Southern Nigeria Facial ScarsIf you've ever heard of the southern Nigerian state of Sokoto‚ you've probably wondered about the origins of its facial markings. The region's first permanent settlements were established in the 14th century‚ and many of its people still have scars from the slave trade. But before we look at the origin of Sokoto's scars‚ let's take a look at some of the most common ones.
Woman with facial scars. In Nigeria‚ facial scarification used to be a popular practice. Families and communities made deep cuts on the faces of children‚ often on their foreheads or cheeks‚ mainly as an identity mark. These marks contained stories about pain‚ reincarnations‚ and beauty. Since 2003‚ a federal ban on all forms of child mutilation has stopped the practice. The current bearers are therefore the last generation of facial markings - with their facial colors as diverse as Nigeria's various ethnicities. Grey line for presentation.A man with scars on his face Inaolaji Akeem's 15-slash face (above)‚ identify him as someone who is from Nigeria's Owu kingdom‚ south-western Ogun. Because Mr Akeem was born royally‚ he wears long stripes across his face. He jokes that it is similar to a football shirt‚ and adds that it made him very popular on the local street. Ernsthaft: Mr Akeem states that he considers scars sacred and doesn't believe anyone should use them for beauty. The need to identify oneself through facial markings was strong in Nigeria's northern Nigerian state of Sokoto‚ particularly among the Gobir people. Traditional Hausa Cap: A man wearing a traditional Hausa cap Ibrahim Makkuwana's ancestral pastoralists‚ from Gubur‚ in the present-day Sokoto region‚ didn't have facial marks. He said that they had fought numerous battles while searching for farm land and they conquered many other places. The Makkuwanas decided that they would make distinct marks on their cheeks similar to those of their animal kin‚ to help identify their kinsmen in battle‚ Mr Makkuwana said. He tells BBC that this was where our trademarks came from. There is a difference between the Gobirawas. Six scars on each cheek‚ seven on the opposite side. This is because they have two parents who are royalty. Six marks on each side of a person with six scars are the result of their mother's marriage to the monarchy. Traditional Hausa Cap: A man wearing a traditional Hausa cap There are also the butcher's children‚ who have nine scars and eleven on the opposite side‚ and those who have five or six marks trace their heritage back to hunters. For fishermen‚ there are distinct markings that reach their ears. Some marks‚ however‚ are associated with life and death among Igbos and Yorubas in southern Nigeria. It was believed that certain children would die before reaching puberty. These children are known as Ogbanje and Abiku by their respective ethnicities. The Yoruba believed that they belonged to a group of demons who lived in large baobab and iroko trees. Women lost many children in succession at an early age. It used to be common for them to have more than one child. These children were marked so that they could not be recognized by their spirit mates‚ and would live on. A large number of infant deaths have been linked to sickle cell disease‚ a common inherited condition in blacks. A man with scars on his face Yakub Lawal‚ in Ibadan‚ south-western Oyo State was designated as an Abiku. He says that this isn't my first trip to Earth. He adds that I had died three times and was granted these marks on my fourth return to prevent me from going to the spirit realm. Stories of Ogbanje and Abiku are closely related. A man with scars on his face His grandmother inscribed Olawale Fatunbis' four vertical and three horizontal marks. She claimed that he was the reincarnation her husband who suffered from those facial scars. However‚ Mr Fatunbi would rather not have them. They are not my favorite because they make me feel like I am a child abuser‚ but that is just what I believe. Scarlet-covered woman It is difficult to miss Khafiat Adeleke with 16 marks across her face. It is even harder to miss the massive signboard in her shop at Ibadan. This refers to the marks on her cheeks. From here to Lagos‚ people call me Mejo Mejo. They were given to me by my grandmother because they are for an only child. Scarlet-covered woman Some scars are for beauty. Foluke Akinyemi‚ as a young child‚ was given a deep gorge across each cheek by her father at the direction of a local circumciser who did also facial scarring. My father decided to grant me a marking for his own pleasure and because it seemed beautiful. She says it makes me stand out‚ and she thanks my parents for gifting it to her. A woman in blue hijab The story of Ms. Akinyemis is very similar to Ramatu Ishyaku‚ a north-east Nigerian‚ with tiny‚ whisker-like lesions on her lips. She says it is for beauty. She explains that tattoos with whisker-like marks and tattoos were very popular as a young girl in her village. Her friends and she went to the barber together to get them. Scarlet-covered woman Although the marks left on Taiwo's face‚ which only included her first name as a surname‚ have faded‚ the memories of how she was carved are still vivid. Taiwo was left with severe depression after her twin sister‚ who died in the first weeks of Taiwo's birth. A traditional healer suggested that Taiwo be marked on her face so she wouldn't join her twin. According to her‚ her scarification made her feel better in a matter of days‚ however‚ it hasn't changed the fact that she doesn't love her marks. You look unique from everyone else. I would rather have no marks on my face. A man with scars on his face Murtala Mohammed‚ Abuja is another example of someone who doesn't know the history behind her marks. Nearly everyone in my Niger State village had one. I didn't bother to ask him. A man holding barbing blades Local circumcisers used sharp blades to inscribe facial marks. Barbers such as Umar Wanzam also made them. It was a difficult experience without any anesthesia. Many people like Mr Akeem who were also marked as children agree that it is right to end facial scarification. Even though the law outlawed it‚ he didn't pass this tradition on to his kids. He says that although I love these marks‚ they are from a different time period and age.
Learn more about West African facial scars
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