A Proclamation on the Skin


It was evening in Meknes, Morocco; three of my classmates and I sat across from our new friend Meryeme and her family. We were invited over for dinner, and what a dinner it was.  Laughing, joking, talking and lots of eating filled our evening. Meryeme’s mother sat next to me at dinner; she was hysterical.  She kept placing huge pieces of chicken, lamb and grapes on my plate. With a small chuckle and a grin she would encourage me to “eat, eat!”  After the fifth unasked-for-piece-of-chicken, I raised my hand and gave the universal sign of “enough!” when something caught her eye. She grabbed my wrist and examined it, looking intently at my tattoo.

Two summers ago, I decided to get a small tattoo. Sola Fide is now scrolled across the inside of my wrist. It means By Faith Alone in Latin. I stumbled across it in one of my books winter quarter of my freshmen year. That season of my life was difficult; I struggled a lot with not only identity issues, but also the unexpected death of my brother-in-law. I questioned a lot of things, especially my relationship and faith in God.  There were times I never thought I would, but a year and a half later I’d made it through that deep darkness. My tattoo is a proclamation that I had not and most likely will never comprehend why things happen, but that By Faith Alone, I will trust and believe in God’s goodness and character.

Meryeme translated her mother’s words, saying she thought my tattoo was beautiful.  She then began to tell me about the traditional Berber tattoos that women get on their foreheads to show beauty. Berbers are native people of Morocco. Their roots trace back thousands of years before the seventh-century Arab conquest that brought Islam to the region’s mountains and deserts. The two most traditional tattoos are the ghemaza (tattoo between the eyebrows) and siyâla (tattoo on the chin). These are not only a proclamation of beauty, but also a sign of protection from evil spirits. Tattooing is an art form that has been popular in many cultures and nations. For me, it was a proclamation of my beliefs, and that reigns true for many others, even the Berber women of Morocco.


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