HOME
The Info List - Nsibidi


--- Advertisement ---



Nsibidi
Nsibidi
(also known as nsibiri,[2] nchibiddi or nchibiddy[3]) is a system of symbols indigenous to what is now southeastern Nigeria
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
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
Nsibidi
is used on wall designs, calabashes, metals (such as bronze), leaves, swords, and tattoos.[2][8] It is primarily used by the Ekpe
Ekpe
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
Nsibidi
was and is still a means of transmitting Ekpe
Ekpe
symbolism. Nsibidi
Nsibidi
was transported to Cuba
Cuba
and Haiti
Haiti
via the Atlantic slave trade, where it developed into the anaforuana and veve symbols.[10][11]

Contents

1 History

1.1 Origin 1.2 Status 1.3 Uses

1.3.1 Court Cases - "Ikpe" 1.3.2 Ukara Ekpe 1.3.3 In popular culture

2 Examples of Nsibidi 3 Gallery 4 References 5 External links

History[edit]

The name of a boy called 'Onuaha' as recorded by J. K. Macgregor in 1909. Macgregor interpreted the first two symbols as corruptions of the Latin letters 'N' and 'A' and the last symbol a generic nsibidi. Macgregor noted the growing European influence on nsibidi.

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] Origin[edit] Nsibidi
Nsibidi
is known to be at least several centuries old, dating back at the very least to the 16th century CE, and possibly as far back as the 5th century CE. The writing on the Ikom monoliths is sometimes taken to be nsibidi,[14] which would push the date back to 2000 BCE. Some believe it dates back as far as 5000 BCE.[14] 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
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.[15] Status[edit] Nsibidi
Nsibidi
has a wide vocabulary of signs usually imprinted on calabashes, brass ware, textiles, wood sculptures, masquerade costumes, buildings and on human skin. Nsibidi
Nsibidi
has been described as a "fluid system" of communication consisting of hundreds of abstract and pictographic signs. Nsibidi
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
Nsibidi
crossed ethnic lines and was a uniting factor among ethnic groups in the Cross River region.[5] Uses[edit]

Contemporary Igbo art: carved mahogany doors covered in nsibidi symbolism and Christian iconography
Christian iconography
in Aba, Nigeria

Court Cases - "Ikpe"[edit]

The Ikpe from Enyong written in nsibidi as recorded by J. K. Macgregor

Nsibidi
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 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.[16]

Ukara Ekpe[edit]

The Igbo 'Ukara' cloth of the Ekpe
Ekpe
society, covered in nsibidi

Nsibidi
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 Abiriba, Arochukwu
Arochukwu
and Ohafia
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.[17] 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
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] In popular culture[edit] Nsibidi
Nsibidi
was the inspiration for the Wakandan writing system shown in the 2018 Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Cinematic Universe
film Black Panther.[18] Examples of Nsibidi[edit] Below are some examples of nsibidi recorded by J. K. Macgregor (1909)[16] and Elphinstone Dayrell (1910 and 1911)[1][19] 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.

  "Nsibidi"   "Welcome"   "Two men talking"   "Door"   "Gun"   "Crossbow"

  "Calabash"   "Big drum"   "Etak Ntaña Nsibidi
Nsibidi
— Nsibidi's bunch of plantains. When the head of the house wants plantains he sends this sign to the head boy on the farm."[19]   "Umbrella"   "Toilet soap"

  "Matchet"   "Woman"   "Man"   "Moon"   "Tortoise"[1][16][19]

Gallery[edit]

More Nsibidi
Nsibidi
symbols

Nsibidi
Nsibidi
symbols 

Recent nsibidi symbols with descriptions for each 

References[edit]

^ a b c Dayrell, Elphinstone (July–December 1911). "Further Notes on ' Nsibidi
Nsibidi
Signs with Their Meanings from the Ikom District, Southern Nigeria". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 41: 521–540. doi:10.2307/2843186.  ^ a b Elechi, O. Oko (2006). Doing Justice without the State: The Afikpo (Ehugbo) Nigeria
Nigeria
Model. CRC Press. p. 98. ISBN 0-415-97729-0.  ^ a b Diringer, David (1953). The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind. Philosophical Library. pp. 148–149.  ^ a b Gregersen, Edgar A. (1977). Language in Africa: An Introductory Survey. CRC Press. p. 176. ISBN 0-677-04380-5.  ^ a b c d e Slogar, Christopher (Spring 2007). "Early Ceramics from Calabar, Nigeria: Towards a History of Nsibidi". African Arts. University of California. 40 (1): 18–29. doi:10.1162/afar.2007.40.1.18.  ^ Slogar, Christopher (2005). Eyo, Ekpo, ed. Iconography and Continuity in West Africa: Calabar
Calabar
Terracottas and the Arts of the Cross River Region of Nigeria/Cameroon (PDF). University of Maryland. pp. 58–62.  ^ a b Isichei, Elizabeth Allo (1997). A History of African Societies to 1870. Nsibidi: Cambridge University Press. p. 357. ISBN 0-521-45599-5.  ^ a b Rothenberg, Jerome; Rothenberg, Diane (1983). Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics. University of California Press. pp. 285–286. ISBN 0-520-04531-9.  ^ Slogar, Christopher (2005). Eyo, Ekpo, ed. Iconography and Continuity in West Africa: Calabar
Calabar
Terracottas and the Arts of the Cross River Region of Nigeria/Cameroon (PDF). University of Maryland. p. 155.  ^ University of Southwestern Louisiana (1987). Baking in the Sun: Visionary Images from the South. University of Southwestern Louisiana. p. 30.  ^ Asante, Molefi K. (2007). The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony. Routledge. p. 252. ISBN 0-415-77139-0.  ^ Sublette, Ned (2007). Cuba
Cuba
and its music: from the first drums to the mambo, Volume 1. Chicago Review Press. p. 196. ISBN 1-55652-632-6.  ^ Marshall, Richard (1992). Jean-Michel Basquiat. Whitney Museum of American Art. p. 68. ISBN 0-87427-081-2.  ^ a b http://www.taneter.org/writing.html ^ "West African journal of archaeology". West African Archaeological Association. WAJA by Oxford University Press. 21: 105. 1991.  ^ a b c J. K., Macgregor (January–June 1909). "Some Notes on Nsibidi". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 39: 209–219. doi:10.2307/2843292.  ^ Chuku, Gloria (2005). Igbo women and economic transformation in southeastern Nigeria, 1900-1960. Paragraph 3: Routledge. p. 73. ISBN 0-415-97210-8.  ^ Bill Desowitz (22 Feb 2018). "'Black Panther': How Wakanda Got a Written Language IndieWire".  ^ a b c Dayrell, Elphinstone (1910). "Some "Nsibidi" Signs". Man. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 10: 113–114. doi:10.2307/2787339. 

External links[edit]

Nsibidi
Nsibidi
Script — Cornell University Library

v t e

Igbo language

Literature

List of writers

Writing system

Ideograms

Nsibidi

Scripts

Nwagu Aneke script Igbo Braille

v t e

Types of writing systems

Overview

History of writing Grapheme

Lists

Writing systems

undeciphered inventors constructed

Languages by writing system / by first written accounts

Types

Abjads

Numerals

Aramaic

Hatran

Arabic Pitman shorthand Hebrew

Ashuri Cursive Rashi Solitreo

Tifinagh Manichaean Nabataean Old North Arabian Pahlavi Pegon Phoenician

Paleo-Hebrew

Proto-Sinaitic Psalter Punic Samaritan South Arabian

Zabur Musnad

Sogdian Syriac

ʾEsṭrangēlā Serṭā Maḏnḥāyā

Teeline Shorthand Ugaritic

Abugidas

Brahmic

Northern

Asamiya (Ôxômiya) Bānglā Bhaikshuki Bhujinmol Brāhmī Devanāgarī Dogri Gujarati Gupta Gurmukhī Kaithi Kalinga Khojki Khotanese Khudawadi Laṇḍā Lepcha Limbu Mahajani Meitei Mayek Modi Multani Nāgarī Nandinagari Odia 'Phags-pa Newar Ranjana Sharada Saurashtra Siddhaṃ Soyombo Sylheti Nagari Takri Tibetan

Uchen Umê

Tirhuta Tocharian Zanabazar Square Zhang-Zhung

Drusha Marchen Marchung Pungs-chen Pungs-chung

Southern

Ahom Balinese Batak Baybayin Bhattiprolu Buhid Burmese Chakma Cham Grantha Goykanadi Hanunó'o Javanese Kadamba Kannada Karen Kawi Khmer Kulitan Lanna Lao Leke Lontara Malayalam Maldivian

Dhives Akuru Eveyla Akuru Thaana

Mon Old Makassarese Old Sundanese Pallava Pyu Rejang Rencong Sinhala Sundanese Tagbanwa Tai Le Tai Tham Tai Viet Tamil Telugu Thai Tigalari Vatteluttu

Kolezhuthu Malayanma

Visayan

Others

Boyd's syllabic shorthand Canadian syllabics

Blackfoot Déné syllabics

Fox I Ge'ez Gunjala Gondi Japanese Braille Jenticha Kayah Li Kharosthi Mandombe Masaram Gondi Meroitic Miao Mwangwego Sorang Sompeng Pahawh Hmong Thomas Natural Shorthand

Alphabets

Linear

Abkhaz Adlam Armenian Avestan Avoiuli Bassa Vah Borama Carian Caucasian Albanian Coorgi–Cox alphabet Coptic Cyrillic Deseret Duployan shorthand

Chinook writing

Early Cyrillic Eclectic shorthand Elbasan Etruscan Evenki Fox II Fraser Gabelsberger shorthand Garay Georgian

Asomtavruli Nuskhuri Mkhedruli

Glagolitic Gothic Gregg shorthand Greek Greco-Iberian alphabet Hangul Hanifi IPA Kaddare Latin

Beneventan Blackletter Carolingian minuscule Fraktur Gaelic Insular Kurrent Merovingian Sigla Sütterlin Tironian notes Visigothic

Luo Lycian Lydian Manchu Mandaic Medefaidrin Molodtsov Mongolian Mru Neo-Tifinagh New Tai Lue N'Ko Ogham Oirat Ol Chiki Old Hungarian Old Italic Old Permic Orkhon Old Uyghur Osage Osmanya Pau Cin Hau Runic

Anglo-Saxon Cipher Dalecarlian Elder Futhark Younger Futhark Gothic Marcomannic Medieval Staveless

Sidetic Shavian Somali Tifinagh Vagindra Visible Speech Vithkuqi Wancho Zaghawa

Non-linear

Braille Maritime flags Morse code New York Point Semaphore line Flag semaphore Moon type

Ideograms/Pictograms

Adinkra Aztec Blissymbol Dongba Ersu Shaba Emoji IConji Isotype Kaidā Míkmaq Mixtec New Epoch Notation Painting Nsibidi Ojibwe Hieroglyphs Siglas poveiras Testerian Yerkish Zapotec

Logograms

Chinese family of scripts

Chinese Characters

Simplified Traditional Oracle bone script Bronze Script Seal Script

large small bird-worm

Hanja Idu Kanji Chữ nôm Zhuang

Chinese-influenced

Jurchen Khitan large script Sui Tangut

Cuneiform

Akkadian Assyrian Elamite Hittite Luwian Sumerian

Other logo-syllabic

Anatolian Bagam Cretan Isthmian Maya Proto-Elamite Yi (Classical)

Logo-consonantal

Demotic Hieratic Hieroglyphs

Numerals

Hindu-Arabic Abjad Attic (Greek) Muisca Roman

Semi-syllabaries

Full

Celtiberian Northeastern Iberian Southeastern Iberian Khom

Redundant

Espanca Pahawh Hmong Khitan small script Southwest Paleohispanic Zhuyin fuhao

Somacheirograms

ASLwrite SignWriting si5s Stokoe Notation

Syllabaries

Afaka Bamum Bété Byblos Cherokee Cypriot Cypro-Minoan Ditema tsa Dinoko Eskayan Geba Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics Iban Japanese

Hiragana Katakana Man'yōgana Hentaigana Sogana Jindai moji

Kikakui Kpelle Linear B Linear Elamite Lisu Loma Nüshu Nwagu Aneke script Old Persian Cuneiform Vai Woleai Yi (Modern) Yugtun

v t e

Braille
Braille
 ⠃⠗⠁⠊⠇⠇⠑

Braille
Braille
cell

1829 braille International uniformity ASCII braille Unicode
Unicode
braille patterns

Braille
Braille
scripts

French-ordered scripts (see for more)

Albanian Amharic Arabic Armenian Azerbaijani Belarusian Bharati

Devanagari
Devanagari
(Hindi  / Marathi  / Nepali) Bengali Punjabi Sinhalese Tamil Urdu etc.

Bulgarian Burmese Cambodian Cantonese Catalan Chinese (Mandarin, mainland) Czech Dutch Dzongkha (Bhutanese) English (Unified English) Esperanto Estonian Faroese French Georgian German Ghanaian Greek Guarani Hawaiian Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Inuktitut (reassigned vowels) Iñupiaq IPA Irish Italian Kazakh Kyrgyz Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Mongolian Māori Navajo Nigerian Northern Sami Persian Philippine Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Samoan Scandinavian Slovak South African Spanish Tatar Taiwanese Mandarin (largely reassigned) Thai & Lao (Japanese vowels) Tibetan Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese Welsh Yugoslav

Reordered scripts

Algerian Braille
Braille
(obsolete)

Frequency-based scripts

American Braille
Braille
(obsolete)

Independent scripts

Japanese Korean Two-Cell Chinese

Eight-dot scripts

Luxembourgish Kanji Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8)

Symbols in braille

Braille
Braille
music Canadian currency marks Computer Braille
Braille
Code Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8/GS6) International Phonetic Alphabet
Alphabet
(IPA) Nemeth braille code

Braille
Braille
technology

Braille
Braille
e-book Braille
Braille
embosser Braille
Braille
translator Braille
Braille
watch Mountbatten Brailler Optical braille recognition Perforation Perkins Brailler Refreshable braille display Slate and stylus Braigo

Persons

Louis Braille Charles Barbier Valentin Haüy Thakur Vishva Narain Singh Sabriye Tenberken William Bell Wait

Organisations

Braille
Braille
Institute of America Braille
Braille
Without Borders Japan Braille
Braille
Library National Braille
Braille
Association Blindness organizations Schools for the blind American Printing House for the Blind

Other tactile alphabets

Decapoint Moon type New York Point Night writing Vibratese

Related topics

Accessible publishing Braille
Braille
literacy RoboBraille

v t e

Electronic writing systems

Emoticons Emoji iConji Leet Unicode

v t e

Internet slang
Internet slang
dialects

3arabizi Alay (Indonesia) Denglisch Doge Fingilish (Persian) Greeklish Gyaru-moji (Japan) Jejemon (Philippines) Leet
Leet
("1337") Lolspeak / LOLspeak / Kitteh Martian language (Chinese) Miguxês (Portuguese) Padonkaffsky jargon
Padonkaffsky jargon
(Russian) Translit Volapuk

See also English internet slang (at Wiktio

.