Babajide Olatunji’s Tribal Mark series on Instagram
Yoruba scarification raises all kinds of emotions. For those marked at infancy who bear them cheerfully or resignedly, for the history they carry, for those who mock/pity people bearing them, and for Yoruba descendants who are curious about scarification and its connection with the Atlantic Slave Trade. And then there are those who argue that its child cruelty, and send out scare stories about infections and disease. But do we really want to see them die out?
Incredibly talented 24 year old Babajide Olatunji uses his genius in art to express his feelings about scarification in his Tribal Mark series of photo realistic charcoal paintings.
Yoruba out of the different nations within Nigeria appear to have the highest trend of scarification , perhaps even in West Africa. Different sub groups within the Yoruba homeland have different variations. Europeans in the 70s photographed many folks bearing ila, but mainstream Nigerian media and the corporate world largely shunned people marked on the face.
The trend is still alive though reduced. So Babajide’s giant sized portraits are a welcome reminder of how beautiful we are as a people and maybe what we stand to lose if we let European standards wash away our traditions.
“Its not just about documenting tribal marks, when I see portraits done by Europeans, Americans and Nigerians, they do portraits of public figures, hollywood stars etc, those people are beautiful to them,”
“But the people beautiful to me are the people I see everyday, the people I see on the bus, the person I buy roasted corn from, the bus conductor, just the random man on the street, someone I’ll see now and I’ll never see again in my lifetime.” Babajide Olatunji said in an interview with CCTV.