History Lesson: Tribal Marks of Nigerian People And What They Mean
Tribal marks served different purposes in different tribes including: identification, healing, spiritual protection and for 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.
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 of which they belong. They also wear it for protection, as well as jewellery adornment.
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.
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.
Gombo/Keke tribal mark is a complex combination of curved and straight lines on both sides of the face. It is common to people from Ogbomoso in Oyo State.
The basic style of the Abaja is three to four horizontal lines on each cheek of a person. However, it can range from up to six horizontal lines on each cheek.
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.