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Meet Algeria's tattooed women

Meet Algeria's tattooed women


Faded lines and symbols imprinted on their foreheads, chins, and cheeks, draws attention to them. These are the Chaouia women in the Aurès mountains in Algeria.

Most of these Berber women, now in their 70’s to 90’s, have tattoos which were used to define their beauty in their youth. But the practice has waned and what once gave them some sort of identity is no longer necessary.

Djena Benzahra, 74, was forced to get a tattoo when she was 9 years old. Her mother wanted her to look beautiful.

“I still remember, it was so painful and I was crying, refusing to be tattooed.”

Tattoo Myths

There are several myths and believes surrounding the tattoos.The tattoos done near the ankle or on the hands were believed to have enhanced fertility .

During the colonial period, reports suggest that these women were forced to get the tattoos on their face in order not to look attractive to the French soldiers, but this was strongly disputed by the tattooed women.

Some say the influence of religion is killing it. The women are perceived to have sinned against God.

“To ask for forgiveness from God, I’ve given away all my silver jewellery after turning the offering seven times on my tattoo,” said Djena

Some religions including Islam prohibits tattooing and the women believe that is what is killing ancient arts of the Berbers, since the young generation will not want to sin against God.

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