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Sunday 19 April 2015

Nsibidi is an ancient Igbo writing system of graphic communication indigenous to the people of Biafra

Nsibidi (also known as nsibiri,[2] nchibiddi or nchibiddy[3]) is a system of symbols indigenous to what is now southeastern Nigeria that is apparently an ideographic script, though there have been suggestions that it includes logographic elements.[4] The symbols are at least several centuries old: Early forms appeared on excavated pottery as well as what are most likely ceramic stools and headrests from the Calabar region, with a range of dates from 400 to 1400 CE.[5][6]
There are thousands of nsibidi symbols, of which over 500 have been recorded. They were once taught in a school to children.[7] Many of the signs deal with love affairs; those that deal with warfare and the sacred are kept secret.[7] Nsibidi is used on wall designs, calabashes, metals (such as bronze), leaves, swords, and tattoos.[2][8] It is primarily used by theEkpe leopard secret society (also known as Ngbe or Egbo), which is found across Cross River among the Ekoi, Efik, Igbo people, and other nearby peoples.
Outside knowledge of nsibidi came in 1904 when T.D. Maxwell noticed the symbols.[4] Before the British colonisation of the area, nsibidi was divided into a sacred version and a public, more decorative version which could be used by women.[8] Aspects of colonisation such as Western education and Christian doctrine drastically reduced the number of nsibidi-literate people, leaving the secret society members as some of the last literate in the symbols.[9] Nsibidi was and is still a means of transmitting Ekpe symbolism. Nsibidi was transported toCuba and Haiti via the Atlantic slave trade, where it developed into the anaforuana and veve symbols.[10][11]


The origin of the word nsibidi is not known. One theory traces the word to the Ekoid languages, where it means "cruel letters", reflecting the harsh laws of the secret societies that hold nsibidi knowledge.[12][13] In Calabar, nsibidi is mostly associated with men's leopard societies such as Ekpe. The leopard societies were a legislative, judicial, and executive power before colonisation, especially among the Efik who exerted much influence over the Cross River.[5]


The origin of nsibidi is most commonly attributed to the Ejagham people of the northern Cross River region, mostly because colonial administrators found the largest and most diverse nsibidi among them. Nsibidi spread throughout the region over time and mixed with other cultures and art forms such as the Igbo uri or uli graphic design.[5] In 1909 J. K. Macgregor who collected nsibidi symbols claimed that nsibidi was traditionally said to have come from the Uguakima, Ebe or Uyanga tribes of the Igbo people, which legend says were taught the script by baboons,[3] although one writer believes Macgregor had been misled by his informants.[14]


Nsibidi has a wide vocabulary of signs usually imprinted on calabashes, brass ware, textiles, wood sculptures, masquerade costumes, buildings and on human skin. Nsibidi has been described as a "fluid system" of communication consisting of hundreds of abstract and pictographic signs. Nsibidi was described in the colonial era by P.A. Talbot as "a kind of primitive secret writing", Talbot explained that nsibidi was used for messages "cut or painted on split palm stems". J.K. Macgregor's view was that "The use of nsibidi is that of ordinary writing. I have in my possession a copy of the record of a court case from a town of Enion [Enyong] taken down in it, and every detail ... is most graphically described". Nsibidi crossed ethnic lines and was a uniting factor among ethnic groups in the Cross River region.[5]


Court Cases - "Ikpe"[edit]

Nsibidi was used in judgement cases known as 'Ikpe' in some Cross River communities. Macgregor was able to retrieve and translate an nsibidi record from Enyong of an ikpe judgement.
The record is of an Ikpe or judgement case. (a) The court was held under a tree as is the [15]
custom, (b) the parties in the case, (c) the chief who judged it, (d) his staff (these are enclosed in a circle), (e) is a man whispering into the ear of another just outside the circle of those concerned, (f) denotes all the members of the party who won the case. Two of them (g) are embracing, (h) is a man who holds a cloth between his finger and thumbs as a sign of contempt. He does not care for the words spoken. The lines round and twisting mean that the case was a difficult one which the people of the town could not judge for themselves. So they sent to the surrounding towns to call the wise men from them and the case was tried by them (j) and decided; (k) denotes that the case was one of adultery or No. 20.

Ukara Ekpe[edit]

Nsibidi is used to design the 'ukara ekpe' woven material which is usually dyed blue (but also green and red) and is covered in nsibidi symbols and motifs. Ukara ekpe cloths are woven in Abakaliki, and then they are designed by male nsibidi artists in the Igbo-speaking towns of AbiribaArochukwu and Ohafia to be worn by members of the Ekpe society. Symbols including lovers, metal rods, trees, feathers, hands in friendship war and work, masks, moons, and stars are dyed onto ukara cloths. The cloth is dyed by post-menopausal women in secret, and young males in public. Ukara was a symbol of wealth and power only handled by titled men and post-menopausal women.[16]
Ukara can be worn as a wrapper (a piece of clothing) on formal occasions, and larger version are hung in society meeting houses and on formal occasions. Ukara motifs are designed in white and are placed on grids set against an indigo background. Some of the designs include abstract symbols representing the Ekpe society such as repeating triangles representing the leopard's claws and therefore Ekpe's power. Ukara includes naturalistic designs representing objects such as gongs, feathers and manilla currency, a symbol of wealth. Powerful animals are included, specifically the leopard and crocodile.[5]

Examples of Nsibidi[edit]

Below are some examples of nsibidi recorded by J. K. Macgregor (1909)[15] and Elphinstone Dayrell (1910 and 1911)[1][17] for The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and Man. Both of them recorded symbols from a variety of locations around the Cross River, and especially the Ikom district in what is now Cross River State. Both of the writers used informants to retrieve nsibidi that were regarded as secret and visited several Cross River communities.


  1. cũng lập tức hoảng sợ phát hiện. Vật ở phía sau là một con Vọng Nguyệt nhỏ hơn nữa thân thể ở trong bùn đất, phần lộ ra dài ước chừng mười trượng!

    Con Vọng Nguyệt này bị Định thân thuật bao phủ, thế tấn công thoáng dừng một chút, cũng là cơ hội chạy trốn tốt nhất của Vương Lâm. Chỉ trong khoảnh khắc thân ảnh của Vương Lâm liền biến mất. Con Vọng Nguyệt kia sau khi khôi phục hành động bắn phá khắp nơi rồi thân mình lùi về trong bùn đất biến mất không thấy.dong tam
    game mu
    cho thuê phòng trọ
    cho thuê phòng trọ
    nhạc sàn cực mạnh
    1900 6516 tổng đài tư vấn luật miễn phí
    văn phòng luật
    số điện thoại tư vấn luật
    thành lập công ty

    Ở phía xa, Vương Lâm tốc độ cực nhanh xuyên qua trong bùn đất. Cảnh tượng vừa rồi khiến hắn càng thêm hiểu biết đối với nguy hiểm nơi đây.

    - Nơi này rốt cuộc có bao nhiêu con Vọng Nguyệt!
    Vương Lâm sắc mặt âm trầm.

    Khiến hắn cảm thấy đáng sợ chính là sự xuất hiện cực kỳ quỷ dị của con Vọng Nguyệt kia. Hắn căn bản không có phát hiện gì. Loại hiện tượng này đã rất lâu rồi hắn không gặp phải.

    - Con Vọng Nguyệt kia cũng nằm ở trạng thái thứ ba. Tham Lang chết tiệt. Hắn rốt cuộc đã làm gì khiến cho nơi đây lại biến hóa như thế này. Nếu chỉ cấy một ngọn sơn thạch lên trên xương của Vọng Nguyệt tuyệt đối sẽ không như vậy!

  2. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! Old World

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