What do tribal tattoos mean in Africa?

What do you know about tattoos in Africa? What are the most usable symbols for African tattoos?

African tribal tattoos

African tribal tattoos are the unique in the world. The method of tattooing is quite distinctive from European Style. It`s wildly practiced in the African tribes. This practice of tattooing is called scarfication or cicatrisation. The rubbing cuts of charcoal should be a thorn into decorative tissue in the skin. These designs often indicate social ranks of the people who are holding these tattoos. For African women, scarfication means puberty period. It`s the day when any girl becomes a woman. It`s painful, but there is another choice. For boys, cicatrisation also indicates the manhood. Also, scars added in fights as an act of bravery. It also plays as a sexual and erotic part of the body. Nevertheless, Africa can also provide different symbols for tattooing.

READ ALSO: Can One Go To Heaven With Tatoo?

Most viewed symbols on tattoos


It translates as the heat. This symbol provides patience and tolerance towards people. According to Agbo representations, if a person has a heart in his stomach, then he is very tolerant.

 Ananse Ntontan

Spider web. It`s a symbol of wisdom and creativity. It also provides information about the life of Ananse, the famous folktale character in Africa.

Akoma Ntoso

It can be translated as linked heart. It`s a symbol of compassion, understanding, and agreement.

Akoko Nan

In English it may sound, like the leg of a hen. It represents the ideal nature of parents and children. Like a hen nurturing and disciple her children. It means to be protective about family and kids. It also means to nurture or care for children.

tribal tattoo


The sword of war. It always symbolizes heroism, courage, valor. The crossed swords have always been symbols of kings. You may find it as a popular motif for heraldic shields. It was a popular motif for many Akan states. For today, Akofena can also represent legitimate state authority.


Akoben can be translated as a horn. It`s a war horn that used for battle cries. It symbolizes wariness and vigilance.


It can be defined as the Chief of the Adinkra. Therefore, it symbolizes leadership and charisma of a person. It played a significant role in designing other symbols connecting to the leadership.

Asase Ye Duru

As it goes from the name: “the Earth has weight,” this symbol represents the Mother Earth as a sustaining part of life. It`s a symbol of divinity and providence.

africa tattoo


It translates as a fern. It`s a symbol of skillfulness, resourcefulness, and endurance. The fern can grow in many difficult places under many hard and hazard conditions. Therefore, people who wear this symbol might have survived many difficulties in their lives. They managed to endure many obstacles and get some experience out of it.

Bese Saka

Symbol of unity, power, togetherness. It translates as a sack of cola nuts. The cola nuts played a significant role in economic life of Ghana. It`s widely used cash crop. This symbol also represents a wide role of agriculture and trade in bringing people together.

Bi Nka Bi

As it translates: “nobody should bite the other.” This symbol works as a caution against strafes and provocations. Still, it can also be a symbol of peace and harmony. Two fish who bite each other is the perfect representative of the words.

Boa Me Na Me Mmoa Wo

The symbolism of this tattoo comes from the translation: “Help me, and I`ll help you.” Therefore, it`s a symbol of cooperation.


It`s the name of the popular board game in Africa. Therefore, it can be traced symbolism – ingenuity and intelligence.

tattoo in africa


Denkyem translates as a crocodile. It`s a symbol of adaptability. As it`s known, crocodiles hunt in water, but breath the air. Moreover, according to a scientist, they are one of the species that managed to survive the death of dinosaurs.


It translates as” the wooden comb.” It symbolizes feminine qualities, like beauty, cleanness, desire, honor, care, love. It provides the qualities of a feminine goddess. Duafe was a prize possession for Akan women.


It translates as ram`s horns. It symbolizes the creature that very braves in a fight, but it can also be submitted to slaughter. It symbolizes that even strong should know when to humble.


It translates as “fence.” It symbolizes love, security, and safety. For Akan people, home is a special place. The home symbolically protects a family from outside danger. Therefore, security and protect that fence gives to two lovers can also be defined as security and secrecy that the fence can give to two lovers.


It translates as handcuffs. It can represent positive symbols as law and justice, but it also can be traced back to slavery. This symbol was represented to Africa in slavery trades. Therefore, it can easily represent both slavery and the hand of justice. Nowadays, it can be a bear as an act of antislavery or notification of slavery.

symbolic tattoo

Ese Ne Tekrema

The teeth and tongue, if translate correctly. It`s a tricky tattoo; it goes with the idea that teeth and tongue are separated from each other, but provide the same function. Therefore, they need to work together to make things happen. It symbolizes friendship, cooperation, and independence.


It`s a symbol of independence, but everybody should know, that independence goes with responsibility.


It`s symbol of security and safety for Akan. It can be translated as a house. According to Akan architecture, a house has only one enter/exit.


It`s a symbol of jealousy or envy. It can be translated as a yellow-flowered plant. It`s beautiful but expresses the nature of a jealousy person or the one who knows what he/she wants.


The Siameses crocodiles. It symbolizes unity and democracy. It gives a notion that two crocodiles have only one stomach for both. Therefore, if they fight for food, the both get injured, and they both can die out of starvation. If they agree that one head would eat the food, they both would be feed. It`s just a reminding that conflicts between tribes lives both without food and damaged.

Gye Nyame

Except for God. It`s one of the most religious symbols in Africa. It symbolizes the supremacy of God. This symbol is especially popular for Ghanaian people.

african tatoo

Hwe Mu Dua

It`s translated as measuring stick. It symbolizes the examination and quality of control. It also stresses the path to the perfect results.

Hye won hye

It can be translated as the one who does not burn. It`s a symbol of imperishability together with endurance. This symbol goes to shamans who could walk on fire without burning their feet. This symbol is the inspiration for others that it`s needed to endure to overcome difficulties.

Kete Pa

It`s translated as a good bed. It can be tattooed on a women bodies to symbolize good marriage.


Symbol of arrogance

Kwatakye Atiko

It`s a hair style of an Asante war captain. It can symbolize only valor and bravery. It can be translated as a brave son of Akan.

Mate Masie

What I hear – I keep. It`s a symbol of prudence and wisdom. It implies understanding and knowledge a person or situation without saying anything. It means an understanding of any situation and tolerance to it or wisdom to it.

tribal tatoo

Me Ware Wo

In other words, I shall marry you.


It`s a symbol of fortitude and courage. The ability and desire to withstand any difficulties. It also symbolizes endurance toward any danger or obstacle. The reinforced position of this symbol provides the holder an assertiveness that any harm can be undone. Everything is to be protected from all sides.

Mmere Dane

It provides some resemblance with sand clocks. It means a time of changes. This tattoo symbolizes changes in life or dynamics of changes.


Symbol of good fortune.


Mpatapo symbolizes mutual pacification and peacemaking. It provides information about peaceful solutions for getting out of conflicts. It also a peacemaking symbol after strife. Therefore, despite differences, there is no desire to fight for any side. It also symbolizes reconciliation and harmonious coexistence.

african tattoo


It represents five tufts. It`s a symbol of loyalty. It was a tradition hairstyle for priestesses.  In overall meaning it means loyalty.

Nea Onnim No Sua A, Ohu

It`s a symbol of knowledge. It can also represent strive for learning and everyday learning. The continued quest for knowledge. Still, it can also mean that the holder of the tattoo is stuck in an eternity of studies.

Nea Ope Se Obedi Hene

It means – who wants to be a king, should know how to serve. Therefore, it`s a symbol of leadership and courage.


It`s a chain link. It represents the unity of people. Unity of human rations. It also serves as a reminder that a member of a community should provide to keep a community strong.

Nyame Dua

This symbol represents a tree of God. It`s a sacred altar where people seek for purification and blessing.

african tattoo


It`s a symbol of the high quality of work.


As it goes from the description. This symbol may represent only the twisted mind of a holder. It also represents dynamism and versatility. Still, people who hold this sacred symbol on their body may have obtained fantastic knowledge for themselves.


It`s a symbol of excellence and genuine.


It`s a symbol of guardianship. It represents God-father. It represents the entity that watches over us.

African tattoos

African tattoos

The African tattoos derived from nation to nation. Nevertheless, tribal tattoos are superstitious. As it was mentioned from above. Tribal tattoos provide protection to the holder. The African tattoos provide all sorts of protective masks. It`s believed that tattoos are connected to the superstitious nature. If African people tattoo their body, they believe that they can get protection throughout their life.

In modern days’ African tattoo art became very popular. Nevertheless, they may just play the ideas of decorations without values. Still, in tribes, people believe that tattoos provide powers to its holders. It can protect from evil spirits. Therefore, they use scarring, as this method seems to them more natural.

The African tattoo is extremely beautiful. They may start a process of decorating their bodies from the childhood. Nevertheless, a tattoo provides esthetic pleasure, but it also bears spiritual meaning. It plays a significant role in African culture. Most people believe that if they tattoo their body, they can summon good spirits to protect them from evil. They can also make facial tattoos, which is believed that the holder of this tattoo will be much difficult prey for the reaper. Young African women also bear tattoos on their abdominal to indicate that they are ready to bear a child.

Types of Tattoos

Types of Tattoos

Intricate tattoos

It does not need colored details. Solid black color would be more than enough on the skin. Therefore, it can provide masculine and sharp appearance. The essential detail for this tattoo is to make an intricate design. Therefore, it`s not that easy to find a true master who can work with this design.

Powerful Tattoos

As it comes from the name, these tattoos represent power and glory of their master. Many criminal bosses and powerful chiefs obtain theses tattoos. Nevertheless, in the modern world, some tattoos mean nothing, but in a criminal world they still have power. Therefore, you may try to obtain this tattoo in Africa, but be ready to get responsible if someone with criminal background catches you with this tattoo.  Still, modern criminals do not like to wear tattoo as it can indicate their criminal activity. Therefore, some criminal tattoos lost their meaning. Still, the best way to hide for criminals is to blend into the crowd, and with a characteristic tattoo, it`s a challenge.

African tribal Celtic tattoos

 It`s very attractive and unique tattoos. They are very difficult to make due to their curly patterns. You can find unique designs of Celtic African tattoos. Most of them are associated with symbols of power, authority, endurance, fertility, and religion.

African Elephant tattoos

Elephants play a significant role in African culture. They are the biggest mammals on the soil. Moreover, they are the most human creatures on the earth. It`s difficult to make elephant attack someone. They usually represented as creatures of peace and harmony. Therefore, a stunning elephant tattoo design would be a perfect example to represent kindness and humanity of the holder.

Full body art

You may try to make a full body art tattoo that would be stunning. Some tribes in Africa cover their entire bodies in tribal tattoos to indicate their status in the society and protect from evil spirits. Moreover, it also holds some puberty changing priorities. Girls get tattooed when they are ready to bear a child and ready to marry. Boys wear tattoo when they become men; it usually means some initiation.

Star tattoos

You can connect starts with beautiful tribal tattoos on your body. It can help to create the filing of spirituality in the design.

africa tattoo

Butterfly tattoo

Butterfly tattoos provided in African style will look more lovely on your body. Butterflies usually represent feminine characteristics, like beauty, cleanness, and fertility.

Flower tattoos

The pleasant look of African tattoo would be surrealistic with flowers on your body. These tattoos are usually offered to women as they represent female divinities.

Therefore, Africa is a great and vast continent that can attract people from all around the world. It provides interesting traditions, cultures, and landscapes. It`s known as a cradle of humanity. Nevertheless, they can also make powerful tattoos on your bodies. It`s immersive how deep their tattoo culture can go. They continue to bear ancestral knowledge about tattoo mastering. It should also be mentioned that most of the traditional body tattoos come from Africa. Therefore, if you desire to find some interesting design for tattoos, you may desire to visit Africa.

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