Although not much is known about the people of Ibibio, it can be agreed upon that they are both unique and distinguished in nature.
Located in Southeastern Nigeria, the Ibibio people seem to be related to the Anaang, the oron, and the Efik peoples because of the great similarities they share among themselves.
But reflecting on the tales of oral tradition, it is easy to agree with Robert McKeon statement which states that the Ibibio are probably the indigenous natives from whom most small tribes of Qua Ibom and Calabar are descended.
Although much emphasis has not been placed on this claim, it is believed that it was the early settlement of the Ibibio in the area that led to the birthing of sub-clans like Anang, Efik, and Oron.
After all, Talbot suggests that by 7000 BC permanent settlement of some of the ethnic groups in Ibibio land had already begun and notes that the Ibibio language is probably the most ancient of all the semi Bantu languages.
It is also interesting to note that the present homeland of the Ibibio people is not their original homeland. Available evidence suggests that Usak Edet (Isangele) in Cameroon is their original homeland.
Oral tradition has that when the Ibibio people left the Cameroon territory, they arrived at their present location following two major directions.
One group reached Nigeria by an overland route and settled at Ibom (Arochuku) there they erected the famous shrine now known as the Long Juju of Arochuku.
From Ibom, some of the Ibibio people spread to Abak, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, and other areas of what is known as the mainland of Cross River State.
Other Ibibio came to the mainland by sea. These include the Uruan, Oron, Eket, and Ibeno people.
Ibibio belief system
Before the Christianization of beliefs, it is said that the traditional religion of the Ibibio people was of two dimensions.
One was centred on the pouring of libation, worship, consultation, communication and invocation of the God of Heaven (Abasi Enyong) and God of the Earth (Abasi Isong).
Traditionally, these rites were carried out by the constitutional and religious King/Head of a particular Ibibio Community who was known from the ancient times as the Obong-Ikpaisong (the word 'Obong Ikpaisong' directly interpreted means King of the Principalities of the Earth' or 'King of the Earth and the Principalities' or Traditional Ruler).
On the other hand, the second dimension of Ibibio traditional religion was centered on the worship, consultation, invocation, sacrifice, appeasement, etc. of the God of the Heaven (Abasi Enyong) and the God of the Earth (Abasi Isong) through other spiritual entities.
And similar to that of the first dimension, rites were carried out by the Priests of these spiritual entities (Ndem), which were the Temple Chief Priests of the various Ibibio Divisions.
It is, however, important to state here that a particular Ibibio Division could consist of many inter-related autonomous communities or Kingdoms.
These kingdoms are ruled by an autonomous Priest-King called Obong-Ikpaisong, which is assisted by heads of the various large families (Mbong Ekpuk) which make up the Community.
This is how the religious and political system of the Ibibio people have been structured from time immemorial.
The Ibibio traditional marriage consists of four stages known as, NDIDIONG UFOK, NKONG UDOK /NKONG USONG, UNÓ MKPO and USORO NDO (TM)
NDIDIONG UFOK which literally means “to know the house,” is the first step in the marriage process of the Ibibios.
NKONG UDOK /NKONG USONG which means ‘knocking on the door,’ is the next step in the marriage process. This is the stage where the formal declaration of intention is made.
The man visits the woman’s home again to officially ask for the lady’s hand and collects the marriage list.
UNÓ MKPO literally means to “to give something.” This is the day the prospective groom delivers all the marriage items to the family of the proposed bride.
It is a very significant occasion among the Ibibio peoples as it marks the seriousness of the prospective groom towards his bride to be.
USORO NDO (TM) is the hallmark of the marriage. It is a ceremonious display which kicks off with a lavish display of food – Edi kang ikong, Atama, Edi tan, Ekpan nku kwo, and music.
It is said that the purpose of this is to assure the groom and his people that the wife to have impressive cooking skills and would not slack in feeding her husband.
After eating to their satisfaction, the groom and his family are ushered into the main venue where the bride who is magnificently dressed in full traditional attire, dances beautifully with maidens on her trail.
The Ibibio people are known to be very rich when it comes to food. As a matter of fact, only a few ethnic groups can match up with them when it comes to indigenous meal.
And popular among the Ibiobio dishes are afang soup, which is an important dish in Ibibio and must be made available in traditional marriages, edikang nkong (vegetable soup), and afere atama (atama soup).