The Annang


The Annang or Anang live mainly in the Cross River area of southern Nigeria. Their language belongs to the Kwa group, which is the same Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo phylum of languages, as do all of the Efik-Ibibio-speaking peoples. The Anang belong to the Western branch of the Ibibio people, and today the Anang number around 800,000 people.

The Anang, like others of the Ibibio group, have a long history in the Cross River region of Nigeria. They developed generally democratic independent vil-lages, rather than strong, central states, and following the arrival of Europeans eager for slaves, the Igbo pushed the Ibi-bio peoples, including the Anang, further to the south and east. The Anang grew rain-forest crops of yams, taro, and cas-sava, and in the 19th century, following the collapse of the Atlantic slave trade, palm oil become the staple of the economy.

The Anang, like other Ibibio peoples, have a number of secret societies called ekpo linked to the traditional religion of the ancestral spirits. Most of the ekpo soci-eties use a number of masks, and during important festivals, the masks are paraded in what are called “theatrical staging of the masks.” Masks represent the spirits of the ancestors as well as of the idiok spirits, which are considered to be dangerous and can only be seen by members of the ekpo societies.

The Anang are patriarchal, and people trace their ancestry from their original compound or ufok. Several ufok make up an ekpuk or extended families, and several ekpuk make up an idung or village. Politi-cal power rests with lineage elders and elected village leaders. Women have both economic and political importance and have been able to rise to high political positions.

Bride fattening is part of the political and economic power that women once had, and some scholars note that prior to the arrival of Christian mission-aries, the Anang may have been at least partially matriarchal.

The fattening room was where the potential bride was taught how to be a good wife, how to cook, clean, and perform other duties. In addition, she was encouraged to add to her weight because fat was an essential part of beauty. Anang argue that being fat was not just a sign of wealth, and since Anang did not suffer hunger, fat people did not separate wealthy from the poor.

Instead, it was simply an aspect of local concepts of beauty.Political organization of the Anang has remained village headmen who are elected by the leaders of the main lineages. Equally important are the leaders of the three ekpo societies who help plan the main annual rituals. The council of elders assists the elected chief.In 1929, during the colonial period, women in the southern region of Nigeria protested attempts by the British to control trade, much of which was done by women.

Nigeria became independent in 1960 and, due to the military rule that began in 1966, the southeastern region of the country, led by the Igbo, declared indepen-dence as the Biafra, sparking a long civil war. The civil war ended in 1970 with the surrender of Biafra, but only after between 500,000 and 2 million people died.

The Anang, like all peoples of the region, suffered from the war.Following the civil war, the region has been reintegrated into the Nigerian repub-lic, and some of the issues that sparked the rebellion to begin with have been addressed by the Nigerian state.

John A. Shoup

Further Reading

Falola, Toyin. Culture and Customs of Nigeria.Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Stokes, Jamie. “Ibibio.” In Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East.New York: Facts on File, 2009.

“Tribal African Art: Anang (Annang).” (accessed May 2, 2010).