Cultural Significance of Body Art in Nigerian Tribes

Categories: BeautyBody ArtLife

The exploration of cultural practices often unveils unique perspectives on beauty and rituals, diverging from Western standards. Simmons’ article delves into a distinctive concept of physical beauty within a Nigerian tribe, specifically focusing on a young girl named Margaret and the ritual of the "fattening room." This tradition involves deliberate weight gain through excess eating and minimal exercise, aimed at enhancing attractiveness in the eyes of potential suitors. Margaret, during her time in this room, follows a strict regimen encompassing eating, rest, and learning essential tasks associated with womanhood and motherhood within the village.

The Intersection of Aesthetic Transformation and Cultural Significance

The alteration of the female body's form for the sake of augmenting aesthetic appeal within these rooms reflects an artistic approach, as defined by scholarly texts. The primary objective behind this practice is to enhance beauty, aligning with the village's idealized body type for motherhood and nursing. This form of body art serves as a unique cultural practice, intrinsically connected to an initiation rite, binding the young women to the ancestral line of their foremothers.

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Despite its declining popularity, this tradition retains significance, symbolizing a link to the cultural heritage and wisdom of past generations.

Artistic Expression through Ceremonial Performance

Simmons accentuates the multifaceted nature of this body art by emphasizing the role of ekombi, a ceremonial dance form learned during the seclusion period in the fattening room. Ekombi serves as a cultural performance art, transmitting the acquired knowledge and simultaneously captivating the prospective groom. Its enduring popularity signifies not just entertainment but also communication, wherein the dance embodies the acquired wisdom and serves as a means of expression.

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Evolution and Preservation of Tradition

Despite the dwindling practice, the existence of the fattening room tradition underscores the resilience of cultural customs in the face of modernization. The significance lies not only in physical transformation but also in the transmission of cultural heritage and values. It symbolizes the intersection between art, tradition, and societal expectations, encapsulating the essence of beauty and womanhood within the context of the Nigerian tribe.


In essence, Simmons’ portrayal of the fattening room tradition in the Nigerian tribe reveals a distinct form of body art that transcends mere physical alteration. It signifies a cultural narrative woven into the fabric of tradition, embodying ideals of beauty, womanhood, and ancestral connectivity. Despite its decline, this practice remains a testament to the resilience and significance of cultural rituals, offering a unique perspective on beauty and artistry in the context of societal norms.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023
Cite this page

Cultural Significance of Body Art in Nigerian Tribes. (2016, Nov 10). Retrieved from

Cultural Significance of Body Art in Nigerian Tribes essay
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