Whilst studying the variations among tribal groups across Africa, the ever so superficial concept of ethnicity and beauty seems to dominate almost every blog I come across and sadly this one is no different. The concept of beauty itself varies not only from tribe to tribe but among each individual human being. Ethiopia is rumoured to have the most beautiful women in Africa – such claims are often accompanied with pictures of exotic looking women with well defined asymmetrical facial features, large oval eyes and sharp pointed noses. Somehow these attributes makes them somewhat different and unique from other Africans – comparisons are most often made with their West African neighbours often showing further pictures of various people with plump and wide facial characteristics - broad noses, thick lips are often the epitome of ugliness in today’s Western World.
When hearing such claims it often makes me wonder just how little the world knows about our dark mysterious continent. In addition to this ignorance, tribal differences among Africans has led to many disputes, mocking’s and even deaths aka the Rwandan Genocide, the most sickening of all. A small proportion of Horn of Africans along with other non Africans are now denying their ‘blackness’ and have even gone so far as to credit foreign invaders for their looks. I find their claims not only shocking but in many ways extremely ignorant on the widespread tribal variations of African people across the continent, such claims hijack the African ethnicity suggesting that sharp facial characteristics are some what alien to the rest of ‘Black’ Africa and thick broader features are non-existent in the Horn of Africa.
When speaking of Ethiopian beauty many people don’t often make reference to a particular tribal group, I suspect that their ignorance may be the cause of this as their are over twenty different tribes in Ethiopia. Those who are not so ignorant who carry a wider knowledge of African peoples are well aware that Northern and Southern Ethiopians don’t look the same. So what about the Ethiopians who do not fit this so called Ethiopian beauty? Those that clearly have wider noses and thicker lips that are too often associated with otherAfricans? We hear all the time of the Northern Habeshas but nobody speaks of the Southern Hamer, Turmi, Dimeka, Omo and Mursi people, why is that? Are they not Ethiopian enough? It seems that their is some kind of bias as to who can be an Ethiopian based of facial characteristics.
Southern Ethiopian People
Similar to Ethiopia, diversity is common in many African countries where northerners don’t often resemble southerners. West Africa’s Nigeria is a perfect example of this. Nigeria being the most populated country in Africa with over two hundred different tribal groups, the northern Nigerian Fulani population are narrower in stature with finer assymetrical facial features similar to that found in The Horn of Africa, western Nigerians appearing slightly thicker and southern Nigerians having a mixture of both Northern and Western characteristics. Despite these differences Nigerians do not show bias as to what Nigerians look like so why is their such bias towards the Ethiopians of the South?
When studying facial characteristics alone, just how differentare Horn of Africans from other Africans? Northern Ethiopians, Somalis and Eritreans are often referred to as having a more ‘mulatto’ appearance, which many believe is due to a mixture of Semitic and black African influences (although genetics studies have found that the majority are not mixed, but rather have a common cluster of Y chromososme E3b, a haplogroup unique to the horn of Africa). The similarities between the Horn and other Africans is more evident when studying groups such as the Fulani people of West Africa. As their are many sources that dispute the origins of the largest nomadic tribe in the world, nobody knows for sure where the Fulani people hail from. A few historians have pointed to Yemen as their origin whilst others argue that the Fulanis are well rooted in West African soil since the very beginning. Despite these disputed claims, two things are evident a) These mysterious people are largely found in West Africa sharing a similar y chromosome E3a to all other black Africans found in South, West and East Africa (excluding the horn of Africa). b) Despite the popular cluster of Y chromosome E3a found in Fulani’s as opposed E3b found in the Cushitic speaking peoples of the Horn of Africa, ethnic Fulani’s share an almost identical stature to their East African brothers. So how can this be? Firstly bear in mind that when I speak of the Fulani’s, I am referring to the ethnic Fulani’s that have little admixture with their slaves. Fulanis are said to be the largest tribal group in Africa for the simple reason being that they have not only acquired slaves from neighbouring tribes on a large scale but they have also mixed with them thus altering the ethnic look of the original Fulani people. The most ethnic of all Fulani’s can be found in the mountains of Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal, which also includes the people of the Kanuri, Bororo, and Wodaabe tribes – whom are all subgroups of the Fulani.
Below are pictures of Ethnic Fulani ladies. Notice the Identical facial characteristics to those found in the Horn of Africa : 1) – Aminata Diallo, Miss Senegal, 2) Fatoumata Diallo,Miss Senegal 3) Unknown Fulani Girl 4) Kadiatou Diallo (Mother of the late Ahmadou Diallo who was murdered by New York Police). ‘Diallo’ is a very common surname in Senegal.
More Ethnic Fulani People
Judging from the above images one can see that those fine and narrow asymmetrical features that are often deemed as ‘more attractive’ are ethnically African belonging to the people of “black’ Africa and is not just limited to the Horn of Africa. These facial attributes are not a result of gene flow from Europeans or any other outsiders. When making comparisons between East and West African people, their is often a bias where the narrow faced people of Northern Ethiopia are frequently compared to the rounder and wider nosed people of West Africa as opposed to comparing the darker skinned people of Southern Ethiopia to a more light skin, thin statured West African Fulani. By comparing the stature of the Ethnic Fulani’s of West Africa to that of the Southern Ethiopians, one thing is clear, their is not much difference between East and West Africa as many people have claimed. The facial attributes that is often termed Ethiopian beauty is in itself an African attribute, and more importantly it is an African beauty
I am a firm believer that beauty is found all over Africa, in each and every tribal group. Beauty can be seen in the striking elegance of a Senegalese, the heartwarming smile of an Ashanti, the lips of a Somali, the soft hair of a Habesha, the fine nose of a Fulani, in the kindness of a Wolof and the humbleness of a Masai. Each and every individual has their own concept of beauty and by underplaying the presence of European genetics in Africa I am in no way suggesting that mixed beauty does not exist on the continent. The mixing of Europeans and Africans is not alien to Africa and I have no doubt that the West African islands of Cabo Verde has some of the most beautiful women on the planet, a land which many people are unaware of her existence. The vibrant admixture of the Portuguese adventurers along with many West and Central African women have created a sea of breathtakingly beautiful and humble people.
Faces From Cape Verde: