N'Qisate, 39 Comments

I feel it primitive tradition we should forgo. There is apparent Ethiopian-ness and beauty to the art piece. Even, I do feel this is part of our culture we should have let go a similar to that of FGM phenomenon.


Throat tattoo from image of the Queen of Sheba: 19th-century Ethiopian manuscript illustration of Solomon and Sheba.

There is some claim that this Coptic design comes from the time of Queen of Sheba, apparently, she had the tattoo. Thus, these Coptic Christian designs of tattoos seem mutually exclusive with the religion.Nevertheless, culture and religion especially in Ethiopia is interdependent. This might explain why the culture of tattooing is fashionable in the Lalibela area. I do not know how prevalent the culture still is in Ethiopia, but growing up I saw it nearly everyday in Addis Ababa. I have also heard about painful and expensive laser procedures, Ethiopian woman have to go through to get rid of this tattoos.

A primitive culture imposed on young girls, and has some obvious health / self-esteem complications associated with it.

39 Responses to “N'Qisate,”

  1. 1 Tiqur Anbessa

    Very interesting topic… actually, I think the niqisat thing doesn’t look bad at all… But of course it is a problem… people from the cities look down on women with niqisat… and I’m sure it hurts when the niqisat is done…

    Anyway, the main reason I wrote this comment is to tell you that you shouldn’t write “coptic” in this context. “Coptic” comes from “qubt” which means E-GYPT-ian… (its more evident in amharic: “gibTs” or even “gibT”…
    What you mean is Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo… and you should also write it as that…
    It’s true that Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has been called Coptic in the past. But back then we didn’t have an own patriarch. Today our church is autocephal… that means that we can elect our own Patriarch. Although we still see the Coptic Orthodox Church as our mother church (because patriarch Athanasios from Alexandria ordained the first Bishop for Ethiopia, which was Frumentius (aka Abuna Salama aka Kesate Birhan)), and from then on until 1951, the Bishop of Ethiopia was a Coptic Christian.

  2. 2 nolawi

    I was specifically talking about the designs; the designs seems coptic chrsitan, and similar classical style western designs; which are in churchs all over europe, as i’ve seen in pictures. I was really not talking about the church.

    But thanks for the info, I never knew that we had a mother church.

  3. 3 dinbulo

    I wonder if you would consider western Tattoos primitive as well? Maybe the method in which Nikisat is done is primitive but I don’t think the concept itself is primitive (it is certainly old). In western societies where meaningless tattoos are common (for example a butterfly or a snake), they are most often considered sexy or tough. It would be inconsistent to term a more rational form of tattoos (Where one is expressing the Christian heritage of which they are apart) as Huala Ker. Maybe this is a perception problem [I am not accusing you of having it as I don't know your stand on western tattoos] or maybe even a marketing problem [where the form our ancestors adopted has not been marketed well enough].

    The only caveat in this argument would be the fact that Nikisat is not always voluntary.

    To compare it to FGM I think is a bit too much.

  4. 4 Tiqur_Anbessa

    Why should it be Coptic? Have you ever seen anything like that done in Egypt? What they mean is clearly “Ethiopian Orthodox” and not Coptic (in the article you’ve linked)… They just used the wrong word! And that happens very often.

  5. 5 nolawi

    Tiqur, who are right, there is nothing Egyptian about the design. Ok I’ll update the post. But i feel the cross in general is coptic rather than just ethiopian, since classical art from 16-19th century is similar, not necessarly in egypt rather in europe.

    Dinbulo,I never thought of it that way, I would assume that the primitive nature of n’qisat is only in the process. Culturally imposing it on young girls would also be somewhat primitive. I’m really not familiar with the cultural intricacies accociated with the tattoo..

  6. 6 shtoni

    it honestly unfortunate that ‘yeseleTanu habeshoch’ feel nQisat is primitive. to me, it’s a wonderously elegant part of our heritage. the vision of a woman with nQisat takes my breath away. its too bad that adopting western customes equals being evolved.

  7. 7 Mikey

    I my self find nQisat a beautiful thing and perhaps it is not “A primitive culture imposed on young girls”? These “self-esteem complications associated with it.” are perhaps the result of migrating and living in a new country? but i would think such self esteem problems are experienced outside of ethiopian culture and not within it, so it is a cultural peer pressure to change ones customs from outside not from within?

    *thanx for the posting

  8. 8 Dung Mccorkindale

    So many tattoos to choose from. I search the net looking for the best pictures! Great site!

  9. 9 Aseffa,A.

    Neqesat is not primitive. I’m surprised this blogger think so. I know folks in Addis or any urbanized city dwelling population want to look down on ‘agerbet sewoche’. But neeqesat is something beautifull. I’ve the hots for ladies with neqisat. They facinate me. Maybe it is because I grow up watching those women adorn with neqisat in music videos, during hebereterit. Neqesat on teeth, Ensosela, all are great.

    Also, it is not only a Christian practice. I’ve seen Felashas,muslims with neqisat too. It is just a beauty mark. Not all Neqisat are made up of croses either. Comparing it to FGM is just laughable. It shows how so called modernism/edumecation/brainwashing can mislead way of thinking.

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