Nigeria : Cutaneous adornment in the Yoruba of south-western Nigeria – past and present

Amnat77

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Abstract

The traditional practice of cutaneous adornment is rich and vast amongst the Yoruba in the south-western part of Nigeria. There are varieties of traditionally made products, such as oils, soaps, fragrances, and beads, that have been employed over the years to enhance body beauty. This rich cultural heritage, however, has more or less given way to the values of Western culture, together with the disadvantages of the latter, manifesting as sequelae on the skin.

In ancient Egypt, men painted their faces and dyed their hair. Red, blue, and yellow were the fashionable colors.1 Cleopatra painted her eyelids blue and her lower lids green. She covered her face and neck with white chalk and used a golden dye on her cheeks and a red dye on her lips. Octavia, the wife of the Roman emperor Nero, slept wearing a face mask made of breadcrumbs mixed with *****’ milk. Isabeau, a French queen in the fourteenth century, used a face cream made of the following: boar's brains, glands of crocodiles, and wolves’ blood.1


There are regional variations in the methods adopted or favored, and these change over time. Nigeria is located in West Africa and lies in the tropics between latitude 3° N and 10° N. It has a population of approximately 110,000,000 people. It contains many ethnic groups, amongst which are the “Yoruba” in the south-western part of the country (Fig. 1). In the Yoruba culture, there is a thin line between products applied to the body for cosmetic and medicinal reasons.

The Black Soap (“Ose Dudu”)

he Yoruba words “ose dudu” literally translate to “the black soap.” This is because the common color of the soap is black. The black soap (BS), however, varies in color from black to grayish-white depending on the materials used in the production (Fig. 2).



The soap is made from palm kernel after the palm oil has been extracted. Alternatively, cocoa pods may be used. The pods are also dried, roasted, and cooked. The soap obtained from cocoa pods is grayish in color. Additives to BS include “osun” (described later), some ferruginous clay, and oils (mainly coconut and palm oil).2 For example, “osun” mixed with BS is used for washing babies. Some oils are then applied to the skin (including the scalp) after a bath. In the past, the addition of fragrance (perfume) to products was a rarity in Yoruba culture; however, recent versions of some products, such as BS, contain fragrance.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2005.02684.x/full#f2
 

Amnat77

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Tiro” (Local Eyeliner)

“Tiro” is antimony, which comes as shiny silver-like pieces. When ground with a piece of charcoal, it can be applied to the eyelashes. The ground grayish black mixture is often kept in a conical dispenser made of metal (Fig. 3). A small rod in the container allows the application to the margins of the eyelids.

 

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