Friday, September 17, 2010

In the Shadow of the Bush

Percy Talbot's text In the Shadow of the Bush is an absorbing read. Written in 1912, its his exhaustive account (642 pages) of travels among the Ekoi in Cross River State and his analysis of their beliefs and customs, centring around the Leopard soul and the Egbe secret society (and its system of Nsibidi writing). There are many beautiful illustrations, such as those of long-forgotten hairstyles among Ekoi women (pictured).

You can download the 30MB PDF (and other formats) of the book here.

From research elsewhere, I gather that Nsibidi was a performative language among members of the leopard society- a form of mime-drama, where the signs were danced out by movements of the arms, hands and head.

How fitting then to see Victor dance out his artwork in the previous post..


pam 6:35 pm  

its seems i cant keep away from these posts!
the sign language is still used by ekpe initiates... in 2004 a researcher Ivor Miller with the help of Chief Bassey Ekpo Bassey brought the Cuban Abakwa(sp?) society to Calabar to meet with the Ekpe there sponsored by then Donald Dukes christmas festival(theres a huge Ekpe display day during the festival)
Actually they first met with thier Nigerian brothers during Efik day celebration in the US. I heard from a friend who was there that grown men broke down and cried when they realized they could recognize to an extent the sign language. The Cuban version of the Ekpe masquerade is very similar to the old style which wasnt as flamboyant as the ones now.
I cried at presentations done in Calabar. Abakwa in Cuba also protected slaves and even aided freedom. Abakwa is thought now to be derived from Abakpa a term that people in the area used to descrbe thier land long ago...heres a link cos the story is long and fascinating.

pam 6:42 pm  

"During an Abakuá chant, Asuquo danced towards the Cuban musicians; then as the lead drummer stepped forward, Asuquo gestured symbolically with his eyes and hands. A Cuban Abakuá dancer joined them, also using a vocabulary of gestures dense with symbolism. This was perhaps the first time that Ékpè and Abakuá members had met in a performance context, and their ability to communicate through movement contrasted with the divisions between them created by Spanish and English, their respective colonial languages." Ivor Millers account of a meeting in 2001

Gin 11:57 pm  

How are you sure the hairstyles are long forgotten?

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates Psi by 2008

Back to TOP