Yoruba Tribal Marks


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 don’t know about. “Anything before colonization many Nigerians won’t know anything about Naija, but me, I know!” I can remember my pops saying this. Ok, back to the secret, when Europeans came into 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.

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!)

These haters cant hold me back!!! You can’t stop tribal marks! Its our CULTURE!!!!
Written by @ObaBlacko (IG), Dreaded_InnerG (Twitter) via sancophaleague

Via Jadili Africa

6 thoughts on “Yoruba Tribal Marks

  1. Mr it a big lie, bcos me ve gotten 3/3 straigth line tribal marks on my cheeks stil yet girl commented on my handsom biegn, cn u imagine dis ve date white lady with dis beautiful marks here, yet non tribal mark did not do, even am even handsom more than sm of my friends and d resean why sm people re discriminating it bcos of ha i want to get married to (oyinbo), ha i want to visit england shame on u nigeria, if u wanna see d picture comment on my post and wil post u my white girl friend pix… But stil i cnt date a person with dat inch triba set on cheek ooo dat was d fact.

  2. I do admire tribal marks too – both my parents have them on. I did ask my mother similar question as you did your father. For my mother the marks go beyond just first child, almost all of my uncles/aunties had them. My mother had elaborate ones – Gombo. The marks stared from the middle of her head down to the chin, about 10 on each chicks. Very beautiful when healed but my mother told stories of many kids who didn’t make it due to infections, I suppose this was the reason behind the ban.

    Having said that there are still lots of people today especially in inner city of Ibadan that still give their toddlers marks.

      • Ha ha! You are fascinated with meanings too. 🙂

        What I have seen was that across Yorubaland most family with Gombo are originally those who traditionally worshiped Sango – the god of thunder. It is the marks that connect them regardless of where they end up in Yorubaland / beyond.

        I’ll ask my mom if there’s any more to it.

      • Thanks, that’s really interesting. I’ve read alot about Sango, it would be amazing if you could find out more, it’s hard to get that type of information nowdays.

  3. Pingback: June 3: ODUN DE IRE! Happy New Year! (+some stuff about my new scar) | counterdevotional

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