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Ekpe Masquerade, The Ekpe Secret Society & Nsibidi

One of the highlights of my trips to Calabar was getting to see the Ekpe masquerade. When we stumbled on the Ekpe masquerade, I honestly could not believe my luck. Just on a random Thursday in Calabar, the masquerade was out. The tour guide didn’t want to stop but I had to explain to him again that these are the things I came to Calabar to see. So we came out of the car and he explained why the masquerade was out.




He said, a member of the Ekpe secret society had died and so his son was being initiated to take his father’s place. I found that so interesting because I had read about the Ekpe Secret Society but I did not know a son would take his father’s place. I thought it was an initiation based on merit.


In case you’ve never heard of it, the Ekpe secret society is a ruling council in Efik culture like a council of chiefs. In the olden days, the society aided the Obong of Calabar to rule Efik society. However with modernization and adaption of European government styles, the society’s influence has reduced.



The Ekpe masquerade is a big symbol of Efik culture. While in Calabar, I saw dolls and drawings of the masquerade almost every where I went. One of the roles of the Ekpe masquerade is to police the community and important events like the proceedings that happened while I was there.


The next day I asked my second tour guide to explain a bit more about the role of the masquerade in Efik culture.


Nsibidi is one of the oldest forms of writing in Africa. It was created by the Ekoi people who lived in parts of today’s Cross River state. Their descendants still live there today but they divided into different groups and the most common among them is the Ejagham people. Over the years, the use of Nsibidi spread to neighboring ethnic groups and is now used by the Efik, Ibibio and Igbo. Members of the Ekpe Secret Society wear a wrapper called Ukara. Ukara is decorated with several Nsibidi symbols.





We also later visited the Obong’s palace but we couldn’t go in so I just took a picture. The Obong of Calabar is the paramount ruler of the Efik people. The title is still very much respected today and one of the most popular rulers in Nigeria.



What do you think about our traditional style of government?


Image source: https://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/news/2015/03/ukara-ritual-cloth-ekpe-secret-society

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a writer and illustrator from Lagos, Nigeria.

 

In 2015, I started a company called IheartLagos with the aim of showcasing Lagos culture in a unique and fun way.

 

That journey took me down an exciting path, discovering and learning so much about Nigeria.

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