Tuesday 13 December 2022


Tribal marks are made through scarification technique. This practice can be witnessed not only in Yoruba but also in many other tribes in Africa. The tribal marks are part of the Yoruba culture and are usually inscribed on the body by marking of the face and other parts of the skin during childhood to do  different patterns. They then rub native dye  and medicine charcoal like on marks to prevent the skin from closing up as the body tries to heal itself. The native dye also helps to stop the bleeding.

According to the traditions, every child in Yoruba land is born into a patrilineal clan. This clan share  marks “ila,” family name “oriki,”  taboos and poetry.

Tribal marks mean different things and serve different purposes among different tribes and families.

1. Identification:

Yoruba land in Nigeria as part of the culture is one of the cradles of this practice. People may have different types of marks according to their villages and families origin. Tribal marks as a form of identity became important during the slave trade as some people who made their way back home were easily identified by the marks on their face or body.

2. Beautification Purposes:

Tribal marks in Nigeria were also used for beautification purposes. Traditional men and women believed that tribal marks made them look more attractive. Its an honour beauty and heritage and something worn with pride.

3. Religion and Spiritual Protection:

Another reason why some tribes engage in tribal markings is for the sole purpose of spiritual protection.  In some parts of Yoruba land, tribal marks on the face are believed to grant spiritual power to children, protect a child from evil spirits and stop death from taking the child at the very young age and in the case of "Abiku".

4. Healing Purposes:

One of the most meanings associated to tribal marks is connected to traditional healing practices. Healers in some tribes mark children faces and bodies to help them to recover. It was used to treat children with measles, pneumonia, convulsion...  The healing marks could be made on any part of the body and rub with medicine for the healing process. These marks are very small and often difficult to spot.

*The practice of having tribal marks is fading.

What was once seen as a sign of beauty, identity and heritage are now seen as a mutilation and something to be ashamed of due to the bully and how people react to it…

Muse: Omidán Irẹnítèmi Osuntóòmisin Omitọké

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