What do Berber tattoos mean?

An ancestral practice

Berber women are known for their keen sense of aesthetics. Their colorful traditional clothes and jewelry stand out easily against the desert landscape of Maghreb.

Berber tattoos complete this elegant and neat look: these geometric signs in the shape of an arrow, a point or a triangle cover their face, their hands and their ankles, the only uncovered parts of their body.

There are traces of this tradition since antiquity in the Maghreb, which lasted until the 1950s, before the custom disappeared in favor of a more modern and globalized style. This is the reason why today only the older women adorn themselves with these drawings on their skin, the last witnesses of this ancestral practice.

Signs of beauty and spirituality

But where does this tradition of tattooing on women body comes from? The first reason is above all aesthetic: these graphic designs that adorn their skin are intended to stay there for life. It’s kind of natural and eternal jewel, which does not need to be removed, which melts into the skin and its natural wrinkles.

But these body designs also have an important role symbolic dimension. Some marked an identity of belonging to a group, a family, a region. Others signified the marital status of the woman who wore it: widowed, single or newly married. Still others represented animals symbolizing core values ​​in Berber culture, such as fertility, wisdom or goodness.

“When a woman was unlucky, we had her tattooed,” says one of these women from a small village in south of tunisia, in Myriam Mezclarte’s documentary on the subject. In the Berber custom, the tattoo was also a means of relieving ailments, of curing misfortune, as a form of therapy.

Today, these aesthetic patterns are brought up to date by several brands that are inspired by their creations, such as the Algerian brand Taszuri by designer Rym, or by connoisseurs who don’t hesitate to reuse these designs to get tattooed too.

About Wesley V. Finley

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