In ancient times, most cultures (for the purpose of this article, let’s use the word tribe) around the world had a unique way of identifying themselves. It could be in the way they wear their clothes, carry certain weapons or beauty ornaments, or it could be ‘inscribed into them.’ I mean marks literally burnt into the skin, or even the skin cut out during childhood. All in the name of identification of a person to belong to a particular tribe or patrilineal heritage.
Times have changed, and the use of tribal markings have faded. These days, the society is more individualistic, with everyone wishing to express themselves in how they wear, and their general physical outlook.
However, some parents are still trying to hold on to the old ways of tribal traditions in the modern world. As a result, you find kids still bearing the tribal markings. Not to imply that there is anything wrong with having tribal markings. But the act of giving someone a lifetime marking at such tender age during which they are still yet to be in a position to choose for themselves is simply wrong.
One Nigerian face model, Adetutu OJ Alabi, who bears tribal marks herself is advocating for children’s right to choose whether or not to have the tribal markings. She took her campaign to social media, a platform that is increasingly giving a voice to anyone in ways mainstream media can never do.
Her story is from a positive angle on tribal markings. She is not embarrassed by it, and she goes ahead to call upon other people with the marks to wear them proudly. At the same time, she is calling upon parents to respect their children’s right of choice and leave it to them (the kids) to decide whether or not they want to get the tribal marks.
She is not in any way saying that tribal markings are wrong. No, she is, in fact, doing the opposite; calling upon those who already have them, to wear them with pride, and stop concealing them. At the same time, creating awareness that children have a right to decide whether or not they want to get the marks. So parents should stop giving their kids tribal marks so early in life before the kids have really a choice in the matter.
Below is a short documentary The BBC did on Adetutu OJ Alabi.