Cultural and Literary Evidence for an Early African (early Igbo Nsibidi and Berber Tifinaghi) impact on Southern Europe: The African Roots of European Literacy

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Tifinagh is the writing system developed and used indigenously in North West Africa. It is used to write Berber languages such as Tamazight, Tamajaq, Tamasheq, Amazigh, and some Hausa dialects which are spoken by about a million or so people in Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya.

Berber/Tuareg/Hausa Script

Compare with:

North East Iberian Script

Compare and contrast with the Nsibidi script of the Nigerian Igbos.

Igbo Script Nsibidi

Nsibidi or Nsibiri is an ancient writing script used by the Igbos of Nigeria, and their neighbours the Ibibios and the Akangs. Remnants of the written scripts survive today. It’s use is mostly found among the secret cultic schools which still survive in Eastern Nigeria. It is also used in the Caribbeans where it was taken by the Africans who were enslaved and used by western imperialism to build the Americas. It can be found still in Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, Venezuela and as far as Brazil.

The results of a comparative between Iberian and Nsibiri is singularly striking. It raises an irresistible inference of solid and sustain contacts between the two culture.

Nsibidi Script

Compare and contrast.

South Iberian Script

Iberian scripts have been found on the Iberian peninsula, in southern France and on the Balearic Islands. The oldest known inscriptions date from the 4th century BC. The scripts are thought to have been derived from the Punic alphabet.

The Iberian type of script has been found in the Iberian peninsula, in southern France and in the Balearic Islands. The oldest date of ancient Iberian writing has been dated to the 4th century BC. Due the Roman invasions in the 3rd century BC, the script and the language from which it was written in were replaced with Latin writing and speech

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17 thoughts on “Cultural and Literary Evidence for an Early African (early Igbo Nsibidi and Berber Tifinaghi) impact on Southern Europe: The African Roots of European Literacy”


    Nsibidi is not of Igbo origins. The Igbo borrowed it from the Ibibio, Efik, and Ekoi who are related ethnic minorities of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The Ibibio word “Nyibi” which means turn in English, is the root of Nyibidi. Nyibidi means turning. The play was usually accompanied with drummings. The drum is called Ibit. The drum for the ruling Crown is called Ibit Itam. Itam means crown, hat, or headgear. Ekpe was indeed the governing deity and Ibit Itam was one of their major plays. Ukara means governance or government in Ibibio. Ukara cloth is worn by those in the government of Ekpe. The Ekpe and even Ekpo masquerade of old used to dance in a circular motion in order to induce a trance-like effect or feeling. Hence Nyibidi. Ibibio is the largest language of the Cross River and Akwa Ibom territories. Efik, Ekoi, Annang, Oron, Eket, Qua, Ibeno, Okobo,etc. are all variations of Ibibio. The Ibibio owned and controlled Arochukwu until they lost it in 1634 to the allied forces of the migrating Igbo and the Akpa. The Igbo slaves of the Ibibio rebelled and joined forces with the Akpa who were themselves of Ibibio origin. The Ibibios left both Arochukwu and their ancient Long Juju, but those who remained continued to run the oracles and influence the Igbo converts/practitioners of Ekpe. The Ibibios and Efiks taught Nsibidi to the Igbos through the Ekpe society. The chief language used in Ekpe is Ibibio. The Ibibios and Efiks knew Arochukwu as Ibom and Mbot Abasi. Mbot means creation. Abasi means God. Therefore, Mbot Abasi means the creation of God or, simply, the people of God. While in Arochukwu, the Ibibio leaders had a secret society called Ekpe. Ekpe means leopard or lion. The leadership operated (and still does)in an esoteric manner. Only members are privy to the innerworkings of the group. They developed an elaborate system of logograms through which their ideas, knowledge, and activities were recorded. Nyibidi which means turning (going in circles), evolved into Nsibidi. Nsibidi is Ibibio for what is at play or, what’s playing? Nso = what. I(as in letter “e” = is. Bidi = play or playing. NSO-I-BIDI (NSIBIDI) or NSO-I-BIRI(NSIBIRI) means what’s playing? What’s at play? Therefore, Nsibidi means what is playing or, what’s at play? Nsibidi was later adopted as the name for the writings associated with Ekpe society. It is true that the Europeans found most of the Nsibidi script among the Ekoi, but it is really of Ibibio origin. When Aro and their allies conquered the Ibibio in 1634, they took over the oracle but retained its priests, with Loesin as the chief priest. It was he who later initiated Aro indigenes into the cult as priests. IBINI UKPABI is the IGBO corruption of IBIT UKPABI. Some say the Igbos used the word IBINI as homage to the slave-raiding Oba of Benin who caused their migration to Arochukwu. After the IBIBIO lost AROCHUKWU, the Igbos renamed the Ibibio deity IBI ITAM (Drum of the Crown). They called it IBIT UKPABI. IBIT is IBIBIO for DRUM. UKPABI is an IGBO name. The corrupted version, IBINI UKPABI, is what they use these days. Since Arochukwu(Mbot Abasi in Ibibio or God’s creation/people in English) is the spititual center of the Igbo race, you can say that their ‘holyland’ is actually of Ibibio origin. I’ll call it the IBIBIO CIVILIZATION OF AROCHUKWU. The Ibibio created it and that explains why the Aro deities have mostly Ibibio names.

    The Igbos could not fully adapt Nsibidi because translation from Ibibio into Igbo had too many constraints. Original meanings of Ekpe society’s Nsibidi often got lost in translation.

    “There was no war between Aros and Ibibio -what happened was what one would accurately describe as a coup. The Aros who were assistants (slave by Europeans) at the Ibritam Shrine organized a coup with the help of Ekoi, Akunakuna, and Igbos and seized the shrine from their Ibibio masters. Talbot** put the date at 1300 -1400 based on the geneaology and calculation of the ages of relatives of informant who claims their forebears were in charge of this shrine -we dispute this because the informant forebears couldn’t have been incharge since religious affairs in Ibibio land was entrusted to the group known as Annang today ,and this informant came from a different group. However, Talbot also based his date from Aro informant. We still think that the date was much earlier. However the consensus is that the Aros were in possession of the shrine before trade with the Portuguese and later Slave trade with Efik and later the Ijaws-Bonny and kalabari when Ibibios prohibited transportation of people across their territory.”
    “Obot Okon Ita or Obinkita(an Igbo corruption of the name) was the capital of the Ibibio kingdom of Obong Okon Ita and Ibom(nation in Ibibio) before its conquest by Igbo and Akpa invaders in 1690–1720. This town is significant in Aro History because Obinkita became the center where defeated Ibibio warriors were judged.ion in Ibibio. This is why all Aro villages assemble at Obinkita during the Ikeji festival. Obinkita is now one of the 19 villages of Arochukwu.”
    “Agwu Inobia or Eze Agwu the man that was the founding father of igbo Arochukwu

    Agwu Inobia or Eze Agwu was one of the founding fathers of the city of Arochukwu, the third largest city in Abia State in southeastern Nigeria. He was the descendant of Nna Uru (a immigrant from the Igbo heartland to the Obong Okon Ita area) and king of the Eze Agwu clan centered in their capital the Amanagwu city-state. As new settlers, the Eze Agwu clan was resisted by the regional power Obong Okon Ita which led to the start of the Aro-Ibibio Wars. The war initially became a stalemate. Both sides arranged a marriage between the king of Obong Okon Ita and a women from the Eze Agwu clan in an attempt for a peaceful coexistence. The marriage eventually failed to bring peace but eventually played a decisive role in the war.

    King Agwu Inobia invited Priest Nnachi from the Edda group near Afikpo to help him break the stalemate and win the war. When he arrived, Nnachi and Eze Agwu allied with prince Kakpokpo Okon of the Ibibio kingdom of Obong Okon Ita. Kakpokpo Okon was the son of the marriage between the Igbo women of the King of Obong Okon Ita. The Eze Agwu/Nnachi faction decided to help Kakpokpo attempt to overthrow his brother king Akpan Okon and the coup was heavily resisted. Nnachi called on an Eastern Cross river group known as the Akpa for help. The Akpa are said to have possessed guns and are credited for introducing the weapon to the region. Princes Osim and Akuma Nnubi led Akpa soldiers to help fight against the Ibibios. The alliance between Eze Agwu, Nnachi, Kakpokpo Okon, and the Akpa eventually defeated the Obong Okon Ita forces (1690–1720) under the leadership of Osim Nnubi. As a result of the Aro-Ibibio Wars, the alliance formed the Arochukwu kingdom. Akuma Nnubi was appointed king of Arochukwu in the place of his brother Osim Nnubi who died during the end of the war. Prince Kakpokpo Okon died and the Ulu Okon dynasty was assimilated into the Eze Agwu lineage. The Amanagwu was incorporated as the first of the 19 city-states of Arochukwu and Eze Agwu became one of the three lineages of Arochukwu.”

    “The other major slave-exporting state was a loose confederation under the leadership of the Aro, an Igbo clan of mixed Igbo and Ibibio origins, whose home was on the escarpment between the central Igbo districts and the Cross River. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, the Aro built a complex network of alliances and treaties with many of the Igbo clans. They served as arbiters in villages throughout Igboland, and their famous oracle at Arochukwu, located in a thickly wooded gorge, was widely regarded as a court of appeal for many kinds of disputes. By custom the Aro were sacrosanct, allowing them to travel anywhere with their goods without fear of attack. Alliances with certain Igbo clans who acted as mercenaries for the Aro guaranteed their safety. As oracle priests, they also received slaves in payment of fines or dedicated to the gods by their masters as scapegoats for their own transgressions. These slaves thereby became the property of the Aro priests, who were at liberty to sell them.”

    1. Efik is not has never been a dialect of Ibibio and is not the spoken language in Calabar or Cross River state. The kings James bible was a translated into Efik not Ibibio and Ekpe is not of Ibibio origin but Efik, Efik was taught in schools up to the 80’s it was NOT Ibibio why is it that Ibibio’s like twisting history to akin themselves Efiks.
      Ekpo is what Ibibio have.

      1. Then you are just like the rest, an ill-fated Efik that will deny himself from now till eternity. Efik is by origin a subset of Ibibio people just like Annang is so stop crying. Your conduct is why there is no unity among us. Go and read about your real origin, not the make-believe ones you people cook up. I don’t want to say more because you will then know the reason the Efiks dislike the name “Ibibio”.

      1. Efik is not has never been a dialect of Ibibio. The kings James bible was a translated into Efik not Ibibio and Ekpe is not of Ibibio origin but Efik, why is it that Ibibio’s like twisting history.
        Ekpo is what Ibibio have.

    1. @Ubong – Efik language culture and history is very distinct and different from Ibibio. I would love to hear how you call someone buttom or how you would say “I want to go to the toilet” in Ibibio. “Efik edi mbakara” if you understand the terminology.

  2. Greek and Roman alphabets were borrowed from ancient Phoenician scripts which had evolved to suit the Greek (and later) Roman lexicon.

    NSIBIDI, considered to have originated from the ekoi/ejagham people have been used by the Igbo, efik and Ibibio people of eastern Nigeria. The current NSIBIDI writings today are mostly suited for the Igbo lexicon.

  3. @Eyo Don’t you find d ‘Efik edi mbakara’ phrase as painting the Efik heritage as that of ‘wannabes’, people who copied their colonial master’s customs so much so that they lost their origin in terms of mannerisms and costume? At least you know d Efiks settled in Uruan(ibibio) before proceeding to this present location in Calabar and it’s environs in d course of their migration.

  4. You speak of wanna be’s, look around you today. Aren’t we all? Have we not lost almost all of our history and “mannerisms”. The Ekpe and Nsibidi as I see here are now attributed to the Ibibios and yet they have remained in use today not by them however but by the Efik who have “lost their mannerism”. I’m simply speaking from what I see. Even the very history some have quoted here was read from somewhere. Do we know who wrote it. Do we know the truth for ourselves? Which is a dialect of which? There are many questions we don’t have answers for.

    That aside. As an Efik myself, I personally dislike the “Efik edi Mbakara” phrase even though I believe it had much to do with modernisation and advancenent of the people. I also think it was a foreshadowing of the state of things in the future. The future we all now live in. A lot of us are fascinated by all things having to do with them. I’m usually positively shocked to hear how well spoken in English some of my grand fathers here are. But I think it’s been taken too far. Our children (not just in Calabar where I live) cannot speak our languages. They have no idea or interest in the culture. Soon enough many of our languages will be extinct. I think a lot of us would agree that this is true. I am a victim myself.

    Thing is, I don’t think these mbakara liked any of us very much. At least not enough for us to want to become them and lose ourselves. I believe it is this same bickering, figjting and disunity that allowed them to divide and use us anyway they saw fit. And we still continue today. It plagues the whole country. While we continue to argue , let us be aware that these conflicts produce disunity and that in turn hinders our growth. We are in this country together as it is.

  5. Origin of Nsibidi

    1909 J. K. Macgregor who collected nsibidi symbols claimed that nsibidi was traditionally said to have come from the Uguakima, Ebe or Uyanga tribes of the Igbo people, which legend says were taught the script by baboonsgin Of Nsibidi.

    Another school of thought believes that the origin of nsibidi is most commonly attributed to the Ejagham people of the northern Cross River region, mostly because colonial administrators found the largest and most diverse nsibidi among them.

    Quantity of nsibidi materials excavated were used by Europeans to determine the origination. That do not sound very scientific and run contrary to tools for determination of archaeological foundlings.

    Whether Igbo or Ejagham people, it belongs to the people of South eastern Nigeria.

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