Did you Know? The Origin of Tribal Mark.

The common Nigerian, if woken up from sleep and shown a picture of an individual with marks on the face, and asked where one can find such a person would answer swiftly and peg the individual a descendant from the Yoruba clan.

This he have said, is not far from the truth albeit, there is more to it than what meets the eye. Have you ever stopped to ask why in all the communities, this group of people is famous with these cuts on the face? Have you stopped to think about why it is trendy amidst them as compared to other communities?

We can bet a dollar that this has never crossed our minds. Consequently, we want to share with you the history behind these features many of us sometimes call horrid and some fashionable.

It was deduced from a source that tribal marks came into Nigeria during the colonial and slavery era. The locals, in a bid to track their family members, began to use marks as a means of recognition if ever they were captured and someday freed. 

This in turn became a means of identification passed down from generation to generation as a distinctive attribute in families, members of the same village, royal lineage, etc.

It is good to note that these marks are done differently and vary according to where the individual is from. There are scratches on the cheeks, forehead, on the temple, under the chin, and so on.

There are vertical lines, horizontal, both vertical and horizontal, slanted lines on both cheeks. These symbols are in patterns based on the ethnic group of their bearer and have different meanings and different names.

Since we have established that these marks are specific to different ancestry and entities, let us go into the details of the various tribal marks there are.

One will commonly find these features in Yoruba nations such as Ijesa (a town in Osun state) known by “pele”. Pele is a-four-horizontal-line; an-inch-long mark made on the cheeks on both sides of the mouth. The 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 that can also be found in Ondo state is called “Jaju” which is just a single horizontal line on both sides of the face. 

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 called “Gombo”.

Also prone to Ibadan, Oyo town and the Ogbomosho people (all these three towns are 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 include Ture, Bamu, Keke, etc.

Tribal marks are mostly given to people at a noticeably young age especially when they are babies. This is because, at that age, the child does not have a say as to what they would want. The people who make these marks either with razor blades or sharp knives and then cover it with a native dye, pigmentation, or black paste usually from grounded charcoal dust which is put into the open wound for healing and to stop the bleeding.

This was how tribal marks came about for the Yoruba communities. Indeed, we learn everyday and learning does not stop even as we grow older. After finding this out, one could say the Yoruba’s were really smart to have come up with such a method to find their kinsman.

Hoping this was useful information to you? And we hope this would allow many of us to be less discriminatory towards the people who are marked as it is a way of life they were born into which is gradually going into extinction.

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Some of the information used in this article was obtained from the Naira land writeup on tribal mark history.