July 08, 2016
Ndigbo: The next time anyone sneers at our Igbo ancestors, tell them to “Go siddon for dorty!”
As a young man I was indoctrinated into the missionary/colonial myth that our African forbears were illiterate primitives. That was until my three sons opened my eyes through their persistent inquiry. Their curiosity rekindled my interest in our origins, and what I’ve learned convinces me that we should not let strangers (especially strangers with their agenda rooted in prejudice) write our history.
Now in their 30s and 40s and born in the USA, my sons lived in Nigeria only during the decade (1981–1990) when I went back to teach in Nigerian universities; now they are eager to learn about our provenance, culture, language, and cosmology. I regret I am not able to help them very far on that quest. They all foolishly followed me into engineering but kept up lively pastime pursuits in history, literature, and the social sciences. (Not to brag, but the oldest wrote an award-winning book of poetry and also now edits two journals of poetry; they also have substantial publications in science & engineering fields.)
The two oldest boys began asking me years ago about the Nok archeological finds, ancient iron smelting in northern Igboland, and then Nsibidi (the ancient Igbo system of sacred calligraphy); the boys keep alerting me to various books on Igbo culture written by more recent Nigerian scholars.
“Nsibi-what?” I wondered, and started exploring. Voila! It turns out ancient Igbo societies had what amounted to written proto-literature.
I urge you all to Google Nsibidi, or use this link:
Recently, the boys zapped my attention once again with an excellent, scholarly book on African literature, titled “Afrikan Alphabets.” It sells for hundreds of dollars if you can find it: that’s how serious a scholarly work it is. My son searched high and low before he found a copy to buy. (Who wants to buy a $600.00 book? That’s why not enough copies are printed.) You can look it up at Amazon books, or use this link: