This article investigates the tracing and documentation of genealogies among the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria using the semiological mechanism of tribal-facial marks. The study lends itself to qualitative research methods and called for the involvement of memory institutions (libraries, archives, and museums). A purposive sampling method, including a combination of focus group interviews and semistructured individual interviews, was deployed in the selection of four categories of participants. Data obtained were transcribed and analyzed using the recursive abstraction technique. The study established the indigenous practice of using indelible facial marks as a form of documentation and tracing of lineages and subethnic groups among the Yoruba. Although they are an endangered species, this study highlights some traditional methods of documentation and justifies a change in the narrative by advocating for an intensification of formalized documentation of the art vis-à-vis relevance to lineage and subethnic genealogies and situating the role of memory institutions in the project. Recommendations include intensive information harvesting and documentation enabled by the development of an active information policy that will take into cognizance various genres of indigenous knowledge systems, including tribal-facial marking systems, as a tool of genealogy.


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pp. 520-555
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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