pp. 159-240). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ "Nigeria Country of Origin Information (COI) Report" (PDF). 2013.
  6. ^ Bello, Abiodun (10 February 2015). "Tribal marks, a people's identity". New Telegraph. Archived from the original on 22 May 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  7. ^ Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R. (2004). Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology. Vol. 1 (cultures). Springer Science & Business Media. p. 1032. ISBN 0306477548.
  8. ^ Famutimi, Temitayo (24 December 2014). "Civilisation pushes tribal mark makers out of job". The Punch. Archived from the original on 21 May 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Killed by modernity". 20 September 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  10. ^ Abraham Ajibade Adeleke Ph. D.; Abraham Ajibade Adeleke (February 2011). Intermediate Yoruba: Language, Culture, Literature, and Religious Beliefs. Trafford Publishing. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-1-4269-4909-8.
  11. ^ "The Symbolism of Tribal marks in Nigeria". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  12. ^ "Tribal marks my ID card - Obasanjo". Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  13. ^ "The Symbolism of Tribal marks in Nigeria". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  14. ^ "The Symbolism of Tribal marks in Nigeria". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  15. ^ Hucks, Tracey E. (16 May 2012). Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism. UNM Press. ISBN 978-0826350770.
  16. ^ Ibironke, Amanda (23 January 2014). "The Yoruba Tibal Marks". The Voice. Archived from the original on 21 May 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  17. ^ Mayaki, Victoria Ozohu (5 March 2011). "Nigeria: Tribal Marks – Our Lost Heritage". All Africa. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  18. ^ "The Eradication Of Tribal Marks In Nigeria". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 29 August 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  19. ^ Falola, Toyin & Ngom, Fallou (2009). Facts, Fiction, and African Creative Imaginations. Routledge. p. 86. ISBN 978-1135212896.
  20. ^ Apa (15 June 2013). "The kick against aged tribal marks in Nigeria". Star Africa. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  21. ^ Adeoye, Doyin. "Tribal marks in modern Nigeria: The burden, the anguish". The Tribune. Archived from the original on 21 May 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  22. ^ Okogba, Emmanuel (21 March 2017). "Bill to prohibit tribal marks passes second reading in Senate". Vanguard News. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  23. ^ Nigeria, Hyve (29 December 2017). "'Tribal marks, our identity, our pride'". News, Live-Stream and Amusement - Hyve Nigeria. Retrieved 18 July 2022.

Sources edit

External links edit