mmoa_writes: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 09:20pm on 20/10/2011 under , ,
One of the things that has always frustrated me is the charge that throughout the long (longer, in fact, than anywhere else might I add) history of homo sapiens in Africa, there has never been a written script indigenous to the population (Ancient Coptic/hieroglyphs don't count). Now as it happens there have been, but the one I am most interested in - for obvious reasons - is the one that would have been used by Igbos of bygone times.

Nsibidi.

It just demonstrates the amazing thing about the internet, how new information can be spread so quickly and is there just waiting to be discovered if you're open minded enough and brave the wilderness of counter opinions and barbarians. Sometimes you don't even have to brave that far. Wikipedia will do it for you.

What's particularly interesting is that the last I'd read, the nsibidi script had been used by religious cults and their initiates. I had no idea that, similar to other scripts such as Hiragana, there was also a public version which could be used by women and those outside the boundaries of the cult. This confirmed a suspicion of mine - in traditional Igbo society, women were charged with the responsibility of making money for the family; they would trade with other women in the markets and their profits would go towards the upkeep of the family (A/N: This is actually a pattern typical of pre-industrial settled ie. non-nomadic societies) and, for all even today we're brought up expected to have prodigious memories (...), I couldn't see why no merchant wife would have never thought of setting accounts, debts and deals on tablet/stone/animal skin as it were.

Obviously once the status quo changed and it became more important to be able to read and write in Roman script, knowledge of Nsibidi dwindled. It would be interesting to find out if there's anyone left in the family who can still read and write it.

I also find the fact it was widespread amongst several different ethnic groups rather intriguing. It certainly reveals that disparate peoples traded and had some means of communication that transcended their linguistic and cultural differences.

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