Nigeria tribal marks: Di last generation

Facial scarification or tribal marks bin once popular across Nigeria.

Dem bin dey carve deep cuts, usually for both cheeks or for forehead, on children by families and communities, mostly as mark of identity.

Di marks bin also tell stories of pain, reincarnations and beauty.

Dia facial stripes dey different types just as Nigeria take get many ethnic groups.

However, di practice don dey fade away since one federal law ban all forms of child mutilation for 2003.

So di current pipo wey carry tribal marks na di last generation.

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Di 15 lines for di face of Inaolaji Akeem (above) identify him as pesin from Owu kingdom for Nigeria south-western Ogun state.

Akeem na from royal family, so im get long stripes on im face.

“E be like football jersey,” he joke, come add say dem make am popular for di local market.

On a serious note, Oga Akeem say im regard di marks as sacred, and no believe say pipo suppose just mark dia faces just for beauty.

Dis need for identification through facial marks bin also strong for northern Nigeria, especially among di Gobir pipo of Sokoto state.

Ibrahim Makkuwana ancestors, wey be herdsmen from Gubur for present-day Sokoto,bin no get tribal marks.

But, im say, as dem bin dey move around dey look for farm land, “dem fight many battles and conquer many places”.

Dem den decide to draw particular marks on dia cheeks “di same wit di ones wey dia animals bin get, wey go help dem identify demsef during battles”, Makkuwana tok.

“Dat na di origin of our marks,” im tell BBC.

But among di Gobir pipo, e stil get difference.

Those wey get six scars on one cheek and seven on di oda e mean say both of dia parents from royal family.

Those wit six marks on both sides e mean say na only dia mama from royal family.

Den e get children of butchers, wit nine scars on one side and 11 on di oda.

While those wit five and six marks on each side trace dia lineage to hunters.

As for fishermen, dem get unique mark wey dem draw reach dia ears.

Meanwhile, among di Yorubas and Igbos of southern Nigeria, some marks dey connected to life and death.

Dem bin get one belief for dia communities say some children dey destined to die as pikin.

Dem sabi dem as Abiku for Yorubaland and Ogbanje for Igboland.

Yoruba believe say dis children belong to coven of demons wey dey live inside large iroko and baobab trees.

E bin common for women to lose several children at young age back-to-back.

And dem bin believe say na di same child dey reappear again and again to torment dia mother.

Dem dey mark dis kain children so dat dia spirit mates no go fit recognise dem, so dem go stay alive.

Today dem don sabi say many of dis new born babies deaths na sickle cell anaemia dey cause dem.

Sickle cell anemia na inherited disorder wey common among black people.

Dem mark Yakub Lawal for Ibadan, south-western Oyo state as Abiku.

“Dis no be di first time wey I dey come dis world, I don come here before,” im tok.

“I die three times, and on my fourth return dem give dis marks to stop me from returning to di spirit world,” e add.

Close stories of Abiku and Ogbanje na pipo wey dia marks na in memory of dead family member or pesin wey dem “reborn”.

Olawale Fatunbi get four horizontal and three vertical marks wey im grandmama give am.

Na sake of say im na reincarnation of her late husband, wey bin get those tribal marks.

But Fatunbi wish say im no get dem.

“I no really like dem becos I see am as child abuse but na our culture,” im tok.

Wit 16 marks on her face, e hard to miss Khafiat Adeleke.

E even dey harder to miss di big signboard for her shop for Ibadan, where she take di nickname Mejo Mejo (Eight Eight) – to represent di marks on her cheeks.

“Pipo call me Mejo Mejo from here to Lagos.

“My grandmama give dem to me because I be only child,” she tok.

Some scars na for beauty.

Dem mark Foluke Akinyemi wen she small, her papa supervise di deep gap on each of her cheek wey one local circumciser, wey dey also do tribal marks give her.

“My father make di decision to give me mark just for di sake of am and becos im tink say e dey beautiful.

“E make me stand out and I thank my parents for giving me di mark,” she tok.

Madam Akinyemi story similar to dat of Ramatu Ishyaku from Bauchi, north-east Nigeria.

She get tiny whisker-like cuts on both sides of her mouth.

“Na for beauty,” she say, come add say she also tattoo her face almost at same time.

As a girl, di whisker-like marks and tattoos bin popular for her village.

And she and her friends bin go to di local barber to draw dem, she add.

Di marks for Taiwo face, she only give her first name, don dey fade now but she still get memory of why dem carve her.

Wen her twin sister die within weeks afta dem born dem, Taiwo become ill.

And one traditional healer recommend make dem mark her face to prevent her from joining her twin.

She become beta days afta she collect di mark, she tok, but dat no make her love di mark on her face.

“E dey make you look different from anyone else – I rather no get any marks on my face,” she say.

E also get pipo like Murtala Mohammed for Abuja wey no know di tori behind their marks.

“Almost everyone for my village for Niger state get one, so I no ever bother to ask,” he say.

Local circumcisers and barbers like Umar Wanzam na dem dey give tribal marks using sharp blades.

Im describe am as painful experience wey dem dey do without anaesthetics.

Many of dem like Akeem, wey collect di mark wen dem be children, agree say e bin dey right to stop facial scarification.

Im no pass on di tradition to im children even before dem outlaw am.

“I love di marks but dem belong to a different time and age,” im tok.

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