Anaang people

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The Annang (also spelled Anaang) is a cultural and ethnic group that lives in the Coastal Southeast Nigeria (also known as Southeastern Nigeria or former Southeastern State of Nigeria). At present, the Annangs have eight local government areas of the present thirty-one local government areas in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria (Akwa Ibom State Local Government Areas), namely Abak, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun in the Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. They were formerly located in the former Abak and Ikot Ekpene Divisions of the Annang Province, in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Note that proper name for the Ika of Akwa Ibom is Ika-Annang.


The Annang people are located in the Coastal Southeastern Nigeria and Southwestern Cameroon which was a part of the present Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State. However, during the then Nigerian Regional era, the then Eastern Region of Nigeria allowed Southwestern Cameroon to be partitioned out of Nigeria into Cameroon through the 1961 plebiscite. In this action the Annang, Efik and Ibibio people were divided into Nigeria and Cameroon.


Annang society is patriarchal. Individuals locate their place in the social world from the Idip, literally translated as, womb. Thus a brother/sister from the same Idip means that they can trace their origin to the same mother or father. Since polygamy is practised in the society, those who can so trace their ancestry to the same parents form Ufok (literally a house or compound). Several ufoks make up Ekpuks or extended family and several Ekpuks (extended families) make up "Idung" (meaning village) and several villages make up the "abie" or clan.

Leadership at the family, lineage, village, or clan level remains the prerogative of the men, and lineage ties extends to women even after marriage. There are many societies and associations (Urim) for men and women which are very important in traditional village life. Individuals are measured by both the number and types of memberships in Urim and by the achievements of one or more Urims. Governance is done by elderly males who act as the legislative arm called Afe Isong, directed by the Obong or Abong Ichong (Village Chief and Clan Chief) who is the head and the chief executive but without the authority beyond what the Afe Ichong gives. A chief can be appointed by the Afe or can be an inherited office. The strength of any individual, family (or group for that matter) is typically based upon a consensus of the village or clan through this complex social system. In all this, Annang women are not completely subordinate to men. Instead Annang women are partners and leaders in many aspects of Annang tradition, including serving as female chief priests "Abia Idiong" in the Idiong cult or as healers in the healing cults. The first-born female known as Adiaha is important and commands respect in the family and lineage. Some traditions hold that a woman's first birth should take place in her mothers compound. Women organizations such as "abi-de" and "Nyaama", and "Isong Iban" play important roles in giving the women voice and status in society. There are no traditional or cultural barriers that prevent women from attaining high offices or positions. Indeed, traditionally Annang women have a great deal of economic independence from men. The society was semi-matriarchal before colonialism. Children bore the names of their mothers and such common names as Essien, Essiet, Ukpong and Umo were female names and became androgenized when the missionaries saw matriarchy as anti-Christian .(Ette,2009). Annangs value the ability to speak well and oratory ability using proverbs is highly desirable, especially among the leaders. The American anthropologist, Peter Farb, stated that the name "Annang" among this group means 'they who speak well' An individual who has the gift of eloquent speech is often complimented as Akwo Annang meaning the singer of Annang.[1]

The Annangs are known for the efficacy of their charms, prowess in trading, and their renown art. This extends to mural paintings, raffia, masks, cement sculptures, markets, ceremonies and exceptional food.

Anaang fattening Room[edit]

The fattening room is traditionally where virgin adolescent girls are fattened up in preparation for marriage. A fattening room girl is known as a mbobo. This was an occasion for a major village celebration and as part of her preparation for marriage the girl was also instructed on how to be a wife. She would spend her time in the room naked so that her fattening could be observed, and would sleep on a bamboo bed which was thought to fatten her up. It was also meant to make it more possible for a her to conceive easily. This use for fertility purposes was also used at time for infertile wives and as a prerequisite for entrance into secret societies.[2]


Oral History[edit]

The Annangs have a rich oral tradition. It is believed that the group have their origins in Egypt and settled in Ghana before arriving in the present area. The name Annang in Twi in Ghana means fourth son. It is believed that Annangs started their migration from Egypt around 7500 BC. The Abiakpo came to the northern range of Annang from Eka Abiakpo. They were quickly followed by the Ukana clan, the Utu, Ekpu, Ebom and Nyama (The British would lumped these together and gave the name Otoro), and other Annang clans.

Oral tradition has it that the Annang and the entire people of akwa Ibom and Cross River States of Nigeria (AKwaCross people) have occupied their land in the coastal Southeastern Nigeria thousands of years before the birth of Christ.

The same oral tradition has it that their ancestors were Israelites (Jews) of the Northern Kingdom who left Israel to Egypt before the Babylonian captivity and that the ancestors of the Annangs and other people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States (the Efik, the Ibibio, etc.) of Nigeria were the products of marriages of the people of Israel and Egyptians who migrated from Egypt to their coastal southeastern land in Nigeria via Ethiopia and Sudan.[citation needed]

The group is related to the Efiks and the Ibibios. It is believed that they all originated in ancient Egypt and through various wars and conquests were pushed south into the Sahara Desert. They moved across the desert and some settled in the upper West African region about 7500BC. Remnants of their language according to Waddell can be found among the Egyptians. (Waddell, 1893) Another evidence of their Egyptian origin is found in the burial customs and veneration of the dead. Migration brought the groups to live among the Twi of Ghana where the name Annang means fourth son. From Ghana, the group moved eastward into present day Cameroon. It was in the Cameroon highlands that the group broke off but later arrived at same territory in the Coastal Southeastern Nigeria . It is believed that upon their arrival at the virgin coastal southeastern Nigeria the groups took an oath of solidarity to be together and bonded to fight whatever was seen as a common enemy. Lineages were recognized and the groups organized themselves into clans based on old family origins known as Iman, a similar structure extends into the land of their northern neighbors, the Igbo. (Ette, 2008)

The following are some of Iman Annangs and their food taboos. Eka Abiakpo clans do not eat turtle. The Afaha people forbade its members from eating the (Nserise) squirrel. They identified with the quickness and intelligence of the animal. Other examples of clan groups and their food taboo are: Ukana python (Asabo); (Ibom); Ekpenyong (albino Python); Ikpe Uruk- Ikot (snake); Utu, Ebom, Midim (birds); Nto Osung (African black bird). Other Annang clans chose vegetables as their food taboo. Thus Ika has sweet yam (anem) as taboo, and Nto Edino has the river reed (Nyama). The food taboo was so important to the Annang that it was used as a distinguishing characteristic to locate the origin of an individual and to separate one Iman from another. Children learnt as part of the socialization process that a particular Iman are people living in a particular geographical area with a given food taboo. Ekanem (2002) reported that those from Midim preferred to starve rather than violate their food taboo during the Nigerian civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970.

Written history[edit]

Very little was written in the European papers about the Annang people before the middle of the nineteenth century. Early European traders who arrived in the cross river territories referred to groups who lived outside of the coastal areas as residents of Egbo-Sharry Country.(Derived from the derogatory name of Ekpo Iseri used by the Efiks for those who were poor but proud. (Ette, 2007). Rumors of cannibalism and fear tactics were used as tools by the Efiks to keep the European traders away from trading directly with groups outside the coast. This tactic worked, for it prevented the traders from going outside of the Calabar middle men until the Christian missionaries arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century Ette, 2001). The first written mention of the Annangs is in Wilhelm Koelle's account of liberated slaves in Sierra Leone(Koelle, 1854). He mentioned a liberated slave named Ebengo who hailed from Nkwot in Abak. Ebengo was captured and sold to the Portuguese but was subsequently freed by a British warship and later settled in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. The British soldiers listed the languages spoken by the slaves in that captured ship as "Annang" (Koelle, 1854). The second mention is in the description of what is known as the Ikot Udo Obong Wars. The British described the killings of the Annangs by King Jaja of Opobo as a punishment for the Annangs defying his orders and trading in palm oil directly with the British merchants instead of going through him as a middle man. In the war that ensued, the British intervened and with the help of the Annangs, they captured (King Jaja) and exiled him to the West Indies. The British established a military post at Ikot Ekpene in 1904 and then in Abak.

Following British colonialism and with changes and ban in ancient hunting practices, the Annang witnessed attacks by wild animals. As the men went to fight in World War II these attacks intensified. The British authorities called the attacks murder and blamed it on "the barbarism of the Africans". The indigenes were accused of belonging to a secret society called Ekpeowo (The Human Leopards Society). It has been argued that killings borne out of insurgency against the British elsewhere in Africa led to the branding of leopard attacks as murders by the British authorities among the Annang. Between 1945 and 1948 about 196 people were killed in Ikot Okoro community in the present day Oruk Anam LGA. It is pertinent to note that the Ikot Okoro Police station was set up because of this reason. The British convicted 96 people and executed 77 innocent people (Pratten, 2007). The Annang religion called Idiong was banned and the priests arrested. Articles and worship materials were publicly burnt and those who did not join Christianity automatically became suspects (Ette, 2007).

The Annangs have a history and reputation for their fearlessness and the ability of villages and clans to bind together to fight a common enemy. This is perhaps why they were able to thrive living so close to the Aro Confederacy's center, Arochukwu with its famed Ibini Ukpabi oracle. A particular interesting war group was the famous Oko- warriors. This war group was highly functional in the 1950s. The American anthropologist (messenger 1951:41) called them the "warrior Cult". These warriors were considered invulnerable to penetration of knives, spears and arrows. In various instances sharp machetes were tested on the body parts of members.

The Annangs suffered genocide in the Nigerian Civil War. The war lasted for three years (1967–1970) and the Annang lost a significant number of its people. The effect of the war and the resulting neglect of the Annang is now a serious political issue and a source of unrest in the area. The Annangs have been overlooked in the current state structure in the Nigerian system through which the country's oil wealth is shared. Repeated demands for the creation of a state for the Annang area have been ignored by the Nigerian authorities, while other areas that do not produce oil have been made states and therefore set up as a unit to receive the oil money. Like other minority groups in the volatile Niger Delta in Nigeria, history and culture are taking a back seat to issues of politics and justice but the Annangs continue to fight for their rights.

Written Language[edit]

Parts of the Annang language may be intelligible to speakers of Efik, Ibibio, Oron, Ekit (also known as Ekid) of the Old Calabar Kingdom. Though the Annang speech pattern was not written down, linguists have now produced an orthography of the language which makes it possible to produce written materials in the language (Idem-Agozino & Udondata, 2001; Ette (2009).

Annang Nationalism[edit]

Some educated Annangs join the Ibibio State Union to fight against European colonialism.


  1. ^ Farb, P. (1974) Word Play: What Happens when People Talk. New York. Alfred Knopf Publishers ISBN 0-679-73408-2.
  2. ^ Pamela J Brink (1995). "Fertility and Fattening: the Annang Fattening Room". In I.De Garine and Nancy J. Pollock. Social Aspects of Obesity. Routledge. p. 71-84. ISBN 978-2884491853. 

See also[edit]


  • Brink, P. J. (1989) The Fattening Room among the Annang of Nigeria. Medical Anthropology 12 (1) p. 131 - 143.
  • Ekanem, J. B. (2002) Clashing Cultures: Annang Not(with)standing Christianity: An Ethnography (Gods, Humans, and Religions, No. 3), Peter Lang Publishing: Brussels. ISBN 0-8204-4687-4.
  • Enang, K. (1987) Some Key Religious concepts of the Annang. In Africana Marburgensia: Cross River Religion, Hackett, R. I. J. (ed) Sonderheft 12 (12) 21 – 34.
  • Ette, E. U. Colonialism and Acculturative Stress Among the Annang of Nigeria (In Press)
  • Ette, E. U/ (2010) The Scientific Enterprise, Identity and Power in Africa: The Case of the Annang of Nigeria. International Journal of Science in Society. 1 (4) 175 - 191
  • Ette, E, U. (2009) Annang Wisdom: Tools for Post-Modern Living. Bloomington, Indiana, Xlibris Press ISBN 978-1-4415-4104-8/978-1-4415-4103-1
  • Ette, E. U. (2007) Annang Heritage Preservation Available
  • Koelle, W. (1854) Polyglotta African Cited in Udo, E. U. (1983) The History of the Annang People, Apcon Press Ltd. Calabar, Nigeria.
  • Livingstone, W. P. (1916) Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary, BiblioBazaar, ISBN 1-4264-3290-9.
  • Meek, C. K. (1937) Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe. Oxford, England. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-389-04031-2.
  • Noah, Monday Effiong (1988) Proceedings of the Ibibio Union 1928-1937.
  • Messenger, John Cowan (1957). Anang Acculturation: A Study of Shifting Cultural Focus. Evanston, Illinois: Ph.D Dissertation Northwestern University. 
  • Nair, Kaanan. K. (1972) Politics and society in South Eastern Nigeria, 1841–1906;: A study of power, diplomacy and commerce in Old Calabar (Cass library of African studies. General studies), London, Frank Cass, ISBN 0-7146-2296-6.
  • Pratten, D. (2007) The Man-Leopard Murders: History and Society in Colonial Nigeria. Indianapolis, Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34956-9

Udondata, J & Idem-Agozino, U. (2001) Annang Orthography, Uyo, Scholars Press.

  • Udo, E. U. (1983) The History of the Annang People, Calabar, Nigeria. Apcon Press Ltd.
  • Umoh, E. (2004) Annang Map with Boundaries, Plano TX. USA.
  • Waddell, H.M. (1893) Thirty Nine Years in West Africa and the West Indies. London. Frank Cass Ltd.

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