There are many options available when it comes to choosing a design to suit your tastes in tribal body art however these come in both traditional and contemporary styles so it really comes down to individual taste and preference. Unlike some cultures in certain regions of the world, there are no specific rules when it comes to designs for African tribal tattoos so you can choose any that captures the feel of this continent for you personally. Much of the artwork from this part of the world is vibrantly coloured and combines abstract patterns with geometrical shapes and includes many natural images like trees, plants, flowers and animals that are native to this vast land. Fortunately, this particular artwork is also very versatile so any of these indigenous designs can be transformed into body art with the help of a good tattoo artist.
With so an abundance of tribes spread across a multitude of countries it is difficult to compile specific designs for African tribal tattoos however the purpose of this body art was similar to that of other civilizations and cultures in far-flung corners of the globe.
In recent times, tattooing has been replaced by scarification practices in many parts of Africa but tattoos were used to for a variety of different things. Some tribes would use these predominantly to denote the individual’s rank in the tribe’s hierarchy, however each person would also be inked with a symbol as a mark of belonging to a specific tribe. Like the Polynesians and Maoris, the first tattoo would usually be implemented as a rite of passage as they advanced toward manhood. Some tribes specialized in facial tattoos which were specifically placed on young men during a ritual to mark what was considered to be a momentous occasion, becoming a man. However, tattoos were also used to provide spiritual protection so they also served as a talisman against evil or misfortune and these would also be implemented in a special tribal ritual.
Animals that are native to Africa such as the giraffe, lion or elephant are often depicted in this style of tribal art work other popular images such as the traditional tribal wooden masks are also widely used in designs of this kind. These are often used in conjunction with Adinkra symbols which are another favourite for African Tribal tattoos and many of these also work well as stand alone images too. These symbols originate from the West of Africa and not only do they make great body art when inked on the skin but each also has its own specific meaning. The Denkyem (or crocodile) is a symbol of adaptability while the Fawohodie symbolizes freedom and independence, especially in relation to emancipation while the Dwennimen, is a symbol of strength and humility combined. This resembles the horns of the ram in an abstract amalgamation of spirals that makes a bold statement and an interesting alternative to some of the more commonly requested designs of tribal tattoos. There are a vast number of different symbols that make up this Adinkra index and it really is worth investigating further to find tribal artwork that will make your body art more unique and individual to you.