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Lolo Cynthia @Lolo_cy
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Over 100 years ago, the drawing of the tribal marks referred to as ilà by the Yoruba tribe was common practice.
The people who had these marks were referred to as òkolà (the one with facial stripes); whereas the people without the mark are referred to as oboro (Plain, not striped face)
The tribal marks are made through sacrificial techniques and are done on kids ranging in age from three weeks to three months. The cut is done with sharp objects or hot objects.
Once the cut is done, in order to prevent the skin from closing up as the body heals- the cutter applies native dye from charcoal- this technique also helps stop the bleeding. The stripes can also be treated with palm oil and other herbs
This marking is performed only by professionally trained specialists called olóolà or akomola (akˆmˆlà) - the traditional surgeons have quick hands and are devotees of Ogun, the god of iron and usually have no other occupation.
The date of operation is chosen by the child’s parents after consultation with the god ifa.

During the procedure, the men in the family hold the child and watch the procedure but the women including the mother do not watch the operation.
The women stand close by reciting the family or lineage oríkì praise poetry , which they believed was therapeutic for both helping to calm the young child and initiating the healing process from time of the surgery.
We are also told the dressers of tribal marks are known for their honesty as they are forbidden to tell lies.

There have been different beliefs regarding the origin of the ilà. One account was one of the past kings of Old Oyo – Sango.
Sango wanted to worship at the burial ground of his mother but he could no longer remember her name because she died when he was a baby. His mother was the daughter of the Elempe- a Nupe King who had formed an alliance with the Oranyan by giving him his daughter as a wife.
Sango decided to commission a Tetu – that is a Sheriff/King Executioner & an Hausa slave to proceed to the Tapa country- the hometown of his mother – so they could give them a horse and a cow for the sacrifice
Some people say that Sango had sent 2 slaves and not a slave and a Tetu.

But anyway, Sango wanted them to listen attentively to the first name to be called during the invocation as that would be the name of his mother.
As Sango grandfather Elempe saw the men, he made sure they were all entertained very well and because of this, the Hausa slave got drunk but the Tetu was careful.
During the time of the invocation, the priest who did the sacrifice said “Torosi! Mother gbodo listen to us, thy son Sango is here to worship thee”
Obviously the Hausa slave was too drunk to pay attention but the Tetu was very cautious and immediately heard and memorized the name
When they got back to Oyo, the Tetu was rewarded while the slave was given 122 razor cuts all over his body as his punishment- some accounts says that it was 120 razor cuts.
After the healing of the scars, the Hausa slave appeared more handsome than before and King’s wives soon took notice and began to admire them.

The wives then suggested that such marks should not be made in slaves but on the royal family as a sign of royalty.
Sango accepted their decision and also decided to get the tribal marks as well. The markers were Babajegbe Osan and Babajegbe Oru but the king could only bear the pain of 2 cut on his 2 arms. This is why the Eyo marks are drawn on only the royal family of Oyo.
Another origin we know of is linked to Oduduwa popularly known as the Father of Yoruba. Oduduwa was instructed by the Deity Ifa to put marks on the cheeks of all the families that left the East -
i.e Saudi Arabia with him because of the rebellion and internal disagreement on their journey. The story recounts that they left Saudi Araba due to the religious crisis between the Muslims and themselves who practiced the traditional religion.
The deity suggested that Oduduwa give them the mark so each family could easily be recognized. Sadly a number of chiefs and families didn’t follow him to Ile- Ife due to the wars and misunderstandings.
This is why today, you can find some of the tribal marks worn by the Yorubas In places like Aswa in Egypt, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Berbers in Borno and Daura in Kano state.
Anyway, when Oduduwa finally got to Ilé -ife, he settled there but continued the practice of tribal marking on his children. Sadly many of his children died; this is why in his life time, he had only one surviving son called Okanbi.
Oduduwa then decided to consult with the gods on what to do to put an end to the death of grown up children in his family

Various herbalists were gathered but the name of the chief priest who consulted Ifa was Setilu
Setilu was commanded to inform Oduduwa that henceforth his children should not wear tribal marks because - he had reached his permanent place of settlement but his family members and chief should continue to put marks on their children.
We have 2 more origins .. the different types of marks and reasons why people still do them today..

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