Way before the dawn of empires and city-states, mankind was grouped into small, tight knit communities known as tribes. Even if all of them were from the same race, you’d easily distinguish one from the other. Different dressing styles, and traditions. But one of the most obvious and universal differences tribes have is their makeup. Varying colors, patterns, applications, purposes, and meanings. If you are interested in trying this unique method of transforming one’s look, check out this tribal makeup look tutorial.
A brief background
Tribal makeup has been around for thousands of years. It is unclear where it exactly originated, but almost every culture around the world has made extensive use of it. Africa, Latin America, India… to name a few locations. Although use of it has declined, especially due to modernization in many countries and communities, the tradition has still been nevertheless preserved by some. Currently, tribal makeup is mainly used during traditional ceremonies and in some cases, by celebrities attending public events. Although the latter isn’t that popular, it has nevertheless been sighted on some celebrities. Mostly, their styles are quite simple and kept to a minimum.
As mentioned earlier, some of its uses include traditional ceremonies. These include marriages, funerals, coming of age rites, feasts, and religious rituals. War paint is also common with many Native American, Amazonian, Aboriginal, and African tribes. This served as a form of psychological warfare, by giving an impression of fierceness and intimidation.
Many also use special patterns to represent social rank within the tribe. The more elaborate and complex the pattern, the higher the rank.
There are also some unconventional uses. In the Amazon, some tribes even change their paint styles everyday to reflect their feelings, the same way people often express themselves by their appearance. Tribal makeup has certainly gone a long way in regards to cultural significance and use.
All traditional tribal paint is made of natural ingredients found within the vicinity. For example, some ingredients include clay, various plants and flowers, oil, chalk, and ash. Different colors are produced by mixing clay with certain dried plants and flowers.
One of the common features tribal makeup has globally is symbols. They are used to convey different messages and represent different characteristics. For example, for Native American tribes, two arrows pointed in opposite directions represented war, a hand symbolized success in hand-to-hand combat, and a bear represented strength.
Color also has special meanings. In African tribes, black stands for power, evil, death, and mystery, while purple denotes royalty and luxury. Other colors include red, which symbolizes danger, and blue, which represents peace, calm, and confidence.
Most of these symbols were directly taken from and influenced by nature, as tribes were very closely linked to their natural surroundings.
Different tribes have different standards. While some are content with a few symbols painted in the cheeks, nose bridge, the chin, or just a simple, solid stroke across the nose and eyebrows similar to Green Lantern’s mask, some are way more elaborate. For instance, some have their faces filled with dots, or even completely paint their entire face. In this instance, each tribe has their own unique patterns and arrangements.
Tribal makeup has certainly gone a long way in regards to cultural significance and use. Although society nowadays would all but completely discard it in favor of more modern cosmetics, it’s far from being rendered extinct. Many tribes, despite having been modernized, still maintain the use of traditional makeup. Although it is not an issue to keep up with the ever-changing standards of current society, one should also always treasure their naitive culture. Tribal makeup is not simply patterns smeared onto the skin. It is a symbolism of one’s character, social rank, and most importantly… one’s heritage.