African Beauty within the tribe - Sika’a
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June 07, 2021 3 min read

In a world of diverse cultures, the definition and standards for beauty vary from one community to another. As the second-largest continent in the world, Africa has an estimated total of over three thousand tribes, all of which vary in culture and traditions. In today's blog, we will be sharing with you the intricacy and variation of tribal beauty across Africa, so read on to find out more.

Body scars

Many West African tribes used body markings to mark different milestone stages in life, such as puberty and marriage, and emphasise social, political, and religious roles. Each tribe has its own inscription patterns, which vary in size, length, and angles.

For women belonging to these tribes, tribal marks were considered a beauty staple, and they were etched on the face, arms, lap, and breasts. These marks assisted in making them more attractive to men because they were regarded as beautiful to touch and look at.

 Among the Hausa and Yoruba women of Nigeria, facial marks were worn to establish the wearer's lineage and also for spiritual purposes. In the Yoruba community, there were four styles of facial scars. The Pele style had three longitudinal lines inscribed on the cheeks, the Owu style had six incisions on every cheek, and the Gombo had multiple straight and curved lines half an inch apart marked on the cheeks. The final style, known as the Abaja, was inscribed on the cheeks, and it could be both basic and complex. The basic technique consisted of three or four horizontal lines, while the complex style consisted of six horizontal lines on each cheek.

In hindsight, facial scarification is not so different from the western culture of tattoos. They are both a form of expression, identification, and beautification.

Lip plates

Lip plates, or lip plugs, are another form of body modification in Africa. They are common among the Surma and Mursi tribes of Ethiopia and are used to signify that a woman is ready for marriage. At the age of 15 to 18, young women get their lips pierced by their mothers or one of their kinswomen. A small incision of about one to two centimetres is done on the lower lip, and a wooden peg is inserted. 

After the initial piercing completely heals, the peg is replaced with a slightly bigger one, and at a diameter of four centimetres, the women can now insert their first plate, which is made of clay. Every woman creates her own plate, and she is allowed to decorate it as she wishes.

Hairstyles

Africans have always been very expressive with their hair. They use it as a way to express their African beauty and as a representation of a person's tribe, social status, family background, and spirituality.

Some of the most iconic hairstyles from African tribes include the reddish hair from the Himba tribe of northern Namibia. Women from this semi-nomadic tribe combine butter, fat, and red ocher to make a red paste known as otijize, which is applied to their hair and skin. While this paste offers sun protection and helps ward off insects, many women say that they use it purely for aesthetic purposes.

Dreadlocks are another popular hairstyle that is worn by various communities all across Africa. They are said to have originated from the Maasai tribe of Kenya and later spread to Ethiopia, other parts of Africa, and eventually the whole world.

Face painting

With the abolishment of scarification in most African countries, face painting is now used as an alternative. The face paint is made out of clay which is dyed using dried plants and flowers.

African colours have different meanings in different communities. Black symbolises death, evil, power, and mystery, while grey shows maturity, authority, stability, and security. Red usually represents danger and urgency, but in Nigeria, it can signify prosperity and abundance.

African fashion

Every region in Africa has something different to offer the fashion industry. African fabrics vary a lot in terms of materials, colours and prints. From West Africa, for example, dyeing is the primary method of colouring cloth, and the most common colour is indigo. The dyes are all-natural, and they are obtained from different plants and clay. Unlike other manufacturers, most African designers only make clothes in order to help reduce surplus stock and minimise fabric wastage. This made-to-order business model promotes ethical manufacturing and is more economical for small scale companies.

Sika'a is an affordable, sustainable brand dedicated to sharing Africa's rich heritage through wearable contemporary pieces. We use sustainable sourcing to get all our materials while putting an unrivalled emphasis on high standards and quality. If you are looking for affordable, sustainable fashion, please visit our online store to shop our African clothing collections and accessories. 


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