By Ekubi Bassey
I spent a fraction of my teenage years in Creek Town – Western Calabar. An ancient town reputed as the cradle of Christianity and an island town of sort surrounded by many springs which are occasionally flooded by the sea waters from the Atlantic by the Calabar coastal axis. Among these springs are Akwa Usuk, Idim Ete Nning, Idim usuk, Idim Efut, Idim Mbe, Idim Mbarakom, Idim Ekpai, Idim Ikot Tonic and others. I had my first swimming lessons from Idim Ete Nning, not too far from the Presbyterian manse, where I lived.
We grew up to some interesting, mind-blowing and scarring stories of the Efiks, the Mbokom Ekpe society, the deities of the land, the historical narration of the people, the advent of Christianity in the 17th century and the stories of the great kings called mè mbong. As a matter of fact, the people are so endowed with an assemblage of rich and undiluted cultural heritage far more than I can imagine.
The Akwa ufok meaning big house still standing is adjudged to be the first church in Nigeria built-in 1850. My late father’s name tag still adorns its entrance. The missionary graveyard is another heritage site to behold, you’ll be marvelled on a full moon night to see beautiful sculptures of angels painted in White. A frightening site at night, if you ask me.
One of the tales that usually come to mind is that of Anansa, the goddess of the sea and beauty. She is feared and revered by the Efiks. Suffice that to say that the Anantigha and ANANSA among others are the most feared deities of the Enwang people of the Efiks. These are respectively masculine and feminine deities of a people whose cultural cosmology is highly celebrated and applauded.
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These deities are located at different places, while the Anantigha is at the Idim Iyonde now Calabar beach the Anansa is behind the old CALCEMCO. However, the Anansa still remains a powerful deity by all rights because of her influential stands in the past and present. Do you know that the carnival calabar procession takes its clue from that of Anansa? You’ll know how soon from this article.
The Anansa is the mermaid queen of the coast and that of beauty known to have an irresistible attraction that no man can reject, if rejected then the consequences would be glaring. She is known from history to have possessed many young girls and women. When possessed, the victim continuously dreams of themselves in water dancing the Ekombi dance which follows the motion of the oceans. Hence, it is believed that the mere dance of the Ekombi – a waist twisting dance is an invitation to the spirit of Anansa.
In the early ’90s, I lived at the Calabar naval barracks and one of my pastimes was to follow uncle Ikona to the naval base named then as ‘NNS Anansa’. I wondered why the base was so named after a deity. I was told Anansa was so powerful that she controlled the territorial waters causing many ship wreckage and deaths at the sea. For her to allow the Nigerian Navy to have their way in the sea, they had to name the base after her. But that was not not to be forever, as Christianity took hold of the ancient city, she was pursued to the high seas and the base renamed, ‘NNS Victory’ meaning they had victory over the deity.
However, it is a common belief that she may soon surface due to the adherents she had garnered through the years who not only practices her teachings but worship her in spirit and in truth. Another myth had it that when she wishes to cross the tarred road at the beach end there shall be showers of rain that hardly fell on the ground. Hmmm…mystic you’ll say but all these are true and not just fables or fairy tales.
Hook on here to read of the great worship and procession of the great Anansa and how the Carnival Calabar procession is linked to this all feared and powerful deity of all times.
In fact, the fear of Anansa is the beginning of wisdom.
Anansa Afia Ndem Iboku!!!
Ekubi Bassey can be reached on: [email protected]