"three ornamental scars on each of his cheeks"
Face of West African man having undergone ritual scarification
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeScarified West African man (c. 1941) - Credit: John Atherton
African tribal dancer with scarified abdomen (c. 1912)
Public DomainAfrican tribal dancer with scarified abdomen (c. 1912) - Credit: H. M. Whiteside
Baluba man with tribal scars, Congo (1898)
Public DomainBaluba man with tribal scars, Congo (1898) - Credit: W. Dreyer
Cicatrised Batetela Woman from Lualaba-Kassai, Congo (c. 1900)
Public DomainCicatrised Batetela woman from Lualaba-Kassai, Congo (c. 1900) - Credit: Henry Wellington Wack

Scarification or cicatrisation (a special form of scarification which produces decorative patterns of raised scars) is a traditional African custom. For some tribes, such as the Tiv of Nigeria, scarification is practised primarily for aesthetic reasons, but for many others it has important religious and social significance. Scarification may be used to mark significant milestones in the lives of both men and women, such as puberty and marriage, or to transmit complex messages about identity, such as fixed social, political, and religious roles. Scarring on the abdomen of women denotes a willingness to be a mother, with the ability to tolerate the pain of scarring taken as an indication of emotional maturity and readiness to bear children. Primarily, though, scarification is used to indicate tribal affiliation, with particular marks identifying a person as belonging to a specific tribe or ethnic group.


Further reading:

www.ezakwantu.com, African Body Scarification