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Coronation of Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey as Obong of Calabar

The following is a narrated sequences of photos illustrating the installation of Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey as Obong of Calabar on April 6, 2008. Photographer: Dr. Ivor Miller. This text was developed by H.R.H. Etubom Ekpo Eyo Abasi Eyo and Dr. Ivor Miller, April 22, 2008.


The candidate is seated and in meditation about the responsibilities he will soon assume, in preparation for the consummation of the mystical ceremony of traditional coronation inside Efe Asabo, the one and only kingship shrine of the entire Efik kingdom. The ceremony will confirm him as Edidem, an elevated position close to that of the gods, since Ndem, the water god, is at the foundation of the shrine. Edidem is the chief priest of the water deities. The process of becoming Edidem the requirement for being called the Obong (King) of Calabar. The candidate spends time at the shrine to receive the recognition of the deities and their mandate to be chief priest. The blue & white Ukara cloth is the embodiment of Ekpe. The raffia shirt (Ikpaya) represents the original shirt used by the first Efik king, Edidem Eyo Ema, some five centuries ago.

The first Efik king used a broom to signify the entire Efik kingdom, the straws representing the various Efik families and groups. The duty of the Edidem is to bind all these families and groups into a unified kingdom. Secondly, the broom represents a sanitizing function, to uphold moral codes of conduct while on the throne. The cap has leopard skin symbolizing rulership. At left, two Etuboms
(heads of an Efik royal Houses) descended from Edidem Eyo Ema, prepare for the coronation (the priestly function resides with the descendants of Eyo Ema, who was the first Efik king, and chief priest).

After knocking the head of the candidate (symbolizing the last insult to be received by the personage on the throne), H. R. H. Etubom Ekpo Eyo Abasi Eyo places the crown on the head of the Edidem in the making. Other Etuboms sit behind at the high table as witnesses. 

While placing the crown, Etubom Ekpo Eyo Abasi Eyo recites incantations, evoking the goddesses, the powers of Ekpe, and first kings of the Efik people. He reminds the new Edidem on the codes of conduct: “You shall rule the nation with moral codes of conduct, without fear or favor. Treat all the citizens alike, serving the people in the spirit of God Almighty. We are calling upon all the
goddesses and the spirits of our ancestors to be in your support. May you have a long life, wealth, and health so as to serve your people maximally.”

Now surrounded by Ndem stalwarts, the new Edidem is presented the broom, i.e., placing the entire kingdom into his left hand.

(Princess) Ekanem Eyo-Ita Effiom Eyo, a priestess of Ndem, administers spring water, white clay, and anointing oil from the Asabo Ndem shrine to sanctify the coronation of the Obong of Calabar.
Two Ndem stalwarts hold swords as a protective barrier, since the Edidem is a jealously guarded entity.
The final stage of traditional crowning is the presentation of the Oboti tree as a staff of authority. Oboti tree represents Ekpe. The actions of knocking the forehead, receiving the broom, capping with the crown, and presentation of the Oboti tree, are the necessary processes of the Edidem’s traditional coronation.
The coronation completed, Edidem is led in a procession outside the Efe Asabo kingship shrine and into the streets of Ekoretonko (Cobham Town) in historic Calabar, to show the world what has happened.



Abakuá on AfroCubaWeb

Cuban Abakuá fueling a resurgence of traditional Ekpe culture in Cross River Delta, Nigeria - Statement by ‘Iberedem’ Fred Eno Essien, ‘Ukai’ of Ibibioland, and prominent Ekpe leader from Uruan, 1/08  Chief Ekpenyong Eyo Honesty Eyo II, reflects upon the impact that knowledge of Cubban Abakua is having upon Ekpe leaders of the Cross River region, 1/08  Chief Ekong Imona reflects upon the impact of the Cubans in Calabar, 2/08

Interview with Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey, 2/25/08

Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey, on Ekpe and Cuban Culture, English and Español, 8/06

Dr. Ivor Miller

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