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The Ibibio Hinterland

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 14:00, views: 9 659


The Qua Iboe Church at Ikot Usop, displaying the characteristic Qua Iboe Mission architectureThe Qua Iboe Church at Ikot Usop, displaying the characteristic Qua Iboe Mission architectureBeyond the coastal sand barrier and mangrove swamp lie the fertile farmlands of the Ibibio, where the primordial tropical forest has been cleared to give space to hundreds of small farm plots under rotational agriculture. Open horizons of undulating land stretch before the eyes, punctuated by groups of palm trees, straight and tall, towering over fallow bush and planted fields. Clumps of wine palms and bamboo line up the swampy banks of numerous streams and rivers. Mixed crops of young and tiered farm growth - fluted pumpkin, spreading along the ground; corn stalks, raising leaves above; and yam tendrils, climbing the higher shrub stalks, thoughtfully left for that purpose during the bush clearing, infuse fresh green colour in the brown-and-black, burnt-bush landscape.1


Small villages spread out in compound clusters near streams and rivers, the sources of water and traditional routes of communication and transport. Groups of low wattle-and-daub houses huddle under the overhanging canopies of big trees. A line of coconut trees, plantain and palm groves, and garden plots, fenced with bamboo sticks, indicate their presence. Wide, cleanly swept, shaded alleys connect the individual compounds and are blocked at night by stout protective barriers of rough wooden styles and fallen palm tree stalks. At dusk, women and children, who have left home in the early morning hours, file back from the farm or market, with basins and baskets of farm produce or bundles of firewood balanced on their heads. Soon after, water having been fetched from the nearby stream, the smoke and smell of numerous fireplaces indicate that preparation of the evening meal is in progress.


Bicycles, single or in groups, carrying stock of market wares, stacks of dry fish, tins of vegetables oil or calabash containers of palmwine, pass along the road by dainty Qua Iboe Churches, which pierce the sky with the high steeples of their peculiar architecture, or by the more sombre Catholic and Apostolic Church buildings, bordered by well-kept compounds and spacious school grounds.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Old Essene Market

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 13:00, views: 70 903

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There are many markets in the Division, the principal ones are all on

the waterside and are owned by Opobo traders. The biggest is at

Essene, with many others on the various creeks and watersides

(Brooks, 1917)


Urua Esen, the site of the famous Essene market, offers the tranquillity of a pastoral landscape - cultivated farmlands, punctuated by few concrete ruins of old buildings, newly planted pumpkin leaves and corn plants, among which glitter the glass of square-faced gin bottles.' A line of tall coconut trees marks the waterside, where canoes from Brass, Bonny, Okrika, Ogoni and Andoni, and from the up-river Anaang and Igbo creeks used to land, laden with trade goods or slaves, yams and palm oil. Founded by Essen Umo Essen Akama of Essene and named after him, long before the founding of Opobo Town, Urua Essen (called Ahia Essen or Essen's market, by the Bonny traders) became the end port of the Aro trade route overland and a major hinterland outpost of the Delta trading states by water (Umo Essen, 1980). It attracted middlemen, long-distance traders and small-scale Ibibio producers from the Qua Iboe and upper Cross River basins. The control over it promoted violent disputes and armed fights, one of which is said to have caused the Bonny War of 1869 and led to the Opobo emigration to the nearby island (Cheesman, 1932).


Jaja of Opobo established his undisputed authority over his Essene market, and called it after himself Da Jaja. He developed it by settling its hinterland with his people, (dependants), engaged in both palm oil production and trade, and placed his Opobo boys (traders) in charge of the waterside beach. He jealously protected the area from outside encroachment, European or African, and maintained the status quo through friendly relationships and frequent visits with the nearby Ibibio chiefs (including his friend, Chief Itak Eto, the village head of Ukan). Ritual oath-swearing against direct trading with the Europeans and swift and terrorising punitive expeditions by armed contingents enforced his will.


The remains of two trading hulks, sunk at the mouth of the Essene creek and the abandoned nearby African Association trading factory, witness to the international interest in the market's produce catchment trade and the effectiveness of its internal trade mechanism. Even after Jaja's removal and numerous armed Consular visits Essene market retained its indigenous middleman's position, warding off European encroachment in the manilla-based exchange of palm oil, palm kernel and piassava for cloth, gin, tobacco, snuff and gun-powder.


Category: Ikot Abasi


Essene Town

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 12:00, views: 18 235


Sketch map of Essene Town square, showing the sacred shrinesSketch map of Essene Town square, showing the sacred shrinesThe mother town of all the Ikpa is Nnung Assang, known as Essene.

(Cheesman, 1932)


Originally named Nnung Assang, Essene received its name from the nearby Essene creek, which was known to the Opobo people as Esseneobio river.1 Its full name, Nnung Assang Ntan Aran Akama Ohio Offiong, traces the relationship of its founder Akama to one of the ancient centres of Ibibio dispersal. It is the most numerous settlement in the area, referred to as a town (obio) with 10 wards in the early colonial records,2 and by 1963 encompassing a population of 6,298 people, over 53 % of the entire Ikpa Nnung Assang clan.3 Until recently, on the strength of its primogeniture of origin, spiritual shrines and ceremonial importance, and a strong warrior leadership, it retained the cohesion of a cultural centre of all Ikpa Nnung Assang settlements of the present Ikpa Nnung Assang, Edem Aya and part of Ikpa Ibekwe clans, including Akpabom in Eastern Obolo. Its farmlands extended as far as Ikot Esenam (in Oruk Anam), Ikot Ekara, Ikot Etefia, Ikot Osudu and Ikot Usop.4


Essene Town Square with the sacred trees, the efe and market shedsEssene Town Square with the sacred trees, the efe and market shedsMany of the compounds (ekpuk) and each ward (owok), retain their meeting halls (efe ukot/efe obong), located in the ward's square or the chief's compound, where elders sit in the evenings to discuss, over a drink of palmwine, the local news and affairs.


The site of the first Nnung Assang Essene settlement is at the ancient Ata Essien Eka Obom, where the head of the Ekpo Nyoho society keeps custody of the shrine and final resting place (Ise/Ufok Akama) of the founder. Near-by are the Akai Ekpo (the Ekpo society grove), the ancient founder's residence, Ikpeti, and the Ibritam site, where a concealed pit-trap opened under the victim and he never came out again.5


Category: Ikot Abasi


Other Places of Interest

Author: nick on 24-08-2013, 11:00, views: 11 185


The Ibibio District Council Hall at Ikot Akan, where visiting officials and Ibibio Union delegates addressed the Chiefs of the neighbouring Ikpa and Ukpum villages. The telephone antenna for Ikot Abasi town is seen in the backgroundThe Ibibio District Council Hall at Ikot Akan, where visiting officials and Ibibio Union delegates addressed the Chiefs of the neighbouring Ikpa and Ukpum villages. The telephone antenna for Ikot Abasi town is seen in the backgroundPlaces of interest abound all around Ikot Abasi - from the ancient Mkpat Aya shrine on the confluence of the Edem Aya stream and the Essene creek, where iron pots, containing eggs and manilla and associated with the mermaid worship, used to be found1, to the first settlement of the Edem Aya clan founder, Akpan Akama, at Ikot Oboroenyin and his burial place at Ukan Akama2. The stone shrine and the old Obio Okpa site of the first settlement and cultural centre of the Ibekwe people at Ikot Essien, founded by their ancestor, Ebio, is now on ALSCON land. There are the Obot Afia (sacred white land), Udi Idiong (the Idiong burial grounds), the Uyie Nkan Ekpo (the chiefs' installation site) and the town hall of Okon, where the first co-operative society in Ikot Abasi was established.3 There are the modern rural infrastructures in Edem Aya, the Ekperenyin rural centre with a court house, a modern post office, health centre, community hall and a secondary school. The model village community at Atan Ikpe, supplied with electricity and a mini-water project, boasts of a women's Garri Processing Factory and Cassava Demonstration Farm, established in 1992 under the auspices of the Better Life for Rural Women Programme.


At Ikot Akan, an early 1800 settlement (Usen, 1966), the colonial government station was upgraded in 1930's to a Native Administration Council (Ibibio Clan Council) Headquarters, famous for awarding educational scholarships to bright indigenous children.


Category: Ikot Abasi

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