African Women And Tribal Marks In the 21st Century.

Babajide Olatunji, ‘Tribal Mark’, Series III

Tribal marking in Africa dates back thousands of years, from inked symbols of fertility on women in ancient Egypt to tattoos symbolising tribal hierarchy. Tribal marks hold a fixed place in Africa’s history.

African woman with tribal marks

Joseph Nyaaba Photography

Born into a family that glorifies and conforms to tradition I was basically deprived of the agency to choose whether or not I wanted these marks on my face. I know I was birthed without them but I don't recall looking at my reflection in the mirror and they were not there. A permanent peculiar engravingone that later in my life Iwould realize would involuntarily speak for me before I even articulate a single word.

Being woman and black is already a disadvantage, now add onto that having tribal marks on your face...it was a lot to digest. I always feel the need to charge against the stereotypes that are constantly launched onto me, most often than not I have found myself having to unpin the ones that manage to penetrate.  

African woman with tribal marks

Being woman with facial tribal marks in the 21st century meant that I am illiterate. I am "scarred" therefore not befitting societal ideals of beauty. I am a possession; I do not belong to myself, I am expected and required to diligently serve the male species. 

Women can be and are intellects but womewith tribal marks shouldn't, you are not expected to amount to anything beyond being a house wife whose sole purpose is to serve husband who deems her as an object. You are not given permission to be more, you cannot be more. 

Being a woman with tribal marks still means that you're fore ordained and destined to be of not.

African woman with tribal marks

Written By: Fisiwe Zondi