Don’t put me down because of it, I didn’t have a say in it!

marks 1 marks 2 marks 3 marks 4 marks 5 Photos for illustrative purpose only

Over the time, I have come to live above all the ohs!, ahs! and whys! that greet me on any first meeting with a human specie from another continent different from mine.

Their first reaction usually comes along with probing questions like ‘what happen to you on your face?’; ‘Did you meet with an accident?’; ‘Were you abused by someone?’; ‘Are they marks of punishment for being an errant child?’ I mean they ask all sort of questions!

Meanwhile, I have learnt to deal with these questions as they throw them…to those friendly among them, I’ve taken out time to explain the reasons with courtesy. To those with contemptuous gaze, agape mouth and rolling eyes rolling eyes, I have shunned and stood against with pride and confidence.

Why all these parables? It is all about facial marks that I bear on my face. Yes, facial marks. I have them on my face, one on each cheek…bold and legible. They have become some sort of emblem with which both friends and acquaintances remember me. They can also describe me to people with them…don’t you remember that African lady with some strokes on her face? they say.

Well, for those that care to know, this has always been my simple explanation: Facial or tribal marks  are signs of cultural identity for some African societies, including among the Yoruba people in Nigeria where I come from. The tribal markings come in different patterns of strokes for each tribe and family which distinguishes them from one another and enable them to sight an outsider.

This is an age-old tradition and its practice is already waning and in fact there are currently some extant laws prohibiting parents from putting facial marks or tattoo on their children in Nigeria. This explains why my children don’t bear the marks.

Because of the fact that marking is usually done to youngsters, most Nigerians whose faces bear ethnic marks had little choice in the matter…just like me who was only few months old when the strokes were put on my face.

Don’t ask if I was angry with my parents because I am not. Although, I had on occasions asked them why and my mother’s satisfying explanation had always been ‘It is because ‘Kobomoje’ (literally – ‘it doesn’t spoil the child’), which was the popular trend in Ibadan during the time you were born.’

Tribal marks were as a result of different things like religious beliefs that are passed down from generation to generation, which could be either hearsay or just the societal norm of the community, normally traced to a deity.

For instance, in the Yoruba culture, if a woman continues to have still birth, the child is given marks on a certain part of his/her body to avoid the alleged evil child coming back.

However, in the ancient times, tribal marks were also seen as a good means of identification of people from different communities. Members of the same village, clan, or lineage, home town always carry the same tribal marks and so a visitor can be easily recognised. Also, parents used tribal marks to identify their children, thus it is a way of a father acknowledging the authenticity of his children.

In addition, the tribal marks were used as a sign of identification during the civil war in Nigeria, as some people have testified that their tribal marks saved them at that time.

Read more at:

And at:


18 thoughts on “Don’t put me down because of it, I didn’t have a say in it!”

  1. Way to go Noimot! Finally! This blog is here now! I’m excited to read more of your entries. I can still remember the time when you also said that those marks were also used for beautification purposes during the olden days. This post is a really good one to start off your new journey to blogging. Congratulations and all the best to you!
    Now, i’ll just update you when to visit mine:-)


  2. That’s true , my mum has similar tribal strokes on her face too and it actually makes her look beautiful. Whenever I look at your face or pictures , it reminds me of my beautiful Moma !


  3. Good summary. It could be trendy then but it’s got to stop now. The unfortunate thing is that some people still engage in this practice with impunity and our government seems to care less despite the fact that it’s been officially abrogated.


  4. though the marks has saved some of our forefathers life during the nigeria civil war and am pretty sure that it cannot be totally eradicated in yorubaland…..but to be frank we have to stop it cos non africa people think it is barbaric.i remember when I was on trip with non nigeria people we were all blacks but to my great surprise they all know where I came from,i mean without even asking me any question they knw am frm nigeria,i asked them how they get to knw and they replied me by saying cos of my facial mark,i was now asking myself if nigerians were the only one with tribal marks…it makes me feel somehow…….we have to stop it!


  5. we have to stop this act….i remember when I was on trip with many blacks frm different countries,they all knw am frm nigeria without even asking me anything,i was surprise I asked them how they got to knw and they said cos of my tribal mark. I was now asking myself if we nigerians were the only one with facial marks… makes me feel somehow


  6. For someone (Noimot) whose tribal marks fits so beautifully, you need to then imagine what those whose tribal marks have not really dignified, experience.
    As much as I appreciate our Culture (this I say with so much pride because it is the foundation of our rich values & morals), permit me to say, It is time to stop some old practices. I say this not out of disrespect, but based on enlightenment! Personal Identification, Spiritual Protection e.t.c cannot be secured in defacing a human being.
    The truth is some of our cultural practices in those days were done out of believes that had no scientific justification. The ignorance of our forefathers, the woe of the children. Thank God we are in an age where education and Information Technology is helping people, third-world countries to know better. I am thankful to my father who blatantly refused for His parent to mark his Children. This mean sometimes our parents don’t even have a say in this matter except they force their voices to be heard. Since we know better, let’s continue to speak strongly against practices that belittles right to humanity.


  7. Way to go babes! Living outside of the Nigeria has exposed me to the honest fact that as Africans we are the only people who could best handle discussing our issues and enlightening the world about our traditions withouth prejudice and animosity. Thanks for this write up it’s very explicit .


  8. I didn’t even know you wear marks since I’m the worst hit among you all… Sincerely, I would have made a genius without those marks but looking at it from another perspective; a genius me could have been reckless, notorious and sadistic. Thinking that I can be easily recognized or identified, I behave to portray a good boy and being cultured, cool-headed and nice have made me loved and respected. As much as I won’t mind going for a plastic surgery, I feel the marks serve a divine purpose in me.


  9. I am very proud of Yoruba’s rich cultural background, it makes us stay ahead of other tribes both in Africa, and the world at large.
    Having said that, what we first need to look at in this regard is the “essence” of these marks, how the marks served the intended purposses. After that, we need to check between both the merit and demerit of the said marks before taking our stand.
    Nevertheless, it is just a pity that civilisation is now rubbishing our traditional and cultural values. Tattoos were part of what our forefathers used to either identify, differentiate or beautify themselves or their wards then, now we have gone back into tattoing in the name of fashion, even the whites are not left out. Am sure, had it been the facial mark trend is still in vogue here in Nigeria, we would have seen whites have it on their cheeks.
    Like the Yorubas will always say ” ohun to koju s’enikan, eyin loko s’elomi bii ilu gangan” meaning “what faces someone is actually backing the other like a two faces talking drum. There are two sides to a coin, no matter what. Though, with the trend we follow today civilisation wise, I will not also make these marks on the faces of my children because my parents never put the marks on my face qed.


  10. ℓ̊ started off laughing then ℓ̊ said to my self “Noimot” ₪ø get marks but when ƔU̶̲̥̅̊ described it ℓ̊ remember. Babe, that was quite explicit, am sure ur foreign friends Ʀε̲̣̣̣̥ better enligthened. Wasiu Sadare’s comment also got me smiling and ℓ̊ like his summission about the tribal marks serving a divine purpose. Way to go girl, thumb up nd lukn forward to more posts. Cheerz.


  11. You ‘ve said it all, tribal marks doesn’t make you less the person you are – smart, intelligent and simply beautiful that’s what you are Noimot. Ure so on point in this article, thumbs up!


  12. Thanks to all for your insightful comments. Your activeness is reassuring. And I’ll continue to look forward to reading your reactions on my future posts. Kindly stay tuned, there’s more around the corner!


  13. I really appreciate your effort in educating people from another country about our culture.One of the culture of Yoruba tribe is tribal marks. The tradition of tribal marks has faded away due to civilization and religious belief.But tribal mark still have its advantages. Nice write up ma


  14. Facial marks…who cares?!
    Out of some 15 siblings my face is the only one that evaded the knife or razor that could have beautified or scarred my already ugly mien.
    My father, a typical Ibadan ‘boy’ endured at infancy six strokes of facial marks on each side of the face. Many of my other siblings are proud owners of either one or two marks.

    I learnt (how true, I don’t know) that “olowo lo n kola laiye atiju” though it appears to me that most Yorubas with facial marks are those from humble background.
    In bygone days, facial marks had their place. And today, even seemingly extinct traditions die hard.

    I respect those who wear with grace facial marks. And I empathise with those who loathe the fingers that raised the sharp object against their faces.

    …Came the thought: what would you do Bayo, if you had facial marks?
    Simple: My mission most important in life is to seek to erase them.

    So, what’s the moral of this: don’t inflict on your child or anyone something (physical or mental) that going into the future will leave them disturbed and odd. Our parents usually mean well; but, they should think of when “bad things happen to good intention”.

    Noimot, I am loving what you’re throwing at us. I hope you’ve got enough adrenalin to keep us excited. Well done.


    1. Thanks for all the comments Bayo…I can only expect more. And also thank you for the compliments! I’ll surely be throwing many more at you guys so far you are there to catch them as they come.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s