Nsibidi is an ancient system of graphic communication indigenous to the Ejagham peoples of southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon in the Cross River region. It is also used by neighboring Ibibio, Efik and Igbo peoples.
Aesthetically compelling and encoded, nsibidi does not correspond to any one spoken language. It is an ideographic script whose symbols refer to abstract concepts, actions or things and whose use facilitates communication among peoples speaking different languages.
Nsibidi comprises nearly a thousand symbols that can be drawn in the air (as gestures), on the ground, on skin (as tattoos), on houses and on art forms, such as masks and textiles.
Though it is enjoyed as an artistic practice by the general public, deeper knowledge of the nsibidi symbols is restricted to members of men’s associations, which once controlled trade and maintained social and political order.
Nsibidi continues to inspire the work of many Nigerian contemporary artists such as Victor Ekpuk, whose lyrical, densely-scripted works are on view in his exhibition.