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Traditional Efik Attire: Usobo, Onyonyo & Etenge

When I got to Calabar and met my tour guide, I explained that I wanted to see the culture of the Efik people. At first, he tried to show me foreign historical things in Calabar like the first hospital and Mary Slessor’s final resting place. I had to insist that I came to Calabar to see things like Efik food, clothing and dance. The default for us as Nigerians especially in tourism is to talk about the colonial era and the impact of the Europeans who came here. However, I wonder why we aren’t anxious to tell more of our traditional stories. Because the truth is the impact and stories of the Europeans were an interruption to our culture, whether positive or negative.

I got sidetracked a bit but I just had to see that lol, let’s go into Efik attire.

Driving through Old Calabar, we were passing through the main market when I saw a store selling colorful Efik traditional clothing. I almost screamed for the driver to stop.

When we got into the store, I immediately thought these clothes are so beautiful. I think the Efik attire is one of my favorites in Nigeria. I love how it comes in so many vibrant colors and the bead work on the hats, bags and shoes is so intricate. Thinking about the work that went into the production, I started thinking about how many talented underutilized people and products we have in Nigeria.

Anyway, I decided I definitely wanted to buy some of the male shoes for myself. The seller said one was 4k. I always know I can price things cheaper in the market but I think if you can pay for something you should because if you think about it, it still undervalued at the price the seller is giving you. So, I bought two at that price and started asking a bunch of questions about the traditional attire.

The seller told me the scarf tie is called Okpompom and the fabric used for both the scarf tie and the wrapper is damask. With a little Instagram search, I found out the wrapper is called Usobo in Efik. However, I didn’t get the name for the hat and shoes.

The Efik female attire is also one of the most extravagant in Nigeria. Efik clothing in generally was highly influenced by the Europeans they came in contact with in the early days. You can see the similarities between European dressing of that time in the cane Efik men hold, the hat and the shoes. For the women, the Onyonyo is a regal ball like gown. However for their hair, they make it a bit more African. The Etenge is a braided wig adorned with brass combs. I wish I had thought of trying this hairstyle in Calabar. It would be so nice and made for great content! lol!

What are some of your favorite Nigerian traditional clothing and hairstyles?

Image Source: Bella Naija Weddings

1 commentaire

21 août 2021

Efik traditional attire is so beautiful and rich. Thinking about it, those shoes would actually be really nice to wear around.


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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