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Aspects of colonisation such as Western education and Christian doctrine drastically reduced the number of nsibidi-literate people, leaving the secret society members as some of the last literate in the symbols. Macgregor interpreted the first two symbols as corruptions of the Latin letters 'N' and 'A' and the last symbol a generic nsibidi.
The leopard societies were a legislative, judicial, and executive power before colonisation, especially among the Efik who exerted much influence over the Cross River.
Ukara motifs are designed in white and are placed on grids set against an indigo background.Disclaimer: Information on this page is provided by WAO Member Societies.To edit/add information for your Society, please contact [email protected] is known to be at least several centuries old, dating back at the very least to the 16th century CE, and possibly as far back as the 5th century CE. Macgregor's view was that "The use of nsibidi is that of ordinary writing.The writing on the Ikom monoliths is sometimes taken to be nsibidi, 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. 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 baboons, Nsibidi has a wide vocabulary of signs usually imprinted on calabashes, brass ware, textiles, wood sculptures, masquerade costumes, buildings and on human skin. Talbot as "a kind of primitive secret writing", Talbot explained that nsibidi was used for messages "cut or painted on split palm stems". I have in my possession a copy of the record of a court case from a town of Enion [Enyong] taken down in it, and every detail ... Nsibidi crossed ethnic lines and was a uniting factor among ethnic groups in the Cross River region. (a) The court was held under a tree as is the custom, (b) the parties in the case, (c) the chief who judged it, (d) his staff (these are enclosed in a circle), (e) is a man whispering into the ear of another just outside the circle of those concerned, (f) denotes all the members of the party who won the case.
The cloth is dyed by post-menopausal women in secret, and young males in public.