African Tribal Tattoos

African Tribal Tattoos
Tribal tattoos are very popular all around the world. In recent times, African tribal tattoos have come into prominence. This article explains the different designs and their meanings.
Symbols were used in different cultures as a way of telling stories, recording events, or even as a mode of basic communication. These ancient symbols are appreciated for their depth, beauty, and significance. Many of these symbols have inspired people to create designs for tattoos. Tribal designs are simple lines and patterns which have been put together in order to create a form of abstract art. A common feature of these tattoos is that they are made in solid black ink, although some artists experiment with the use of color and create a whole new range of designs.

Meaning

The history of inking in Africa dates back to more than a thousand years. The oldest glimpse of body art came after the discovery of a mummy of Amunet, a priestess of the Goddess Hathor. There are simple parallel lines inked on her arms and legs, and an elliptical pattern drawn below her navel. The designs found on the mummy are said to be symbols of fertility and rejuvenation. Strangely, no male mummy with body art has been found in Egypt. However, it does not mean that male members of the African tribes did not get inked. Male mummies have been found in Libya with sun worship designs. Tattoos made as a reverence to Neith, a fierce goddess who led warriors into battle, were also found on the male mummies.

There is no use of pigment in African body art. The skin was cut open where the tattoo was to be made, and the wound was filled up with certain substance in order to cause a scar, making the cut rise up. These scarred designs represented a rite of passage, affiliation, and rank. It is often very hard to state all the reasons for tattoos, due to the great variety of tribes and people in the continent. The most common meanings include tribal hierarchy, geographical location, spiritual protection, and rite of passage.

Designs

The history of African tattoos can be summed up in four words: animals, plants, ancestry, and spirits. These designs are the Adinkra symbols and have become popular in the West. These symbols were created by the Akan people residing in the forests of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote D'Ivoire in West Africa. The Adinkra symbols are geometric symbols and include Adinkrahene, that are indicators of greatness of character and charisma, and Akoma, which in literal terms means 'heart' and are indicators of patience and tolerance.

Nyame Nti literally translated means 'by God's grace' and is a symbol of faith and trust in God. This is actually a stalk which is used to depict as the staff of life in many cultures. For Africans, it means that food is a basis of life which God has placed on Earth for the nourishment of human beings.

The 'chief of the Adinkra' symbol denotes greatness, charisma, and leadership. This symbol is known to have played an inspiring role in the design of other symbols, and signifies the importance of playing a leadership role in the society.

Linked hearts are denoted by the African symbol of Akoma Ntoso. It is said to be a symbol of understanding and agreement. Crocodiles and turtles were popular with almost all the tribal clans. Sankofa translates in English to "reach back and get it". In other words, it is a symbol of learning from the past right and wrong decisions.

Dwennimmen, or ram's horns, is a symbol of humility along with strength. They are known to fight fiercely against any adversary, but they also submit themselves humbly to slaughter which emphasizes the fact that however strong a person can be, he needs to be humble.

A crocodile, known as Denkyem, is a symbol of adaptability. The crocodile lives in the water and yet breathes the air which demonstrates its ability to adapt to circumstances. Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu are the Siamese crocodiles, and are symbols of democracy and unity. Although Siamese crocodiles share one stomach, they fight over food. This symbol reminds the members of a tribe that infighting and tribalism is harmful to one and all who engage in it.

Research extensively to get the right design for you. Talking to the tattoo artist can also prove to be useful too.