Categories: Ebira Lifestyle

Significance of Tribal Marks and Traditional Tattoos in Ebiraland


Tribal marks and traditional tattoos have long been embedded in the cultural heritage of many ethnic groups in Nigeria. Generations before now, tribal marks and traditional tattoos  in Nigeria have been used to serve as significant forms of expressing the diversity of culture, the uniqueness of a particular tribe in Nigeria and as a  form identity. The tribal marks are unique to each ethnic group and this is not different with Ebira tribe. The use of these tattoos and marks is such that once you see them etched on a person’s face, you will be able to easily identify in an instant the culture of that person. This is the same way it is in Ebiraland. Ohiku anebira (the ancestors of ebira people) designed a tribal mark that is unique in identifying only ebira people, however, the designation of traditional tattoos in ebiraland, is peculiar to each clans, or households in Ebiraland. The tattoos in ebiraland, play important role in identifying the clan an anebira belong to.

The use of tribal marks and tattoos as means of identity in Ebiraland is now considered to be an age-old practice, however, in the past, these practices hold deep cultural significance. In this article, we will take a brief look into the origin and significance of tribal marks and traditional tattoos in Ebiraland.

Origin of Tribal marks and traditional tattoos in Ebiraland

The practice of tribal marks and traditional tattoos in Ebiraland dates back several centuries. It is believed that these practices were initially introduced by the early settlers of the ebiraland, with tattoos as means of  beautification and tattoos as differentiating members of various clans and families.

There two school of thoughts on the origin of tribal marks in Ebiraland. The first school of thought believed that the use of tribal marks in Ebiraland started even before the 1990’s when the Ebira people were leaving the territories of the jukuns to live on their own, while the second school of thought believed that the use of tribal marks in ebiraland started after the biafra war in Nigeria.

From the perspective of the second school of thought, tribal marks in Ebiraland were believed began to emerge around 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. Before that time, Ebira people didn’t have any particular tribal mark that is unique to their culture, but practiced tattooing for beautification. The use of tattoos was a common practice among the woman. However, during the war, people started using tribal marks as a way to identify themselves and their origins. These marks, known as “avuku” were given to both adults and children. After the war, it became a tradition in Ebiraland and other parts of Nigeria to give newborns tribal marks as a sign of their heritage. Apart from official tribal marks, the Ebira people also used marks for protective purposes, especially for children who were sick or fearful. It is however important to note that the Nigerian Civil War was caused by various tensions in the country. The war influenced the adoption and continuation of tribal marks as a cultural practice in Ebiraland.

Although, today, the use of tribal marks and tatoos is no longer common as a result of modernization and education,it however, represents an important aspect of the cultural heritage of the ebira people.

Social and Cultural Significance of tattoos and tribal marks in Ebiraland

In Ebiraland, tribal marks and traditional tattoos played significant roles in various aspects of life. They were often associated with rites of passage and important life events. For instance, tribal marks were commonly received during initiation ceremonies, symbolizing the transition from childhood to adulthood. Traditional tattoos were also incorporated into rituals such as marriage, childbirth, and religious ceremonies, signifying important milestones in an individual’s life journey.

Furthermore, tribal marks and traditional tattoos were regarded as symbols of beauty and aesthetics especially among the women. They exemplified the traditional ideals of what a beautiful woman should look like in ebiraland, representing cultural standards of physical appearance and enhancing the beauty of every woman that uses it. Additionally, it the use of the tattoos by women is peculiar to each clan, as men are able to easily identify the clan a woman belongs to mere sighting the tatto.

Preservation of this primitive practice in Ebiraland

The use of tattoos and marks is now going into extinction in Ebiraland as this was confimed through personal communication with several elderly people in ebiraland. Despite the shift in perception, efforts are being made to preserve and revive the cultural heritage of tribal marks and traditional tattoos in Ebiraland. Cultural organizations, community leaders, and individuals are actively working to educate the younger generation about the historical origins, symbolic meanings, and artistic value of these practices. This is another reason we have decided to write out this article so that it can reach out to a large fraction of people.


The use of tribal marks and tattoos in Ebiraland holds an important cultural significance. Rooted in their traditions, these practices have shaped the sense of identity, beauty standards, and community belonging among the Ebira people. While the perceptions and prevalence of these practices have transformed over time, efforts to preserve, educate, and adapt these traditions are being put in place through festivals and rites. We have also made effort to gather fact and knowledge from elderly people in Okene on this topic and this is a summary of the information we have gathered.

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