The Efik are a tribe mainly found in calabar town located at the capital of Cross River State. They are also found in small villages called Creek Town also around the Calabar. The efiks main occupation is traditional subsistence farming and fishing. In the past, they used items such as raffia, calabash and bamboo in the designing of their art and craft. Their religion includes ancestral worship and river deities (Inyang, 2000).
The fattening room also known as Nkuho is an Effik tradition that involves special training accorded to young women in special seclusion in order to prepare them for the imminent stage of marriage and womanhood. In these rooms, the girls are intensively instructed about domestic life before they are passed to their future husbands’ hands.
Types of Fattening
The Effiks have two types of fattening cultures. The first one is the ordinary type. This normally occurs amongst fifteen to eighteen year old girls. Six months before the fattening process commence the girls must adhere to several procedures. Their heads are completely shaven, then they powder their bodies with cam wood and their ankles fitted in hollow and cylindrical rings (Inyang, 2000). The rings made out of brass and bonded with small stones that produce a subtle noise when the girls walk each one of them wears around six angle rings.
On the day of fattening, the girls are smeared all over with palm oil and secluded in a room curtained using raffia stand and subsequently they are laid on the mats inside the rooms. In the room with the raffia strings, the girls hang all the bones of fish she consumes during the whole period as an indication to her visitors of how sumptuously she feeds.
After three days, she receives a bed, on the other hand, the raffia string removed while she begins using white clay for her body and ceases using palm oil. Moreover, she receives huge calabash for storing items her friends bring. Small children brought for her custody (nursing) when their mothers go for farming or in the market. She learns basic native etiquette on aspects such as serving visitors and craft works. The girl can never step beyond her room, and this type of fattening process begin in the months of January or December and it last for around a year.
The second type of fattening is the Special Type of fattening also known as Nkuho-Eket. This type of fattening consists of Girls suffering from fever, of weak constitution and bold related to the people of Etebi-eket (part of Oron). The process may last for a year up to three years depending on the wealth of the family and, commences in June or July every year (Inyang, 2000).
In this type of fattening, before a girl undergoes the process of fattening, an Oron woman suitability comes after consultation with a soothsayer. The Oron woman then performs special sacrificial rites, and she must have undergone similar type of fattening. After all sacrifices are completed, the girl wears a curved piece of cylindrical string on her neck to ascertain that she comes from this type. In the fattening room, small girls serve and feed them special food cooked with a special type of firewood. Moreover, they are prohibited from consuming fresh crops from farms and finally are restricted from stepping out of their rooms.
In both, the fattening types, the older women take of the girl in the fattening room on a daily basis. Moreover, she receives massage on her skin three times a day in order to revitalize her skin and keep it subtle and soft. On top of this, she feeds on large portions of food for example, nutritious porridge, yams, fish, fufu, ekpang, and other assorted pepper soups. Furthermore, she drinks about three pints of water at least three times a day and ensures she receives adequate sleep (Okehie-Offoha, 1996). This process guarantees the bride a well- rounded shaped and healthy waistline according to the Effiks a beautiful woman is one with fully figured and healthy waistline.
The older married women are fundamental in the fattening rooms since they offer advice based on their experiences in marriage and motivate the young brides to respect and strengthen their relationships in the future after marriage. Moreover, in the rooms the girls are taken through an extensive domestic training course that includes housekeeping, cooking tips and ethics.
Apart from the indoor activities, several outdoor activities take place during the fattening process. They include, cultural training and dances also known as Ekombi, songs, folktales, folklore and other entertainment methods. Other artistic skills such as calabash and cooking stick designs are incorporated (Okehie-Offoha, 1996).
The final day of the seclusion period is characterized by a mass graduation ceremony with people invited to witness the special day. The feast runs for the whole day and night, and family members, relatives and other well-wishers express their happiness with donations and gifts to the bride. Finally, yet importantly, the bride and her future husband dance and embrace together welcoming all the guests in the celebrations. The couples leaves together while everybody else cheer them up.
Inyang, I. B. (2000). South-Eastern Nigeria: Its environment. Kaduna, Nigeria: Abaam Pub. Co. in association with Nesu Ventures Nigeria.
Okehie-Offoha, M. U. (1996). Ethnic & cultural diversity in Nigeria. Trenton, N.J: Africa World Press.