The Ibibio Tribe Of Nigeria: Culture, Economy and Rites


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The Ibibio people are in south Eastern Nigeria. They are prominently seen in Abia, Akwa Ibom and Cross River. During the colonial times in Nigeria, the minority group, Ibibio, requested to be made a sovereign nation of its own. The Ibibio people are closely related and speak similar dialects of the Ibibio language with the Efik, Annag, and Oron tribes.

History Of The Ibibio People
The people of Ibibio are known to be fathers of south eastern Nigeria, being the first set of inhabitants of the region. Even though the history of Ibibio might be a little unclear, some say the Cameroonian offer a comprehensive migration story of Ibibio people into south southern Nigerian.

The Cameroonian story described the present day Ibibio as a lineage of Afaha, another tribe in Africa, which has its origins from Cameroon. There are a lot of evidence to back up the claims of Ibibio people’s link with the Cameroonian tribe.

According to Ford and Jones, the original home of the Ibibio people is within the Cameroonian territory. They left the region around 8000 BC and settled at Akwa Ibom, where they made an ancient sculpture of a shrine called ‘Long juju of Arochukwu’.

Villages And Towns In Ibibio

Occupation/economy Of The Ibibio People
The Ibibio people were predominantly farmers, fishermen and traders. Even though farming is Ibibio’s primary trade, areas close to the rivers engage in fishing also. The traders often engage in the activity of selling crops or fishes to consumers, within and outside the tribe.

The Ibibio people boast of an high ranking officer in the Ekpo society, Anama, who is responsible for controlling most of the wealth in the Ibibio economy. With a lot of power cmes a lot of responsibility, the Anama are always seen as usually limiting the flow of wealth with their immediate family.

Apart from a very fruitful economy, the Ibibio people are often involved in a lot of recreational activities like swimming, arrow shooting, or even wrestling. With the need to pass African stories to the next generation, they also organize moonlight plays and storytelling to entertain the people. Some of the Ibibio cultural plays are: Ukwa, Ebre, Ekong, amongst others. The people of Ibibio plant yams, palm kernel to make palm oil, raffia palm to make mats, wine, bags, and cassava.

Rich Culture Of The Ibibio People
The Ibibio people are known for their artistic masks. The artists carve different faces as masks to signify different evil spirits. The masks are known artistic pieces even till today. The native believe in paying homage to their ancestors. This is a way they designed to appease the ancestors.

When the ancestors are not appreciated, it is believed a person will be sanctioned by the Ekpo society.
The Ibibio tribe predominately speak ‘kwa’. The language has over five million native speakers all over Nigeria. It is said that the language has numerous variants with little differences.

The people of Ibibio are patrilineal, but recently, modern couples have adopted a new style called neolocal(a living situation where married couples don’t live with other relatives).

Age groups are also an important part of Ibibio culture. Men and women have different age groups (peers within their age bracket). The age groups are created when children are 10, and formally recognized when members reach 12. The age groups help them become responsible and self-disciplined members of the society.

The native also acknowledge the existence of a supreme being known as Abasi. Abasi created all things. He created smaller divinities who he has equipped with the duty of handling certain aspects of human life. The gods are ‘ndem’ and a popular God called ‘ndem isong’ that helps the land grow fruitfully. Other gods include the market God who streamline commercial activities in the society.

In every Ibibio, early marriages were prevalent. Children were betrothed before they clock fourteen. Due to education and exposure, early marriages were discouraged by popular opinion.

Some Common Beliefs Of The Ibibio People

The Ibibio natives believe in Abasi- the creator. He created man, but did not let him live on earth. After, the wife of man begged Abassi to allow humans live on earth. Agassi provided for all their needs, thereby preventing them from hunting for food.

Man and his wife were forbidden from having children. Atai disobeyed Abassi and went to earth to grow food. Man eventually joined his wife and left Abassi. After a while, they bore children. Man blame his wife for the occurrence of events. She vowed to send discord and death to control the earth’s population.

In the earlier years in Ibibio, the belief system was split into two important dimension. The first dimension’s concentration is on worship, consultation, communication of Abassi Enyong (the God of heavens) and Abassi Isong (God of the earth)

These cultural rites are carried by a head (spiritual) appointed by an authority. The second dimension is on invocation and appeasement of God for certain things. The nature acknowledge three known divinity, the grandchild (ayeyin) in-law (Ukod) and the blood brother (Imaan). The trinity forms a basis of Ibibio kinship and intergroup relation.

Taboos/Abominations In Ibibio Culture
The people of Ibibio find using the left-hand disrespectful, especially when dealing with elders. The natives believe the left-hand has negativity and should not be used to give objects to an elderly person. With a similar taboo are the Yorubas. The Yorubas find the left-hand demeaning and belittling, a yoruba child must not give an elder an item with it.

Another taboo in Ibibio land is abominable deaths. These are deaths that occur in strange and unusual ways. The Ibibio natives even have steps and processes to bury individual who die of these shameful deaths. Some of the deaths is suicide.

Ceremonies/Festivals In Ibibio Land
The Ibibio festivals can be split into two significant parts. The first part is Agrarian, which are festivals that have to do with farming and harvesting. The ancestry festivals, which is the second festival, and it has to deal with the celebration of festivals with an appreciation given to the ancestors.

Usoro usuuk udia
This is an agrarian festival, also called the new fam festival. The festival is celebrated within the month of June and September. There is also a fishing festival celebrated around this time ‘Usoro Iyak’. Th festival is celebrated by riverine areas of Ibibio.

Usoro Idio
This is an agrarian festival to begin the clearing and burning of farmlands. It is done with the months of January, February and March.

Ekoon Ndara Akpakpa
This festival is celebrated in the months of December, to celebrate the corn. It is a special festival for the corn because the corn is loved by the people.

Usoro Ekong
A festival prevalent in Ibibio; it is used to appreciate early Ibibio heroes who helped the community in political, religious and social growth.

Usoro Eduwad
This is another ancestral festival. It is called the festival of spearing. This involves beating of drums on trees. It is linked to celebration of honourary titles and chieftancy.

Marriage Rites In Ibibio
Marriage is paramount in most African society due to the people’s attachment to family and childbearing. The Ibibio people have three popular types of marriages. A person can choose to do all three if he has the financial capacity.

Ibibio Traditional Marriage Rites
The people of Ibibio believe everyone just get married. The first stage in Ibibio traditional marriage is ‘Udiongo Ufok’ which translates into knowing the ‘background’. Some members of the groom’s family are appointed to know the bride’s family. The bride is family must welcome and entertain the man’s family when they arrive. The groom’s family must also bring gifts for the bride’s family.

The second stage is ‘Nkong udok’- knocking on the door. The groom’s family officially come to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. A lot of people participate in this stage. Families cook and bring music, dancing and celebration is the order of the stage. When the lady gives her acceptance of the groom’s proposal, the family then negotiate bride price. This stage is exciting and joyous.

The Ibibio believe in happy marriages, and they do their best to ensure compatibility before the official marriage, hence the background check. They believe that if a bride’s family background is bad, it will affect her duties as a wife and mother. Marriage is an essential part of the Ibibio culture that they cannot do without. They are a welcoming and loving people with a very rich history.

The last stage is ‘usoro ndo mem edino nkpo nd’n ufok’ which is the official ceremony. The items for the dowry are brought and the celebration of the marriage start. The Ibibio marriage is usually modest, without an extravagant and marriage list.

Bride Price And Marriage Requirements Of Ibibio Land
Traditional Ibibio Marriage Requirements
Traditional Food In Ibibio

The Ibibio people wee lovers of Afang, a soup common in Akwa Ibom, cocoyam, Edikang nkong- another soup popular amongst the Calabar, afere atama, pounded yam, and others.


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