In Nigeria, we are so conversant with the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa culture, that we often forget the hundreds of other minority ethnic groups that make up this great country. one of such cultures is the Ibibio tribe. The Ibibio people are located in the southeastern part of Nigeria and are regarded as the most ancient of all the ethnic groups in that region. They are related to the Anaang, Efik and Igbo people. The Annang, Efik, Ekid, Oron, and Ibeano share personal names, culture and traditions with the Ibibio, they also speak closely related varieties of Ibibio-Efik.
Here are a few interesting facts about the Ibibio Culture
All Ibibios speak and understand the same language ‘Ibibio’. The difference in the dialect among the various Ibibio groups can be largely attributed to the long period of territorial isolation between groups. It’s a Congo-Benue language that is spoken in the states of Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers by about 1.5 million people who are also closely related to the Efik. The truth is that many consider them as one. Although the major dialects of Ibibio language include; the Uruan (currently referred to as Efik) the Annang, Oron, the Ibeno and Eket dialects.
The Ibibios are mainly farmers, fishermen, and traders. The farmers work on the uplands while the river-side Ibibio traditionally work as fishermen at fishing ports commonly known as INE. Trading is done by middlemen who act as brokers between the producers and consumers.
The society is made up of villages each belonging to a bigger unit known as CLAN. The clan is named after the founders of the first villages and they are all equal in status. Each village is made up of families consisting of father, mother, children, and grandparents. They are polygamous by norm, but presently due to excessive mortality rate and the decline in economic conditions, the families are becoming smaller.
Some time ago, giving out a young girl in marriage before the age of 14 was common. The bride price is paid to the would-be bride’s kin with the father keeping the lion share. The marriage payment traditionally had to be completed before the marriage could be consummated. Ndidiong Ufok is when the girl’s house is known by the potential groom after the girl accepts his proposal, while Ndidiong Udok is coming to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. In the process of asking for her hand in marriage, they are also given a list of items needed for the marriage rites after which the proper traditional wedding is performed.
The fattening room
This is an ancient practice of the Ibibio people: A prospective bride would be confined to a room popularly known as the fattening room, for about a month or more where she will be prepared for womanhood. She is required to do no physical work but to be fed and taken care of so she could gain some weight. The weight gain was regarded as a sign of prosperity, fertility, and beauty. The ability for the lady to gain weight in the fattening room proves she possesses the qualities of sexual purity, proved virginity plus she has good values in general.
The Ibibio are famous for their skill in wood carving and are considered masters of an adroit professional technique. Weaving is generally done by youths of both sexes, whereas women are responsible for mat-making.
It is believed that Ibibio ladies and women have high sex drive and are physically attractive. These like so many other stereotypes there are contestation to this claim, but many will tell you that these stereotypes exist because some of those habits are pronounced in them. They are also known to be good cooks and also great with domestic works, which gives rise to their popularity as house boys and girls. They share this in common with their neighbors; the Efik.
Ibibios believe that there is a Supreme being called Abasi who created all things including the gods (ndem), to who he gives charge of the different aspect of human affairs. Thus there is ndem isiong (fertility goddess) to look after lands fertility, ndem ndua (market god) to protect the interest of those who buy and sell, eka abasi the spirit mother that looks after children and the many spirits of the ancestors whom they worship too.
The art of using proverbs in speech as a form of expression is synonymous with every culture Ibibio inclusive. Proverbs are usually communicated in colorful and vivid language to show the values the people wish to highlight. For instance; Ubok mʌm, ubok mʌm etuud ukpa, which means “together any obstacle can be removed”. “Ukpa” Iroko is a mighty tree. In spite of its weight as it is in reality, the Ibibio believe that when people love and appreciate each other, together they can move the trunk of the Ukpa (Iroko) tree.