The People of Anaang

The Anaang (also spelt Annang) is a southern Nigerian ethnic group whose land is primarily within 8 of the present 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom state and 3 of the 17 local government areas in Abia state.

They were formerly located in the former Abak and Ikot Ekpene Divisions of the Anaang province, as well as part of the former Opobo Division of Uyo province in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria.

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

Anaang society is patriarchal. Individuals locate their place in the social world from the llip, literally translated as “womb”. This a brother/sister from the same llip means that they can trace their origin to the same mother or father.

Those who can trace their ancestry to the same parents from Ufok (literally a house or compound). Several Ufoks make up Ekpuks or extended family and several Ekpuks (extended families) make up ‘llung” (meaning village) and several villages make up the “abie” or clan.

This is in many ways similar to the system used by other South-Eastern Nigerian people but more centralized.

Leadership at the family, lineage, village or clan level remains the prerogative of the men, and lineage ties extend to women even after marriage.

There are so many societies and associations (Ulim also called “Udim”) for men and women which are very important in traditional village life.

Individuals are measured by both the number and types of memberships in Ulim and by the achievements of one or more Ulims.

Governance is done by elderly males who act as the legislative arm called Afe Ichong, directed by the 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 Anaang speak the Annang language and perform a masquerade after the yam harvest to mark the visit of ancestral spirits or Ekpo. This is also the name of a men’s associations that once had great influence among Ibibio groups.

The Anaang carve masks with grotesque features, known as Ilioks, which are considered dangerous and may only be viewed by members of the Ekpo. Other masks embody the beautiful spirit or Mfon.

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, Anaang women are not completely subordinate to men. Instead, Anaang women are partners and leaders in many aspects of Anaang tradition, including serving as female chief priests “Abia Iyong” in the Iyong cult or as healers in the healing cults.

The first-born female known as Aliaha is important and commands respect in the family and lineage.

The fattening room is traditionally where virgin adolescent girls were fattened up in preparation for marriage. A fattening room girl is known as a Mbobo. This was an occasion for a major village celebration.

As part of her marriage preparation, 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 her to conceive easily.

A particular interesting war group, or “warrior cult”, was the famous Oko warriors. This war group was highly functional in the 1950s. These warriors were considered invulnerable to the penetration of knives, Spears, and arrows. In various instances, sharp machetes were tested on the body parts of members.

The Anaangs suffered genocide during the Nigerian civil war. The war lasted for three years (1967–1970) and the Anaang lost a significant number of its people. The effect of the war and the resulting neglect of the Anaang is now a serious political issue and a source of unrest in the area.



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