Body art is one of the oldest forms of art in Nigeria. It still remains popular to this day. Many women are being transformed from bread sellers to top models, thanks to conventional make-up. Men are worst hit by this, with ladies looking under-25 in pictures, and over 70 in real life without “aesthetics”. Make-Up is just a glorified name form Body Art. A trend that has existed in this part of the world for ages.
What started as a means of identification, facial markings is one of the most common forms of body art. It is common among the Yorubas, Gobirs and the Kanuris as well as other tribes. But It is more pronounced among the Yorubas. Depending on tribe, the marks differ.
Kanuris also adopt a special way of beautifying their bodies through hair treatment, skin cleansing and body making-up. The orange red dye produced from henna leaves is used to dye the body red. It is also used to stain fingernails; top of the fingers; feet; chest; hair and dye the beards by men.
Uri (Also pronounced Uli) is the name given to the traditional designs drawn by the Igbo people of Nigeria. It was usually practiced by women, who would decorate each other’s bodies with dark dyes to prepare for village events. These designs would last about a week. The use of uri was not limited to the human body. Igbo women would also paint murals of designs on the walls of compounds and houses. These generally used four colors which could be created from natural bases easily found in the area; black, reddish brown, yellow and white. Uri dye is made from the juice of the plant, randi cordata. The use of Uri dye is popular mostly during the fattening seclusion and cultural festival. It is used to paint the hands, legs and body.
‘Tiro’ is a sort of traditional antimony that is commonly used especially among women. It is made from lead ore, ground and mixed with soot and indigo to get desired color. This is used to outline the upper eyelid. Majorly in Northern Nigeria. Their eyelashes are darkened with a black mineral substance ground into powder and carried around in decorated bottles made of hides. A small mirror is usually part of the kit to facilitate the making-up.
In the North as well as some parts of the South, nose, ears and lips are pierced for ornamentation. Pierced lips are also a special form of ornaments. This is commonly practiced among the Jarawa tribe of Bauchi State in which women’s lips are locked to prevent them from talking to other men especially when they are outside their villages.
All these forms of body art are beautiful in their unique ways but are close to extinction these days.