BERBER TATOOS AND SYMBOLS
Like the great majority of the ancestral African ethnic groups, the Berber people are of oral tradition, so it is very complicated to find documents relating their history, however this does not mean that the Free Men left no trace of their history. Today we invite you to get to know one of the guarantors of the culture and history of the Amazigh: Tattoos.
An ancestral practice
Tattoos or ticheret in Tifinagh, the traditional Berber language, is not a recent practice despite its popularity among new generations. Indeed, tattoo has always been linked to practices, beliefs and ideologies by a large number of people on all continents.
It is therefore not surprising that it appears as one of the oldest rites of the Berber people, one finds it especially on women on parts of the body such as the forehead and cheeks and many others.
Girl of Agdz, 1934 (Source: Morocco Vintage)
An identity phenomenon
Among the Amazigh, tattooing is above all a question of identity! Indeed, the tattoo expresses the cultural and civilizational characteristics of the Berber people, the tattoos make it possible to determine which clan or family belongs to an individual but not that.
The tattoo tells a story, of the position in society, the transition from childhood to adulthood, sexuality, one can learn a lot from a person through the marks inscribed on his skin among the Berbers.
Berber symbols and meaning (Source: Pinterest)
Tattooing : A practice with many virtues
The Amazigh people believe in the virtues of tattoos and they seem to be numerous.
- Spiritual virtues: Berber tattoos are known to have a purifying nature, according to the Amazigh people they have the ability to purify body and soul. Spiritually, they represent sacrifices for the purification and redemption of the soul, the tattoo would act as a bridge between the body and the spirit aiming to attain spiritual fullness.
- Protective virtues: From a physical point of view, the tattoo would represent a protection against the physical and psychological evils that can strike the man. For example, tattoos on the neck were designed to protect against goiter disease.
Portrait of a Berber woman Ouled Yahia tattooed on her face and neck, 1939 (Source: Morocco Vintage)
- Aesthetic virtues: Of course tattoos, it is also and especially a question of aesthetics. The Amazigh tattoos were seen as a sign of virtue and beauty for the women who wore them. The lack of tattoos on the face was very frowned upon and suggested a certain masculinity. The tattoos refer to makeup, it was a matter of attracting the gaze and impressing, the body then acts as a canvas and becomes a work of art that arouses admiration with its aesthetic forms and brilliant colors.
Hands of a woman from Taroudant, 1939 (Source: Morocco Vintage)
As you will have understood, tattoos are an important part of the culture and history of the Amazigh people, beyond the simple aesthetics, it is a symbol of belonging and a talisman of protection for who recognizes and wears it!
Written by Elena Steen