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Igbo in the Caribbean: #TeachMeTuesdays

So, I’m back! I want to get right in to today’s topic. I am telling you all an Igbo story, and I have talked about how many of the bible stories connect us to the Middle East as the original Hebrews, simply put, just Igbos. Well, today I want to talk about Igbo’s in the Caribbean, and the evidence of our presence in that part of the world. Nsibidi, an ancient Igbo writing style is known and is contributed to the Igbo’s, having been seen in our architecture, culture, sculptures, clothing, and communication styles. Those communication styles extended to the Caribbean when barbarian Europeans enslaved Africans, and Africans needed a way to communicate with each other and practice spirituality. Enslaved Africans in the Caribbean islands still use a form of the writing today, known as Anaforuana and veve, also known as voodoo symbols. Check out this excerpt on veve below…

——“According to Milo Rigaud "The veves represent figures of the astral forces... In the course of Vodou ceremonies, the reproduction of the astral forces represented by the veves obliges the loas... to descend to earth."

Every loa has his or her own unique veve, although regional differences have led to different veves for the same loa in some cases. Sacrifices and offerings are usually placed upon them, with food and drink being most commonly used.”—-

Veve, a derivative of Igbo Nsibidi, is the unspoken language of voodoo. A veve is a spiritual ground drawing done in Haitian vodou ceremonies to invite the presence of divine spirits. The writings are done using a powder mixture of cornmeal and wood ash, modern day images can be seen using chalk. Veve symbols are central to Vodoo spiritual ceremonies because they are compel the descending or ascending spiritual energy associated with a particular Lwa. An Lwa or Loa is an intermediary between the earth realm and the supreme being, or God. This same Lwa can be found in Louisiana Voodoo. Check out these pictures below, then continue to read about Cuban Anaforuana.

In Cuba, Anaforuana is used by the Abakua society which was founded in Havana in 1836. This secret society, was created by emancipated slaves to buy other Enslaved Africans’ freedom and strategize independence movements against the Spanish. This derived from the Ekpe (Igbo secret society) societies of the Cross River region (Igbo Land) in Nigeria and our Nsibidi script. Abakua, developed from Nsibidi, had the symbolic purpose of investing members with power and the practical use of avoiding the Spanish authorities. In line with my analysis of historic Enslaved African revolutions, they always heavily depended on spirituality to overcome oppressors. Members of this Abakua society were named Nañigos, the street dancers of the society. The Nañigos, were well known by the general population in Cuba through their participation in the Carnival on the Day of the Three Kings, when they danced through the streets wearing traditional attire a multicolored checkerboard cloth with a cone-shaped headpiece topped with tassels. When I read this, I immediately remembered the Igbo tradition of the masquerade, I have attended 3 in person, 2 in Nigeria, and one in Virginia, usually girls are not allowed to attend, but my Daddy let me (in Nigeria). Check out a picture of the Cuban ceremony on the left, an image of a Cuban Nañingo in the middle and the Igbo Masquerade on the right.

Day of 3 Kings Festival
Cuban Nañingo
Igbo Masquerade

Similar to the Ekpe secret society, where certain Nsibidi symbols were taught to them and nobody else, Afro-Cubans speak Abakua which is a Creole version of the Igbo derived language. Carabali is also another name given to Igbo descendants in Cuba, which derives from Calabar in Nigeria, the Capital of Cross Rivers state – (Igbo Land). Enslaved Africans from this region were rarely identified by their “tribal” origin, but their locational origin. Their strongest presence is found in Havana, Cuba (specifically from Calabar, not all of Igbo Land). On another note, this also makes me wonder if this was the reason for the strong support from Cuba during Nigeria’s liberation struggles. At the point of Abakua leading to strong Cuban identity, the whites did what the whites do, began to kill them with the point of trying to eliminate them. Some say that Freemasonry, a Black secret society in America, derives from Abakua, but I have another Blog post coming for Igbo presence specifically in the United States. In 2009, Cuban musical artists released “Ecobio Enyenisón” as an honor to the Ekpe and Abakua cultural fusion and trans-Atlantic connection, singing both Ekpe (Igbo) and Abakua phrases throughout the recording, Check out a picture below!

Ecobio Enyenisón

Join me in my webinar space tomorrow, 5/18/2021 for decolonize your mind!

8 thoughts on “Igbo in the Caribbean: #TeachMeTuesdays

  1. This is so different and a bit harder to grasp, I’ll be reading again; I did not know ‘voodoo’ as it is called, was so fluid in Cuba, too. Let alone the idea of a secret society for buying freedom.

    1. Any wording I should change? I want it to be understood… it’s called voodoo mainly in Haiti, in Cuba it had the Araforuana name but the concept was to practice spirituality and hide it from colonizers, both derivatives of Igbo culture and Igbo Nsibidi symbols.

      1. No, no changes. It’s more so me, I’m truly a ‘newborn,’ when it comes to this topic. I’m familiar with light and shadow work, but never ever heard Araforuana before. I legit gotta get up on game.

      2. It’s all good, we learning! They hid it for a reason.

  2. Word, my moms has mad stuff in her room. It has me interested, but I’m unaware of all that I’d be looking at and triggering spirits is not something to be taken lightly.

  3. That’s very true. I don’t play when it comes to spirits, when I hear ppl talking of african spirituality all day long & taking it lightly, I know they haven’t practiced it

  4. […] All! So it seems you all really loved the Igbo story yesterday about Igbo presence in Haiti and Cuba (Happy Haitian Flag Day, by the way!!!), I am so glad you […]

  5. […] of Nigeria. Anyway, I spoke about the Masquerades and Ekpe secret societies in Haiti and Cuba last week, and I just wanted to bring it back to the continent to regroup around Igbo culture in Nigeria, […]

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