35 Authentic African Tattoo Ideas for Men – Making it Cool, Unique and Rugged

Africa is regarded as the cradle of mankind. And it’s quite hard to exclude it when talking about the tattoos of the ancient civilization. This black continent, as many call it, had impressive tattoo symbols that contributed in laying a foundation for today’s tattoo art. Almost each tribe had its own tattoo that held different meanings that were of great importance to the tribesmen. And with an estimated 3,000 tribes that reside in the African continent, these tattoos were quite many in number since each tribe had several tattoo symbols.

African tattoos, like those of other cultures around the world, came in many design variations. Some tattoos were designed to be gender-specific while others were unisex. This article discusses the historical background, designs variations and the different meanings of African tattoo symbols for men.


Historical Background

African tattoos have a long history that dates back before Christ’s era. It traces its roots back to the time of mummies in Ancient Egyptian culture during 2160-1994 BC. Evidence points out that the first tattoo was discovered on a mummy priestess. Despite their simple nature that consisted of parallel lines, it was a huge discovery in the world of tattoo art. Egyptologists in the modern society suggest that the tattoo symbols represented fertility and rejuvenation. More discoveries of tattooed male mummies have been made in other parts of Africa, such as Libya. These tattoos depicted images that relate to sun worship.

Tattooing in North Africa was strictly prohibited by the Islamic religion. However, there were certain sects, especially in Morocco that took it to be a legitimate practice. Written documentations of the 20th century suggest that tattooing existed in the Arabic world, way back in the time of Prophet Mohammad. Besides Egypt, Libya and Morocco, traditional tattoo symbols also existed in Algeria, Tunisia and other parts of North Africa. The tribes of Sun Saharan African, especially the Fulani practices skin scarring as a form of tattoo. No wonder they are considered the most heavily tattooed tribe in the region.

African body tattoos involved extreme forms of piercing and Cicatrisation (severe cutting of the skin to create wounds). Today, many African tribes are still seen with tattoos, which are unique to their group. They provide a deep sense of belonging to a particular tribe. Though popular in the African continent, they’re are not much more common in body art designs of the Western world.

back to menu ↑

Meanings of African Tattoos

Some tattoos were specially designed for protection. They acted as a charm to protect the wearer from harm. The symbols in the images guarded them throughout life. Other tattoos were used for decorative purposes. Some symbols were more than bodily decoration. They allowed the wearer to take on a supernatural state. This made him appear more than human and was revered by the tribesmen.

The character and personality of a person were often reflected in tattoo symbols. Warriors used them as proof of bravery and courage. Young boys also wore tattoo symbols to show transition to puberty. Some designs and patterns were symbolic to gods and other divine forms worshiped and followed by a particular tribe. Other tattoo symbols were used to commemorate battles or ancestral relationships with gods, forefathers and reincarnation. Some tribes got tattooed to show love, dedication and commitment after marriage.

back to menu ↑

Design Variations

African type of tattoos are available in many different designs. This is because the body art patterns differed from tribe to tribe and region to region. Every civilization has its own traditions and cultures, and thus had a specific symbolization that were depicted through tattoos and body art. Below are some of the most popular designs worth experimenting with.

African Continent Outline: This tattoo symbols portrays the outline of the African continent. It comes in many different designs. Some may choose to go for a simple, basic sketch. Others may go for great detailing to include the countries and other physical features on the African continent.

African Animals: This type of symbol features animals that are native to the African continent. You can choose from lions, zebras to the majestic African elephant. This type of tattoo can be used in combination with that of the African continent outline.

Symbols of ancient African Gods: Ancient gods were believed to be guardians of the people. They protected them form evil and unnatural spirits. Therefore, people wore the symbols to guard them throughout their lives.

African Warrior Tattoos: This was a common tattoo among the warrior tribes. The symbol represents an individual’s willingness to fight. It often portrayed the image of a particular tribal warrior dressed fully for battle.

These are just but a few of the many variations of this tattoo. There are many other cool variations available on the internet. So fell free to browse the web and get that perfect design that appeals to you most.

back to menu ↑


Like any other body art, the tattooed African symbol needs careful consideration prior to getting inked. The first thing to determine is the size of the tattoo. Most often, the African continent outline design require more space, especially when you need your artist to do lots of detailing. Such a size needs a large canvas area that includes the back, arm o the chest. Other tattoos, such as the African animal tattoo would often require a small area on which to place. Such small tattoos are best worn on the wrist or nape.

However, the size of the tattoo will depend of your taste and preferences. You may decide to shrink or enlarge it at will. Be advised that in case you want a decorative tattoo, then it would be wise to wear it on areas that are more visible. This makes it much easier for your admirers to sport the tattoo.

The African tattoo is among the coolest choices for tattoo lovers, especially from the African continent. The creativity of modern tattoo art has transformed some of the ancient art to create excellent styles and patterns for the latest trends. This means that other cultures around the world can also wear the tattoo. You can get inked in this tattoo to pass a message or add some decorative touches on your body.

Login/Register access is temporary disabled