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Take it to the streets : performing Ekpe/Mgbe power in contemporary Calabar, Nigeria / by Jordan A. Fenton

Catalog Data

Fenton, Jordan A. 1981-  Search this
Ekpe (Society)  Search this
Ngbe (Society)  Search this
Physical description:
312 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 23 cm
Electronic resources
Calabar (Nigeria)
21st century
Includes vita.
"UMI 3569435"--Title page verso.
The Ekpe/Mgbe society is the most renowned cultural institution of the Cross River region (southeastern Nigeria and west Cameroon). The society was the governing body for many communities of the region, even into the colonial era. In Calabar, it was not only a regulating society, but was also modified in order to manage the transatlantic slave and oil trades during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Despite Ekpe/Mgbe's well-documented history, recent scholars disregard its place in contemporary Calabar as merely recreational. This dissertation argues otherwise by exploring how, why, and for what purposes Ekpe/Mgbe art and performance were appropriated during Calabar's recent period of urbanization and continues to be into the present.
The story of the recent permutations of the art of the Ekpe/Mgbe society in the city of Calabar, capital of Cross River State, Nigeria, demonstrates how so-called "traditional" culture or more correctly, long-standing modes of cultural expression, are not only thriving in urban environments today, but are also still relevant for members who use the society to negotiate the contemporary lifestyle in which they live. In this dissertation, I argue that the Ekpe/Mgbe society in Calabar is a socio-political, financial, and cultural infrastructure for its members. I contend that in framing Ekpe/Mgbe as infrastructure, the ability of the society to become more public through the claiming of space during performance is absolutely critical for its contemporary relevance in Calabar. In order to grapple with why the Ekpe/Mgbe society is still relevant beyond the level of heritage and how it thrives in the urban experience of Calabar, I examine its ritual, masquerade performance, and knowledge system. Ekpe/Mgbe ritual and masquerade performances are important evidence for this study since they have morphed into cosmopolitan spectacles packed with layers of meaning about contemporary life. The society's esoteric language nsibidi, an imaged and performed knowledge system, has also become more urban in the way it is learned and transmitted in private and in public. I, therefore, demonstrate that Ekpe/Mgbe ritual, masquerade performance, and nsibidi are being taken to the streets in new and innovative ways.
Secret societies  Search this
Art  Search this
Social change  Search this
Cultural fusion  Search this
Masquerades  Search this
Efik (African people)--Rites and ceremonies  Search this
Ejagham (African people)--Rites and ceremonies  Search this
Nsibidi  Search this
Civilization  Search this
Religion  Search this
Call number:
DT515.9.C35 F46 2012a
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries