Before modernization took over, various ethnic groups in Nigeria had their special facial markings peculiar to the tribe. From Yoruba to Igbo to Hausa, here are the tribal marks of the Nigerian people and what they mean.
Tribal marks served different purposes in different tribes including identification, healing, spiritual protection, and beautification. However, with the advent of western religions, most tribes stopped the process because it was deemed unhealthy and pagan.
We have identified some unique tribal marks from ethnic groups across Nigeria.
1. Nupe tribal mark
The Nupe people are an important minority in Kwara State and Kogi State. Their tribal marks are drawn with many curves on the cheeks or one vertical strip on each cheek. These scars are sometimes to highlight prestige or to identify the family to which they belong. They also wear it for protection, as well as jewelry adornment.
2. Pele tribal mark
The Pele tribal mark is common to the Ife people but it is also kind of a general Yoruba marking system because almost all the Yoruba tribes have their own version of it. Pele is drawn with three long vertical lines drawn on the cheeks. The other versions are Pele Ijebu and Pele Ijesha.
3. Owu tribal mark
You might have seen the Owu/Egba tribal mark on former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The marks consist of six incision lines drawn on the side of each cheek and is common to the Owu people of Abeokuta, Ogun State.
4. Gombo tribal mark
Gombo/Keke tribal marks are a complex combination of curved and straight lines on both sides of the face. It is common to people from Ogbomoso in Oyo State.
5. Abaja tribal mark
The basic style of the Abaja is three to four horizontal lines on each cheek of a person. However, it can range up to six horizontal lines on each cheek.
6. Igbo tribal mark
Ancient Igbo tribal markings were more for affluence and social status, commonly known as Ichi. However, later on, tribal marks were given to women too for the purposes of identification, beautification, and healing. These consisted of solar disc-like incisions on either cheek or two simple lines drawn on the side of the eyes.