What is that on your face? African tribal marks and their meanings

Farida Dawkins Mar 2, 2018 at 04:02am

March 02, 2018 at 04:02 am | Culture

Farida Dawkins

Farida Dawkins | Contributor

March 02, 2018 at 04:02 am | Culture

Diagram of Yoruba tribal marks…photo credit: This is Africa

Yoruba tribal marks

In Yoruba communities, children are born into particular clans.  Facial marks determine what rights the person has to contribute to the well-being of the clan such as leadership.  The style and location of the markings determine which tribe the child belongs to. Below are the various types:


This style is identifiable by three long lines on each cheek.  There are additional versions called the Pele Ife, Pele Ijebu, and Pele Ijesha.


The Owu marks consist of six cuts on each cheek.  This type of marking is used by the inhabitants of Owu, a historical city in Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria.


Also referred to as Keke, consists of a collection of lines – short and curved half an inch apart on both sides of the mouth.  The people of Ogbomsho in Oyo State use this type of markings.


It consists of a basic and complex style.  The simplistic style is three or four horizontal lines on both cheeks; it can also include six lines on either cheek.

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