Tchoodi: Fulani Lip Tattooing Culture.

The Fula or Fulani women’s symbol of beauty and courage are black lips tattoos. They uphold a “Tchoodi” ceremony that is a cultural identity and ritual performed exclusively by women and the tradition serves as a right of passage, a sign that girls have achieved womanhood. Girls must perform Tchoodi to avoid the mockery or outcast status. These distinctive black lip tattoos make the girl or young woman more attractive to Fula men as potential wives.

About Mali

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is bordered by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire to the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 square kilometres with a population of 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako.


Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country’s southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal rivers. The country’s economic structure centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. About half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

About Fulani

Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are the largest Migratory ethnic group in the world. They are among the “Super” ethnic groups of Africa with members numbering 30 Million and Above, alongside the Hausa, Yoruba, Oromo and Igbo. They are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa and Northern parts of Central Africa, but also in Sudanese North Africa. Overall, the territory and range of where Fulani people can be found, is significantly larger than the United states and Western Europe in area. Being one of the most widely dispersed and culturally most diverse people of the African continent, Fulani culture comes in a myriad of different expressions in clothing, Music, and lifestyle.  In order to survive in poor soil, they have to do a lot of things. But they don’t miss  taking care of their appearance. Fulani have pride in their appearance, and they don’t be lazy to adorn their face and body.

Fulani facial tattoos

The black circle framing her mouth draws attention to her white teeth and beautiful smile. Her tattoos make her more attractive to men.

These tattoos can mark a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, and in some cases can be a sexual lure, a sign of fertility or a sign of beauty. At puberty, Fulani girls tattoo the bottom part of their lip as a sign of beauty. Once they’re married, the upper part is tattooed to show they’re taken.

This tattooing is performed before the marriage ceremony is taking place. With a fine hot needle and a special natural ink the lips are tattooed. For three weeks they fed only liquid introduced into their swollen mouth through straw.

Throughout West Africa, many Fulani have facial tattoos as a sign of their cultural identity. In Mali, women tattoo their mouth and lips, a tradition known as “Tchoodi”.

To the Fulani, ‘Pure tooth’ is the first condition of beauty. So when women become 15 years old, they tattoo gums, lips, and chins darkly to emphasize their white tooth. To those, tattoos are a symbol of beauty and courage. By enduring the pains that dig the tender flesh in silence, Fulani women reborn to overcome the trials.

The people who make the black lips are young women. Fulani women who originally have red lips use ashes and needles to make their lips black. After applying black ashes enough to cover the entire lips, tattooist beat around the mouth using the needles-enclosed tool. Because needle punched through the lips and mouth, blood flow through the skin, but young women never cry. It is thought that crying or tossing during a tattoo isn’t honorable.


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