fbpx
Friday, July 10, 2020

Things Everyone Needs To Know About the African Tribal Body & Face Painting

Must Read

“The Aim is to Build” — France to Rename Streets After African World War 2 Heroes

France's armed forces ministry has provided local authorities with a 210-page booklet containing the names of 100 Africans who fought for France in World War Two, so that streets and squares may be named after them.

Javicia Leslie Becomes First Black Actress to Play Batwoman on TV

Javicia Leslie has become TV’s first black Batwoman. She is the new lead actress in the CW TV show’s second season. Leslie will play Ryan Wilder, a new character who will take over from Kate Kane.

Sex Tourism in Kenya — NGO’s Calls for Help in Fight Against Rising Sexual Abuse by Foreigners

Child protection organizations in Kenya Anti-trafficking organisations say widespread trust in white outsiders has made kenya's children an easy...



Body painting is a colorful art used by various African cultures to celebrate, protect, and mourn. Traditionally, the paint is gotten from natural ingredients and smoothed on the skin with fingers, sticks, or grasses.

African Tribal Body & Face Painting, Significance and Usage

Pinterest | Source

Ingredients | Uses | Significance

Tribal makeup plays an important role in the various groups. The makeup, often consisting of face paint, is used for many different reasons and can signify many different things such as religious, recreational and traditional reasons and also military purposes.

Traditionally, Oil, clay, and chalk are the most common paint ingredients, but the Dinka of southern Sudan have in the past used ash, cattle dung, and urine to make their face paint.

Specific colors are used to indicate certain periods in a person’s life, such as puberty, courting, and marriage, among other things.

It also functions as social marker, distinguishes boys from men, men from older men or outsiders from members of the tribe. In this context, we can mention that the various patterns and paints of the over 3000 African tribes are really different.

Futhermore, face paint is made out of clay in different colours. Each colour and each symbol has a certain meaning.
Black is used to display power, evil, death and mystery, while grey indicates security, authority and stability. Purple commonly means royalty and luxury while yellow is used for joy, energy and warmth, Red stands for danger and blue denotes peace, calmness and confidence.

It is also interesting to mention that tribal art differs depending on a person’s rank in society. The higher your rank is, the more elaborate and complicated your face paint will be.

Face Painting in South Africa

Face painting, or umchokozo, plays a big role in Xhosa culture, and women decorate their faces with white or yellow ochre, and use dots to make patterns on their faces. The decorations are sometimes painted over their eyebrows, the bridge of their noses, and cheeks.

Xhosa face painting
xhosa face painting: Pinterest

The Xhosa tribe of South Africa also use face paint as a rite of passage. Boys entering adolescence undergo a ritual in which they’re separated from the rest of their tribe and embrace the mentorship of an older man. Once the ritual is over, they’re painted red. Among the Pondo people of South Africa, spiritual leaders paint their faces and bodies white because this establishes a mystical connection between them and their ancestors.

Maasai Face Painting

Face Painting in Africa
Young Maasai, not yet warrior, in traditional face paint. Serengeti area, Tanzania – Photo: Marco Boria

According to a national census held in 2009, in Kenya, the Maasai tribe numbers about 840,000 people. The Masaai decorate their bodies with beads and jewelry, and wear plugs that greatly enlarge their earlobes. Toya, a former Maasai warrior interviewed by filmmaker Ton van der Lee, reports that young men who are undergoing the ritual of initiation into manhood fashion headdresses made out of lions’ manes or bird feathers. During the initiation, women shave off the men’s hair and paint their heads with red paint.

Related:   Robert Milligan: Statue of 18th Century Slave Trader Removed from Outside London Museum

Wodaabe Face Painting

African Tribal Body Painting

The Wodaabe’s are known for their elaborate beauty pageants in which heavily decorated men compete for the attention of women. Men paint their noses with white clay and line their eyes with black eyeliner made out of egret bones. They adorn their faces with swirling symmetrical patterns of red, yellow, black and white. The winners of these contests become heroes of their tribes, are remembered for generations, and have the option of choosing brides for themselves.

Related:   Tanzanian Miner With 30 Children Becomes Overnight Millionaire

Karo People of Ethiopia

African Tribal Body & Face Painting, Significance and Usage
Decorating with nature is significant for the Karo Tribe – Photo: Mario Gerth

The Karo people differentiate themselves from many of the neighbouring tribes by excelling specifically in body and face painting. They paint themselves daily with coloured ochre, white chalk, yellow mineral rock, charcoal, and pulverized iron ore, all natural resources local to the area. What’s more, it’s not just the women who use this technique in a bid to be more visually appealing to the opposite sex. The men also paint their faces and bodies to boost their sex appeal.

Nuba People of Sudan

African Face Painting, Significance and Usage
A Nuba Man Of North Sudan – Nairaland

The Nuba males in Sudan are painted and decorated all over their body between 17 and 30 years of age to indicate their life stage.

Witch Doctors

African Tribal Body & Face Painting, Significance and Usage

Witch doctors in Africa paint their face and arms in mostly white colors in a bid to see and communicate with the spirit.

Berber women in Northern Africa

Face Painting, Significance and Usage

Berber women in Northern Africa paint their hands and feet with intricate henna designs called siyala for their weddings. (Henna is a reddish powder or paste made from the dried leaves of the henna bush).

In Algeria’s Aurès mountains, it used to be a tradition for Berber women to tattoo their bodies and faces. The shapes and symbols they used were both of cosmetic and therapeutic value, as the Berber community in eastern Algeria believed that tattoos could be used to heal illnesses and infertility.



Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

Just In

“The Aim is to Build” — France to Rename Streets After African World War 2 Heroes

France's armed forces ministry has provided local authorities with a 210-page booklet containing the names of 100 Africans who fought for France in World War Two, so that streets and squares may be named after them.

Javicia Leslie Becomes First Black Actress to Play Batwoman on TV

Javicia Leslie has become TV’s first black Batwoman. She is the new lead actress in the CW TV show’s second season. Leslie will play Ryan Wilder, a new character who will take over from Kate Kane.

Sex Tourism in Kenya — NGO’s Calls for Help in Fight Against Rising Sexual Abuse by Foreigners

Child protection organizations in Kenya Anti-trafficking organisations say widespread trust in white outsiders has made kenya's children an easy target for abusers from the...

Zimbabwe Spends Millions of Dollars on Luxury Cars as the Country Goes Hungry

The government of Zimbabwe has spent millions of dollars on luxury cars for senior officials despite a deepening economic collapse that has plunged its...

Akodessewa Fetish Market – The Largest Voodoo Market in the World is Located in Togo

Akodessewa Fetish Market in Lome, Togo is recognized as the largest fetish market in the world, a place where Voodoo practitioners can find anything...

More Articles Like This