More than Fabric Motifs: Changed Meaning of Nsibidi on the Efik Ukara Cloth


  • Babson Ajibade University of Technology, Calabar, Nigeria.
  • Esther Ekpe University of Technology, Calabar, Nigeria.
  • Theodora Bassey University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria.


Among the Ejagham people of the Cross River, extending from the Cameroon to Nigeria’s Cross River Sate, the ukara
cloth and nsibidi visual signs are very critical aspects of history, religion and general cultural worldviews. While the ukara cloth is
prominent among initiates of the Ejagham’s many Leopard Societies, the nsibidi is a visual language, unspoken but forming the
main body of motifs on the ukara fabric design. As a traditional African written language peculiar to the Ejagham peoples,
Carlson (2003: 225) has suggested that nsibidi can “adapt to new historical circumstances and culture” when transmitted to non-
Ejagham societies. Using evidence from fieldwork in villages in five local government areas where Efik clans are located in
Cross River State, this study sort to find out if the meanings of key nsibidi signs have changed or adapted when transmitted into
a non-Ejagham cultural space in Calabar. The study found out that the transmission from the Ejagham culture to that of the Efik
has brought on adaptations and changes in the meaning of nsibidi. And, that through its use in the design of the ukara fabric of
the Ekpe society, nsibidi has maintained its relevance among the Efik for many centuries because of its ability to adapt to new
social and cultural situations, while remaining true to its original identity.


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How to Cite

More than Fabric Motifs: Changed Meaning of Nsibidi on the Efik Ukara Cloth. (2012). Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 3(2), 297.