When I was a young omo (child) I used to see a lot of older generation Nigerian men and women with what looked like scars on their faces. I asked my dad “what happened to their faces?” He told me that they were tribal marks that were given to them when they were young kids. “Tribal marks?” I replied. “What’s that, and how come you and mommy don’t have one?” “Where’s mine?” I asked. He looked at me and chuckled before saying this “Tayo, the reason you don’t have tribal marks is because you are a first generation Nigerian growing up in America, and I don’t want to go to jail!” (No lie that was his exact response). Then he said “I’m going to teach you the history behind the Yoruba tribal marks”

Yoruba tribal marks, are given to the people of the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. There given out usually when the person is first born or at a very young age. Tribal marks have many different meanings behind it, the most popular meaning and use them for was identification purposes. Certain tribal marks would be passed down to the family of the Oba (king or chief) to symbolize that the person is coming from royalty. Also, during the times of war tribal marks were very important to the Yoruba people.

Tribal marks were to used to identity one’s kingdom during the wars. Inside the Yoruba tribe there are many different subsections of Yorubas’ called kingdoms. Oyo, Benin, Ife, Ondo, Ibadan, and Egba, there’s actually many more kingdoms inside the Yoruba tribe. Tribal marks has one hidden secret that many Yoruba’s may not even know about. When Europeans came into present day Nigeria and gathered up the Yoruba people and took them away to different places across the world. Tribal marks allowed the Yoruba people to identify each other during enslavement, which lead to them rallying up to revolt against slavery like countries like Brazil for example.

The bad news about tribal marks is that it’s quickly disappearing from the Yoruba culture. The reason why is because of laws and an international campaign by European countries to outlaw it. I find it crazy because some of these same countries do cultural things like running with the bulls, or jump into freezing ice cold water, but I don’t hear anything about that being banned. (Haters!)


Post written by Thee Oba of Oba’s: @Oba_Tayo

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