Nigeria is a country which is made up of about 253 ethnic groups with the major ones being the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups. All of the 253 ethnic group which makes up the federation all have different customs and traditions. Also, tribal marks in Nigeria conveys different meaning.
The tribal marks on the other hands plays a significant role in the traditional beliefs of these different ethnic groups. The tribal marks given to an individual be it a male or female tend to be different from one ethnic group to another. Also these tribal marks actual means something to the people who bear these marks.
The tribal marks given could be a deep cut or a light cut and the marks are given during ones childhood.
The most popular tribal marks are given on the face while there are others marks given on the belly or on the hands.
What do these marks signify?
Like I said earlier, the more visible tribal marks are the ones given on the face and it can mean different things depending on the occasion. Some of these tribal marks are given on the forehead, on the chin or on the jaw.
Cultural Identity: Tribal marks given to an individual on his face tells which tribe or clan the person is from and his tribal marks is quite different from the face marks of other tribes in Nigeria. Taking the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria for instance, the tribal mark of a typical Yoruba man is quite different from that of an Igbo or Hausa man. So these face marks distinguishes one tribe from the other.
A Yoruba typically has a cat like mark on the face while an Igbo man has two small cuts on the both sides of his face and the Hausa man has just a wide slant cut on one of his chin.
Protection: Tribal marks are also given as a form of protection against devilish spiritual element and is meant to shield the child from any spiritual danger or attack.
The Benin people are very popular for these kind of marks where there is a deep cut on their stomach and these mark according to tradition is supposed to protect them against any spiritual attack.
The Benin people give these marks to their children at infancy. There are other different tribal marks given on the face for protection as well.
Beautification: Women in almost all the tribes in Nigeria are for the most part given a tribal mark as a form of beautification. The marks given to them is supposed to bring out the beauty in them. The design of these face tribal marks varies from tribe to tribe.
Royalty: In Yoruba land, people who belong to the royal family as well as the king himself like the Alafin have their own distinct tribal marks in which anybody in the community who sees them can easily recognise a person who belongs to the royal family. Nobody outside the royal household is allowed to have such face marks.
Lineage: Some tribal marks tells the family or lineage one is from and such person who posses this kind of tribal marks gives the people of that community an idea of which family such person is from.
Do people still wear tribal marks in contemporary times?
Well, with modernisation, globalisation and religion having a foothold in Nigeria, the young generation of people in have come to see the tribal marks as something that is archaic and some what unnecessary.
People nowadays see the tribal marks as a scar which distorts the natural looks of a person and see no reason why they should continue this practise.
Some say they don’t believe that tribal marks can offer protection as God gives protection to humans and humans too can protect themselves. Others on the other hand do not believe in things such as spiritual attacks as we only have knowledge of the physical things that surrounds us.