There are literally thousands of African tattoos that people can get, each with its own specific design style and meanings. Some people will get these tattoos because they represent where they or their families came from, while others get the tats that hold significant meanings to them. Below you will find information on African tattoos, including some of the most popular types of tattoos and the meanings that can be used with these designs.
Africa is an enormous continent with the second largest population in the world. Divided into 54 countries, there are numerous diverse cultures that exist that cannot be aggregated into one concise concept. And that is exactly why when we talk about “African tattoos,” we are actually talking about thousands of ideas from multiple countries and cultures. It also means that one tattoo might have completely different symbolisms in one place in Africa than it does in others. This is important to keep in mind because you might find that a design you want to get actually has several different meanings depending on the type of design it is and the style used.
There are several designs that derive from Africa such as animals, flags, patterns, and more generally the outline of the continent itself. These are the most commonly seen Africa tattoos, though there are quite a few sub groups in each of those categories. Also, each of those types of designs can be combined together to make a larger African tattoo that can give a more detailed description of who you are and what’s important to you.
Though not necessarily “African” tattoos, plenty of people around the world choose to get an animal tattoo with animals only found on the African continent. For example, the lion tattoo is one of the most commonly seen animal tattoos because it is an extremely symbolic creature as well as being incredibly beautiful. The point is that you can get an African animal as part of your Africa tattoo or you can get it for the animal itself.
Traditional African tattoos are exclusive to each culture that practices tattooing as an art, though tattooing is not historically a widely practiced art. In most cultures, scarification is used to create a pattern of dashes and lines on the skin. This can be mimicked with tattooing to create the same type of pattern, although the African cultural practices should be done in a respectable way. Outside of those places where classic African tattooing is still performed, you will find that most African tattoos are now made with the modern ink and needle style.
Images of the Sahara desert, found stretching across Northern Africa, are a clear symbol of the continent and its ancient roots. The desert palms as part of an oasis amongst the sand dunes is a representation of the arid land and instantly brings to mind the vast African Sahara. This can be encased in the outline of the continent, symbolizing a love of or affiliation with the culture and peoples who live there.
African wild dogs, serpents, and lizards are typical to the desert area and can be included in designs as well. What’s great about these ideas is that you can add in additional meanings with each creature that you include in your design, or they can simply be there to bring context to the landscape. Ideally you’ll be able to fill one of these desert tattoos with a lot of elements that do hold meanings for you, but that definitely is not necessary. The key is to make sure that your tattoo is clearly made to look like an African tattoo,” so you will want to design it in a way that makes it recognizable in that way.
The African savanna plains and the Serengeti in Tanzania and Kenya provide more recognizable terrain that symbolizes the continent. The grasslands and woodlands of this plain is symbolic of Africa, especially when paired with animals native to the area. High grass and mountains can bring these types of tattoos together. The coloring work is also extremely important if you are getting a design with the savanna plains since you want to make the orange and green hues stick out while not taking the focus away from everything else that’s included in the piece.
Lions, elephants, wildebeests, zebras, buffalo, and birds are often included in African savanna plains tattoos to highlight the incredible animal migration that occurs in the Serengeti every year. A vivid sunrise or sunset with the silhouette of any or all of these animals in the foreground is a representation of the natural beauty of Africa. While you might be thinking that these types of tattoos would have to be incredibly detailed, the fact is that you can very easily get these types of tattoos in simple black ink. Of course, you’ll still want a good artist to do the work for you in this case because it takes a special set of skills to make a black-ink tat that is an obvious African tattoo.
African women from various cultures are also often included in African tattoos as a symbol of natural beauty, often pictured wearing traditional clothing including headdresses and jewelry. Once again, there are a lot of ways that you can design this type of African tattoo. You can have the women walking through a village, or you can have a single woman staring out into the distance. The key here is to make sure that everything the women are wearing is authentic and the piece is done tastefully.
Traditional fabric patterns are sometimes included in African tattoos as well, such as the vibrant blues and yellows of Ghana’s Ashanti Kente weave, the varied and bright patterns of the kanga dresses and wraps worn by cultures around the African Great Lakes, or the West African dashikis. These things are actually excellent ideas for African tattoos because they are clearly from an African region. The easiest way to find what to include in your image is to look up popular pictures taken from the region that you want to depict and show those things to your artist when you are ready to get the tattoo.
Another very popular African tattoo that people get when they want to show their love for their roots is the aerial image of the continent. Some people will get these designs in full detail, while others will simply get the outline of Africa on their skin. The only thing that really matters is that the design is accurate, which isn’t too hard to pull off. You can even combine the continent with the colors of an African nation’s flag or even with popular African animals.
What’s really great about African tattoos is that you can place them just about anywhere on the body. If you know exactly what you want to include in the design, all you have to do is find a way to make it fit where you need to. You can even make a full sleeve that includes a flag, a couple animals, and even a small village.
African tattoos have a very specific type of look to them, so ideally you’ll be able to find someone who understands these styles should you decide to get one. A good idea is to look through some artists’ portfolios and see if they have made other tattoos that are similar to the one you want to get. Even if you don’t get lucky in that regard, you should still be able to find a good artist in your area who can make your design look amazing.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why people end up deciding to get African tattoos over all of the other options that they have. There are thousands of great options to choose from and it is very easy to design your tattoo in a way that ensures you have a one of a kind design. If you do end up deciding to get an African tattoo, just be sure that you pic images that you will always be proud to wear on your skin and then hire a really good artist to do the work for you.