African Eyes

August 4, 2009

Are Ethiopian Facial Features Alien to Other Africans?

Filed under: African People — Tags: , , , , , , , — Mbeke @ 9:27 pm

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

 hamer people   Omo_4422[1]  2992400787_d4350b1616[1]

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.

aminata diallo  diallo   metou_ba[1]

More Ethnic Fulani People

117549193_a6de0d94b1[1]   DSC_0887[1]   image001[1]   bintaaa so[1]

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:

maria[1] mariaandmayra[1]  3714055478_9ce5e45138[1] cabochildren18tr3[1]

20090629_007[1]  Mayra_Andrade_foto1_big[1] Resize%20of%20CaboVerde%20304[1] 7eee37ddd22d1225ba6a3e3584500ccf[1]



  1. I’m sorry…..
    I’m just having a hard time here.
    There are beautiful women and people, all over Africa as you have stated, but why does their “beauty” attributed to having a narrow nose, straigher hair, fairer skin?
    I have seen a many beautiful African women who don’t meet any of those characteristics–usually quite the opposite.
    When will black people wake up from their stupidity of aspiring to be?
    I mean…aspiring to be everything else but black. Everything considered to be “African” or “black” seems to be a little be less, and everything a little less “black” Or “African” seems to be a little bit more.
    There’s nothing beautiful about ugliness.

    Comment by indigoblu — December 26, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

    • 2.Indigoblu, please define what you mean by ‘black people’. Who is a black person? Ive met many light skinned Igbos from southern Nigeria, most will tell you that they are red brown.

      Comment by Mbeke — January 9, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

      • Iranians have huge noses and their are many having who are nose surgery everyday, shall we also attack them for ‘aspiring to be anything but Iranian?’or maybe do they just want to be more attractive

        Indigoblue, Your comment is also very ignorant, you talk about africans aspiring to be ‘everything else but black’. You seem upset that beauty is defined by narrow features, pointed nose, of which you find a great deal in Africa. So does having a pointed nose make you ‘less African, or less black?’

        Beauty is beauty. Symmetrical features, clear skin is what constitutes the ideal of beauty worldwide, dont think that Africans cant point out a beautiful woman when they see one.

        Even before Europeans first made contact, Fulanis of North Nigeria have always been admired for their beauty, all over Nigeria, ask any Nigerian. You cannot change peoples idea of beauty, you just have to be happy with yourself and accept the universal law of beauty.

        Comment by Mbeke — January 9, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

  2. Indigoblu, please define what you mean by ‘black people’. Who is a black person? Ive met many light skinned Igbos from southern Nigeria, most will tell you that they are red brown.

    Comment by Mbeke — January 9, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

  3. Mr Mbeke you have made alot of valid points in your article. I also have often wondered about the stereotyping of Ethiopian looks to exclude Southern Ethiopians who I feel are also very attractive. The same way you can find beauty in all Nigerian tribes even though the looks may be different. Societies often define beauty based on certain traits related to their culture. In Nigeria when one talks of beauty we often hear of Niger Deltans, Fulanis etc. Both groups have different features but both are considered beautiful by Nigerian standards.The problem Indigoblu and I have with your article is your focus on aquiline features and fair skin as a world standard of beauty.

    As an Igbo man you know the stunning beauty of some dark skinned round faced Igbo women, or the thick lipped, broad nosed, red skinned Calabar woman. You are right when you say all these different kinds of beauty are indeed authentic African beauty, but your article does not give equal credit to all forms of African beauty. Perhaps you are expressing your particular preference, that is fine. I my self like reddish brown women but I differ with you on the pointed features. I like full lips and a roundish nose,but that is just my preference beauty is beauty. When I see a jet black complexion or a yellow banana complexion, I still appreciate the beauty. Indigoblu probably feels you have to few pictures of our beautiful dark skinned women therefore marginalizing the beauty of dark skinned women. It is something we as Nigerians have to be conscious of.

    Comment by Egbesujuju — September 3, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

  4. Hello, i am kayla. (as you can see). I am 14 years of age. and ever since I was little i have been asked if I was ethiopian, but i am Cherokee indian, black, and irish. I feel as though the black community reffers to the light skin and curly hair African-Americans are prettier than the darker skin and black more “nappy” hair. now let me tell you, my mother is labled as the darker one. and My father and aunties are reffered as the “prettier ones”. the thing about African-Americans that many other races dont understand is that we come in different colours. And the fact that other cultures judge us, we can get that mad. because we discriminate ourselves AS OUR OWN RACE.
    we need to learn how to respect ourselves as one people. before we can point the finger of racism on others

    🙂 I hope my comment helped other people

    -sincerly mixed girl.

    Comment by kayla — October 17, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  5. ofcourse…i agree that there is diversity all across africa and having a “fine-nose” doesn’t make you any less african or black, but what about the beauty of african women with features like this:

    I think they are just as beautiful as women with “fine-noses,” and “soft-hair.” There is beauty all across africa, but it comes in a diverse range of looks and I do not believe one look is superior to the other.

    Comment by anon — October 23, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  6. In my opinion these women are just as beautiful as these women


    Comment by anon — October 23, 2010 @ 8:16 am

  7. in my opinion…both beautiful women

    Comment by anon — October 23, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  8. wow come on we are beautiful of course but ya we are African beauty,see what u don’t realize is that
    only one tribe in Ethiopia looks like typical African the whole almost 80% of ethiopian don’t really look like African we are light colored and curly hair that is fact!!! of course there are beautiful women in west africa too but again what u missed is that their percentage to the whole people is very less that is why it is not noticed.i agree we are African and beautiful as your definition of is not stereotype idea it is truth for further info come to Ethiopia and visit the Harere,southern Gurage, Kefa, Bale tribs beautiful womens too not only north what u posted here is only one tribe south of ethiopia close to kenya and south sudan not at all the whole Ethiopia.

    Comment by ethiopian — February 28, 2011 @ 2:24 am

  9. It’s because their mixed with Arabs

    Comment by Sam — March 5, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  10. Actually, many Ethiopians who look different are not purely African (in the ancient sense). Ethiopian peoples have been mixing with other ethnic groups from Biblical times and the result of the different facial features and skin tones highlight that fact.

    Also, if you are trying to point out physical differences in Nigeria as diversity among Africans, I would say that Western Africans are also mixed with invading nations. All of West Africa has some sort of contact with invading groups of people from the Middle East and also Europeans.

    All that aside, the people who live in Africa today are all African. However, it’s not going to be easy for people to forget that people who look different are the result of invading nations who planted notions that superiority is linked to physical appearance. Especially when their descendants continue to look down on others who look more “pure” and don’t show signs of visible mixing.

    Comment by Vicky — March 18, 2011 @ 9:39 am

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