In Cross River State, the Efik are the most populous ethnic group, and at a traditional Efik event, the standout visual attraction is almost always the onyonyo and the ofod ukod anwang: their women’s traditional attires, mostly used as bridal outfits.
The onyonyo is a long feet-covering gown, more modern in design. The hair décor comprises a golden tiara or ornate clips. The wearer adorns herself with jewelry. Onyonyo designs are flexible and could be adapted to different locales and eras. It has been suggested that the onyonyo’s resemblance of Victorian gowns is as a result of the influence of the Scottish missionary Mary Slessor, who had arrived Duke Town, Calabar in September 1876.
The ofod ukod anwang is the more traditional of both looks. It includes a sleeveless top and short skirt, both accessorized with coral beads and the ekpa ku kwa—fuzzy ornaments decorating the arms and legs. The wearer has arm and leg beads and a necklace of coral beads.
Colourful and regal, both the onyonyo and the ofod ukod anwang are paired with a sceptre with large ruffled fabric. Sometimes, the wearer has body paint.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, editor, journalist, and curator. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture, art, photography, business, activism, and health. He has vast experience working in literature. He has sat on the judging panels of The Gerald Kraak Prize and of The Morland Writing Scholarship. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria's first queer art collective, and Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. For three years, Nov. 2016 to Apr. 2020, he led the transformation of the literary blog Brittle Paper into a continental powerhouse, ideating and administering The Brittle Paper Awards, the first by an African publication. His work in queer advocacy has been profiled in Literary Hub. In 2019, he won The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians." He completed a collection of short stories in 2016 and his novel in 2020. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.