Nsibidi: The oldest Nigerian system of Writing

Nsibidi is the oldest form of Writing in Africa with the exception of the Arabic Hieroglyphics. And like hieroglyphics it is taught to a selected secret group.

Nsibidi is estimated to have been around Fromm 400-1,400 CE. It has been the earliest form of writing before European westernisation.

An author, P. A. Fallout who lived during the colonial ear described nsibidi as “a kind of secret Writing” which was communicated or “cut or painted on split palm stems.”

It is exclusively used by the Ekoe secret society among the Ekoi, Efik and Igbo people, though the largest collection is found among the Ejagham people of northern Cross River.

The symbols of nsibidi has to do with symbols of warfare, love and other things.

Nsibidi is used to decorate walls, metals, sculpture, calabash, clothing items, skin tattoo etc.

In present day Abia state, the Ekpe society still wear the ” Ukara Ekpe” a particular clothing with nsibidi logographic inscribed on it.

In making on the Ukara Ekpe, an Ezillo Igbo in Ebonyi state man draws a gride for nsibidi designs, dyed with indigo, it is mostly woven in Abakiliki, Ebonyi state. Ukara Ekpe is also inscribed in Arochukwu and Ohafia in Abia state.

However, with the advent of western education reduced the degree of nsibidi use while some people attribute it to witchcraft.

Nsibidi is lost long in most societies in Igbo land, and can be found in not large quantities in Arochukwu and Ohafia area.

Some argument have been raised that rather than neglect nsibidi totally. Nsibidi should be to Africa what Renaissance art is to Christians.




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