2017
Morgane Pierson,
Nsibidi, a pictographic and ideographic system of Nigeria. The Missing Scripts 2017

Nsibidi is a pictographic and ideographic system discovered in the 18th century. The moment of its invention is unknown but the oldest trace of Nsibidi proves its use from the 9th century. It is common to various populations in the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria, a region where writing, art, and ritual are intertwined.
Its main functions are to protect knowledge, preserve collective memory, express love and social relationships, record ritual processes, and many others. This writing system has a structuring and organizing capacity of the ritual (whether sacred or narrative); thus he participates in social and political regularization. Some of his signs are partially secret and protected by the Ekpe society (or leopard-men) which guaranteed social peace and trade security until the end of the 19th century: therefore, the degree of knowledge of writing de nes rank in the social ladder. If in material form it is most often traced on tissues, in clay or on the body, the Nsibidi can also be interpreted by pentomimic gestures, danced or drummed.
Ritual, partly secret, and important politically and socially, the Nsibidi is more than a writing. But most of the sources available today are old transcripts reported generally by British missionaries or anthropologists. The forms of Nsibidi therefore tend to disappear despite a trend of revalorization of African culture. It is therefore interesting to study, reinterpret and redraw his signs as much in a concern for truth as memory.