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The mission of the Nsibiri Project ('nsibiri' is the Igbo variation of nsibidi) is to record and appropriate nsibidi ideographic symbols for a writing system to be used by the Igbo language and Cross River languages such as Efik, Ibibio and Ejagham. This is being done by transitioning nsibidi into a morphographic script. Nsibidi is also meant to inspire and encourage learning of the languages it will be used in.

Why not just the current ọ́nwụ́ script?
I don't know about you, but I know quite a few fluent Igbo speakers that have trouble reading a sentence in the ọ́nwụ́ Latin-derived alphabet. If you give an average Igbo speaker a novel in Igbo, even with all the diacritics in place, they will not be able to read it as fluently as an English speaker reading an English book. The problem, for Latin, is that Igbo is a tonal language and it has limited grapheme's (symbols) to represent the many different tones, phonemes (sounds) and syllables that Igbo utilises. Latin was never made for Igbo, it was there for the convenience.

Chinese, and some other tonal languages are read by billions of people with logographic writing systems. To a certain extent, Igbo/Ibibio was using some logographic symbols. Logographic symbols do not require you to pronounce individual parts of a word, but, rather, to identify the word as a whole which is important in languages with lots of homophones (where multiple words have the same sound). Ákwà, Àkwá, Ákwá are popular examples of Igbo tonality. Let's not forget the issue of Igbo language dialectal intelligibility and Standard Igbo; nsibidi could almost provide a solution to the issue of Igbo literature being unintelligible to certain Igbo languages, and the perceived bias towards certain languages by leaving open the pronunciation and variation of certain words and their tones. Nsibidi also cuts down words/sentences in Igbo, or those new/translated words that are actually sentences and that cannot be understood in one word using the Latin alphabet.

With a logographic script, backed by a simpler yet relevant syllabary (now alphabet) derived from the design of nsibidi, Igbo writing can go places that it may have never gone before.

Why use nsibidi?
Because nsibidi is a legacy and cultural artefact that the Igbo/Efik/Efut-speaking ancestors developed with their own ideas independently. It is a window into the genuine and independent ideas of these cultures and the people who developed the cultures. Nsibidi was a channel for the ancestors to communicate their love, their spirituality, their fears, their greed, their lust, their wants, their needs, their knowledge, their anger, their sorrow; it documented their organisational skills, their marriages, court cases and other sorts of thing. Why not nsibidi? Why has it died in the first place? Nsibidi has been used for over 500 years as we now know, and Igbo has been using a Latin-based orthography for roughly 150 years. Something invested in and passed on for countless generations should not be discarded and forgotten so easily, this is 'why [to] use nsibidi'.

How many characters will there be
Hundreds, or probably thousands of current old nsibidi characters as well as compounds and simplified characters. Where there's an Igbo word, there ideally should be a unique character/compound for it, if not then there is akagu alphabet

How will people remember all these characters
They won't have to, there would a standard set of nsibidi people would learn, then they will be given a nsibidi-derived alphabet to use when they don't have an nsibidi character for something. For example, a computer keyboard will have a basic form of the syllabary (plus computer combinations/short-cuts) to use in digital typing. There can be software for locating nsibidi symbols if the user wants. All this will be done if the nsibidi script is successful in capturing the imagination of Igbo speakers and if it is taken further as a serious and legible writing system; nsibidi and its alphabet can be created digitally with a special unicode for it to be distributed in computers and other digital products. The alphabet will also be used to pronounce words that are foreign to Igbo ('London', 'Ferrari', 'Snow', etc).

Will the Latin script be thrown away?
The Latin script will have its paramount status demoted, but it will be at the same level as nsibidi (and derived alphabet). This project is not an attempt at isolationism, but a language preservation action.

If it is accepted, when/where will nsibidi (or neo-nsibidi) be taught
The same place it has been taught in for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, which is school. Igbo language, I believe is a compulsory subject in Igbo-speaking states of Nigeria up till a certain level when it can be dropped; nsibidi can be taught here, just like önwu is being taught in Igbo classes, and other orthography's in Cross River and Akwa Ibom.

Are you not messing up the original nsibidi?
No, did the person who added a steam boats wheel to the nsibidi script mess it up? That will be the latest addition to nsibidi I hope will be accepted, because I don't think adding Martini glasses and car engines to the script will do it much good. The project is not to completely recreate nsibidi characters, but to utilise them in the creation of compounds (multiple characters), if there are no characters good enough (or not existing at all) they will be made from the radicals (basic characters) that the ancestors used in making the other characters. For example the straight line with one horizontal bar at its top and bottom (a serif?) is a common radical and will be looked at, as well as other old characters, for inspiration when creating new characters.

This is silly, how can we write with drawings?
Look @ these signs & tell me if they R not = to logographs, or ideographs!(?) + there R plenty > you use without knowing. In fact lift your Panasonic radio, see 'drawings' full, open your Sony TV manual, see 'drawings' full.

What about other languages that use(d) nsibidi, and possibly even created it?
The plan is to consult them to plan how this script can be used for those languages if they are interested. This project focuses on developing nsibidi for tonal Igbo language, true, but the other Cross River languages that used nsibidi are also in mind and they can't be forgotten as they played the biggest role in developing nsibidi. It would be an easy transition from Igbo characters to ______ characters as this is a logographic script, an Igbo/Cross river language speaker may even be able to read a Igbo/Cross river language book written in nsibidi, depending on the languages' patterns.


This blog is about African writing, the nsibidi script. This website include many nsibidi symbols meaning a lot of different things. All images do not hold a copyright unless indicated so. You can copy, distribute, and sell any information/images you find on this website. Public Domain.