The Annang (also spelled Anaang) is a cultural and ethnic group that lives in the coastal southeast 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.


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 "Obio" (meaning village) and several villages make up the "Eka Obio" 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 ("Nka") for men and women which are very important in traditional village life. Individuals are measured by both the number and types of memberships in "Nka's" and by the achievements of one or more "Nkas". Governance is done by elderly males who act as the legislative arm called "Afe Ison" or Afe Isong, directed by the "Obong" or "Obong Ison or Obong Isong" (Village Chief and Clan Chief) who is the head and the chief executive but without the authority beyond what the "Afe Ison or Afe Isong" 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 female chief priests in "Abia Idiong" healing and cleasing teamples. 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.

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. [Farb, P. (1974) Word Play: What Happens when People Talk. New York. Alfred Knopf Publishers ISBN 0679734082.]

The Annangs are known for the efficacy of their charms, prowess in trading, and their renoun art. This extends to mural paintings, raffia, masks, cement sculpures, markets, ceremonies and exceptional food. Above all, Annang people possess unparallel academic and scientific knowledge.

The Fattening Room

Much has been written about the fattening room among the Annang, and the interest of the academic community in this subject has increased since Professor Brink's introduction and field work in Annang. The Annang Heritage Preservation Society, a socio-cultural organization dedicated to the preservation and archiving of the Annang culture is in the process of documenting these practices. The fattening of the bride in Annang land, though seen mostly from the point of view of aesthetics, is more than a demonstration of what the culture regards as "beautiful". To the Annangs, plump women were seen as beautiful. It meant that the woman came from a home where the parents were well-to do and it also meant that the husband was also well-to-do. Some western social scientists have theorized that individuals from societies where the food supply was lean and famines frequent were likely to regard being fat as a desirable body structure and to see being fat as beautiful. We in Annang are not surprised by such theories because western scientists who derive their worldview from evolutionary perspectives have always seen Africa and Africans from Darwinian lenses. As Gloria Allred observed, the characteristics of the powerful have always been seen as the ideal while those seen as without power have historically been relegated to the background and often seen as pathological. The destitute-likes-fat explanation disregards the very definition of what a culture is and looks at the world primarily from an ethnocentric perspective. Thus, what is western is ideal and how the other lives becomes primitive. Augustus Comte had divided the cultures of the world into two camps namely: the primitive and the civilized. Under the Comtean classification the European culture was the civilized one and all the others were primitive. Yet according to him, all cultures began at the same time but the development of the primitive cultures was arrested and the western culture advanced and reached a civilized stage. Today, this Comtean model has been used to describe the fattening of the Annang brides.What the world has refused to hear in the fattening practice is that the fattening period was a period of education. The young bride was taught house keeping, child care, history, and how to be a wife and citizen of the community. The Annang society was semi-matriachal before the Christian missionaries destroyed it. It became important therefore for the women to be taught the importance of good citizenship in the fattening period. The fattening room was more than an exercise in primitivity; it was a period to educate and to socialize the young into the values of the society (Ette, 2008)


Oral History

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 traditition 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.

The group is related to the Efiks and the Ibibios with same ancestors. 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 Camerron. 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 simialr 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 or Ekpenyong or Ibom or Ikpe(albino Python); Uruk- Ikot (snake); Utu, Ebom, Midim (birds); Nto Osung or Nto Usung(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.

Written history

Very little was written in the European papers about the Annang people before the middle of the nineteenth century. In the early Nigerian history, all the indigenes in the present Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State of Nigeria were referred as the Calabar people or the Efik people. The first written mention of the Annangs is in Wilhelm Koelle's (Koelle, 1854) account of liberated slaves in Sierra Leone. He mentions 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 "king Jaja" as a middle man. In the war that ensued, the British intervened and with the help of the Annangs, the British captured him (King Jaja) and sent him to the West Indies in exile. The British established a military post at Ikot Ekpene in 1904 and then in Abak. The Annangs have a historical 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 Arochukwu that arrived later and settled north of the Annang territory. Also, because of fearlessness and their stand for their territory, the British created the first local area government unit in Nigeria at Ikot Ekpene in 1910. The Annangs suffered genocide Nigerian Civil War. The war lasted for three years (1967 - 1970) and the Annang lost a significant number of their people. The war front between the Nigerians and Biafrans went from one end of Annang to the other at least 3 times. This did not happen in other areas and has been ignored in most current thinking.

Annang Nationalism

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



*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 0820446874.
*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. Acculturative Stress and the Annang of Nigeria (In Press)
*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 1426432909.
*Meek, C. K. (1937) Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe. Oxford, England. Oxford University Press ISBN 0389040312.
*Noah, Monday Effiong (1988) Proceedings of the Ibibio Union 1928-1937.
*cite book |author=Messenger, John Cowan |title=Anang Accultruations: A Study of Shifting Cultural Focus |year=1957| publisher=Northwestern University |location=Evanston, Illinois
*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 0714622966.
*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.

ee also

*Ikot Ekpene a town also know as Rafia City
*Ibibio,neighbors to east, some ethnoligists would say Annangs share some similar customs
*Calabar Kingdom
*States in Ancient Calabar Kingdom
*Niger Delta
*African Jews
*External Link: [ Annang Heritage Organization]

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