Sometimes though, alongside native tattoos and markings, they are used as a means of identification for people who originate from particular locations.
In some East African countries, certain things — like extending earlobes and lips, dazzling body parts with metals and sticks — which other people would deem extreme still serve as fashionable.
The problem though is that, in Nigeria, a lot of these tribal markings are given to children at young ages, with hot knives laced with ash, under the mastery of a local tribal mark giver amid heart-wrenching cries from those children.
Yesterday, one of those gruesome pictures was posted on Instagram yesterday by internet sensation and comedian, Twyse.
It’s crazy how those children cry not from just the pain their physical bodies feel, but from the mental scars and fugue nightmares they are about to get, and also the years of questioning the supposed wickedness of their parents who made such cruel choices for them.
Cultural Weight vs. Contemporary Reality
The reason is simple; while we will not suddenly get woke and forget the cultural meanings of tribal marks as well as the weight they still carry amongst people, they are very outdated.
They probably seized to be fashionable nearly 100 years ago when civilization became a Nigerian staple. What tribal marks are now is unnecessarily violation of children and an unnecessary abuse of the privilege of parenthood.
They are simply a contemporary blemish that children will only grow to hate and it doesn’t require deep thought to understand why.
Even if tribal marks are the fashion in particular villages, pop culture, mass media, and the internet have become vertically accessible to nearly anyone.
Chances are people who grew up with a different perspective on tribal marks as fashionable will get exposed to other perspectives and other less tedious fashionable concepts and realize tribal marks are nothing but extreme.
Tribal marks were once good, but it’s time we had stopped violating our children. It’s not just abuse, the psychological scars and identity crisis they occasion leads to a lifetime of unknown confidence issues, and possibly, anxiety.
Not everyone will be privileged as Adetututo get the attention of Rihanna like another feel-good story, Olajumoke Orisaguna.
As a necessary conversation, we can all talk about empowering people with tribal marks so they don’t feel out of place in society all we want, but it’s just an afterthought and damage control.
The damage has already been done. While the damage control isn’t entirely pointless, if it requires that much effort to make people with tribal marks included in society, it only proves the level of the damage those tribal marks occasion on people who carry them daily.
If those beautiful faces had been left plain and fresh as they were meant to be, the world wouldn’t have to walk eggshells around these people so they don’t feel out of place.
I remember how a tenant in the house beside my Grandfather’s in Ado-Ekiti reportedly nearly killed his wife and parents after they forced tribal marks on his infant daughter, Nefisat’s face.
The event happened over 12 years ago, Nefisat is now 16-years-old. She didn’t like the marks when she was 8 — the last time I saw her. She sure isn’t about to like those marks now that she’s in puberty.
Damage control can work, but deep in the hearts of these victims of an ignorant tradition that’s lived for far too long, they would wish their parents hadn’t been so driven by culture and tradition.
The true test of past concepts in contemporary relevance
It’s time we’d stopped giving our children tribal marks. They have stopped being cool. They are now conveyors of pain and a lifetime of mental torture from unanswered questions.
Tribal marks were cool in the medieval days. Just like we are rooting against female genital mutilation, tribal marks should equally be rooted against, especially at the instance of children who can’t express consent.
These kids also have no means to understand the full workings of tribal marks and the effects of same. Parents need to be sensitized across the country.
The world has become a global village with cultures influencing each other dynamically and cultural overlaps now more rampant that fake phones at computer village.
No kid deserves to be robbed of the right to choose whether or not he or she wants tribal marks. Giving tribal marks to infants and children is abuse - those children are victims.
Of what use is a historical or cultural practice that fails the test of reasonableness in the face of contemporary relevance?
If this is what you want to call an overt influence of western culture, then so be it. Tribal marks have grown unreasonable, abusive and unconscionable.
Even if your small village still thinks them fashionable, your kid will probably leave the village soon to a more cosmopolitan space where tribal markings are archaic and backward.
The onus of helping people live should more on loved ones like parents and not the general public after bad deeds had been done by parents.
Left to me, I’d outlaw tribal marks as a whole concept and bin the concept. Never forget, some Western parents don’t even pierce their girls’ ears till they’re old enough to either want or reject it.
We need to wake up, but they problem is that a lot of parents are ignorant. They don't know better, they do it not to spite the child. Let's equally sensitize parents.