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Old Calabar

Calabar is the region of the Cross River Delta in Nigeria that Cubans call Carabali. This cultural area extends into Cameroon.

Old Calabar Rediscovered, Nkparom C. Ejituwu. The Multidisciplinary Approach to African History; essays in honor of Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, edited by N. Ejituwu, 133‑50. Hisis Press, Port Harcourt, for University of Port Harcourt Press, 1998  [PDF, 1MB]

Note from Victor Manfredi:

This paper [by Nkparom C. Ejituwu] discusses the mysteries of the name Kalabar, adding new details. In particular, it mentions a common pattern of a settlement being refounded under the same name but with the prefix "new". So the Dutch decision to call the Efik capital "Old Calabar" was not just a stray error. There was surely a real place called "Old Kalab.ari.", and it was indeed probably to the east of the real place called "New Kalab.ari.", bit not as far to the east as the Efik capital. This simplifies the scenario which led to the confusion on the maps. The real "Old Kalab.ari." was shown on Barbot's 1699 map [below].

New Mapp of Calabar, 1699

From Victor Manfredi's website:

The cartographic errorism — what would today be called an unavoidable and regrettable targeting error — responsible for sticking the name "Calabar" on the Efik capital is much less complex in legendary inspiration, and slightly less farfetched in geographic distance, than modern historians have supposed. As quoted in the paper (p. 254), Jones wondered whether "the European attribution of the name Old Calabar to the Efik people could be a reflection of the Korome myth of origin [… about] the place which the Opukoroye line of Kalab̩arị kings claimed as their original home" (1965, 159). More plausibly and prosaically, Ejituwu suggests that the intended referent of the "old" term in this myth was not the Efik‑speaking village group on the "Rio da Cruz", but instead a Kalab̩arị‑speaking settlement (subsequently abandoned) on a branch of the "Rio Real" estuary labeled "Old Calabar River" by Barbot's 1699 "New Correct Mapp of Calbar River" (reprinted by Barbot 1732, 462 and Ejituwu 1998, 137). Further ambiguity (as if any were required) is supplied by the fact that "when New Calabar itself segmented from 1879 to 1885 […] [t]he Kalab̩arị in Bakana, Abonema and Buguma continued to regard New Calabar as Elem Kalab̩arị, which means 'Old Calabar', and the latter continued to appear in official documents till 1931" (Ejituwu 1998, 142). None of this confusion is surprising, given that adnominal modifiers like old and new are indexical "shifters" whereas map terms ideally aren't. But unlike Jones' frankly speculative account of the Efik mistaken identity for "Calabar", Ejituwu's explanation of the mishap has independent documentary support and is moreover simpler: no need to assume that Dutch mappers of 9ja's eastern coast had even indirect access to Kalab̩arị dynastic tales, if what happened is that they ploddingly reproduced some coastal traders' casual misplacement of the older of the "Old" Calabars — i.e. the one so designated by locals in the 17th century — by a few hundred miles, to a different slaving depot a few estuaries further along to the east, albeit in a very different linguistic territory. 


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Abakuá on AfroCubaWeb

Abakuá members derive their culture from the Efik and Efo of the Cross River region in Nigeria.  They are organized in a set of over 150 potencias (lodges) located mainly in Havana, Matanzas, and Cardenas.

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