To all appearances, being that she lives and works in Ibadan, Iya Wa is an Ibadan woman. But what do the scarifications say? Cheat sheet below
We took this photo in Ibadan recently. Scarification is getting harder and harder to find.
Huffington Post says “This Is The Last Generation of Scarification In Africa” and we’re inclined to agree. Though our stay was short in duration, we didn’t find a single person of the younger generation bearing scarification. And it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The reasons behind the decline include inadequate (archaic) hygiene practices, disease scares (HIV, Hepatitis etc), and also preference for unmarked skin as seen on TV/films etc.
A brief history of scarification
In the 19th century scarification spread as Yorubas dispersed over various new settlements due to warfare, population displacement caused by slavery, and political upheavals, scarification at that time was mostly performed as a statement of citizenship, and usually done during childhood, or otherwise on those who became naturalised Yoruba later in life (for example through migration or adoption).
‘Lauren Culivan’s piece, The Meanings Behind the Marks: Scarification and the People of Wa, slave trade or rather slave raiding is responsible for the continuation and dominance of this practices throughout the tribes of Africa. “Tribal markings became highly important not only for ethnic identification but because they allowed one to retain their roots even if they were captured and taken into slavery. Once taken into bondage, tribal marks allowed slaves to unite with other members of their ethnic group who had been captured.’ – Body Art of the World
Scarification is a significant part of Yoruba history. The Ife Bronze Heads bear scarification to show that it is one of our oldest customs. And an important part of Yoruba 17th to 19th century History. Without a doubt , many Yorubas with scarification would have been sold into the slave trade. What impact would this have had on the life of an enslaved Yoruba man , woman or child in the Americas? Would it have helped them to identify kinfolk for support? Would slavers have deliberately kept similarly marked people apart? What role if any did scarification play in organising uprisings?
Below is a pic of Ño Remigio Herrera Adeshina Obara Meyi. He has scarification on his face.
Should scarification just slide into extinction ?
In order not to totally lose this aspect of our culture perhaps we need to look at ways of keeping scarifications and what they once meant alive in the current Yoruba consciousness.
Board games, comic books, card games, or even ( in this age of technology ) apps , clothing printed with scarification marks , marking the body (arms etc) using modern day tattoo techniques (or upgraded Yoruba techniques ) instead of the face are all ways to keep the Yoruba scarification patterns alive.