The history of amazigh tattoos

This article is also available in: Italiano

The history of amazigh tattoos is deeply intertwined with that of Morocco, narrating its history de facto. To understand how the country has changed in the last century, in fact, just look at your grandmothers, you can read it in your face.

From before Islam

The tattoo tradition among the Amazighs has ancient roots, even earlier than Islam. It seems, in fact, that the practice was quite common throughout North Africa, so much so that the Carthaginians themselves used it. Some of these symbolized vows to the gods, many more, however, were associated with tribes and events passed by those who “wore them”. This practice then spread, especially among the Amazighs who kept this costume even with the arrival of the Arabs.


In and of itself Islam does not say anything particular against tattoos, speaking of general “body modifications”, however there is a single hadith that openly condemns them. However, they continued to exist for a long time in Morocco, paradoxically condemned by the arrival of the French and an incredible demographic upheaval.

The demonization of the tattoo

Traditionally, women from rural areas are the ones who color their bodies, an ancient practice present in the metropolis but certainly less widespread. With the arrival of the transalpines, many brothels were opened, drawing mostly from rural women, tending to be poorer and less educated. This was the first step in removing the people from tattoos, which began to be associated more and more with prostitution.


With the increasing influence of the Salafists in the country, more and more began to condemn them openly, relegating them past practice and gradually eliminating it from everyday life. To date, this type of art is about to disappear, replaced by a more banal one, mainly linked to the American model. As with henna tattoos, however, their history has very deep links with everyday life, so much so that until a century ago it was widespread in a large part of the female population.

Tattoos to tell the life

In Morocco the tattoo was experienced as a fundamental sign for each rite of passage, a brand engraved on the skin so as not to forget and ensure good luck. In fact, most of them do not hide so much “tribal flags”, as much as signs of fertility and luck, as well as, of course, the history of those who wear them.


Traditionally, in fact, people tattooed themselves once they reached puberty, at the wedding and perhaps because of a mourning. Not only that, however, it was associated with most of the events that “deserved protection” so that, paradoxically, with the arrival of the French many tattooed themselves to defend themselves from rape. The practice was extremely common, so much so that there were women who tattooed professionally, constantly moving from village to village. At the time, of course, there were no particular dyes, so much so that the ink was usually obtained from the sap of the bean leaves, then combined with other substances. Fortunately, with the rediscovery of the Amazigh roots, many are taking an interest in the topic, ensuring that the memory of these practices is not forgotten.

Follow us on our facebook page, Spotify, YouTube and Instagram, or on our Telegram channel. Any like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to devote ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle East

Leave a Reply