June 21, 2018

Naija people sabi give tribal marks- Emeka Nwolisa

Naija people sabi  give tribal marks- Emeka Nwolisa

Fela in his monstrous 1976 hit,  Yellow fever, sang

“Different different fever na him dey
Different different fever na him dey
Different different fever na him dey

Different  different fever na him dey

Malaria fever nko? He dey!
Jaundice fever nko?He dey!
Hay fever nko?He dey!
Influenza fever nko?He dey!
Inflation fever nko?He dey!
Freedom fever nko? He dey!
Yellow fever nko?He dey!”

Using Fela’s refrain,  different different  marks  na he dey!

Different different marks na he dey!

 Slavery mark nko? he dey!,

tribal mark nko? he dey!,

juju marks nko? he dey!,

treatment mark nko?he dey!

Slavery marks have basically disappeared but we still have tribal marks. These marks come in diverse shapes and sizes. They are by convention given in childhood.  These marks identify the child’s tribe, family, and paternal heritage.  Occasionally destructive marks are given to children who in the local folklores and beliefs are ogbanje or Abiku.The marks are supposedly meant to prevent them from coming back to that family in their next reincarnation since they would be identified for whom or what they really are.

Today I would discuss marks or scarification done for medicinal or treatment purposes. They  would be broadly classified based on the sites and reasons for making them.  The first group is the ones given on the face. The locations on the face include the forehead, both cheeks and under the chin. These ones on the face are made as the treatment for convulsions and also for treatment of long-lasting and recurrent fever for which the child’s parents have no obvious explanation.

The second group is those given on the left side of the abdomen where anatomically the spleen is located.  They tend nearly always to be circular in shape with a line inside the circle. Another variant involves making multiple marks of between 5 to 10 instead of a simple circle. This is commonly done as the treatment for any condition causing enlargement of the spleen. These marks are commonly seen in children with sickle cell anemia and hyperimmune malaria splenomegaly.

The third group are given on the right side of the abdomen where the liver is located. Any condition causing an enlargement of the liver or any mass or swelling there is a reason these for marks or scarification.

The fourth group though not very common involves making the marks on the left side of the chest wall where the heart is located. Any illness making the pulsation or in simple terms, the beating of the heart to be very obvious and prominent, is an indication for this. The marks are usually about 7- 10.

These marks/scarifications are made with unsterilized materials and usually without anesthesia thereby causing the child intense pain. While they obviously do not treat and are not an appropriate treatment for the underlying medical conditions, they put the children at risk. The complications include those as a result of the initial ailment which has remained basically untreated and those from the process and after effects of  the marks and scarification.

These after effects include bleeding which can be severe enough to require blood transfusion,  infections at the site of the marks which can create serious illness and can result in death. Other risks include infection with HIV and  Hepatitis B/ C.

Shine your eyes, that mark may cause more than you bargained. And just scream,  teacher don’t teach me nonsense, in Ebami eda’s voice.

 

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