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Tattoos Around the World – North Africa

The indigenous culture native to North Africa has influenced the symbols and line work used in Berber or ‘Amazigh’ tattoos. These now have a long history in communities scattered across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Libya and Mauretania and are not only used as a form of adornment, but also as a communicator representing their religious belonging and social status.

These tattoos are only found on the traditional Berber women., in the openings around the eyes, the nose, the navel and even the female genitalia. The placement may seem quite strange in comparison to how we place our tattoos today, however the reason behind this was meant to highlight the vulnerable places of the body. I’m not too sure I would personally choose to have a tattoo in any of these places any time soon…

The symbols on the other hand are used more often than you may think in modern day tattooing each representing something important to this indigenous culture. Trees symbolising strength, diamond shapes used for protection of personal space, and ‘Khamsa’, or the Berber hand of Fatima for the protection against the evil eye.

Although these traditional tattoos seem they were an accepted part of the culture, it seems now that some women are not happy about their facial tattoos and regret having the ink done. Older Berber women are now saying they had to endure excruciating pain just to be considered as ‘pretty’. Many women in these Northern African areas were forced to be tattooed at ages as young as 7 years old by their parents. Modern religious believers in these areas now believe this tattoo practice is a sin and some Berber women have given away all their silver jewellery to make amends.

I’m happy however that some women are still content with their tattoos. They believe their body art has given them luck in marriage and creating families. Some women don’t listen to the religious people, as they know they followed the tradition of their ancestors for a good purpose.

I believe Berber women should feel empowered by their facial tattoos. The symbols, lines and patterns tattooed onto them are not only beautiful, but also extremely meaningful. They are a great way to symbolise and be proud of the culture and the ancestors who did it before them.

Do you think these women should be regretful of their Berber culture tattoos, or should they embrace them and be proud?

Cara – @dots.and.dreams

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