The Annang (Also spelled by non-natives Anang or more erroneously Anaan) is a cultural and ethnic group that lives within southeast Nigeria. The Annangs are found in the former Abak and Ikot Ekpene Divisions, subsequently forming the Abak, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam and Ukanafun Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.
Their society is patriarchal. Individuals locate their place in the social world as being from Idip, literally translated as, stomach. Thus a brother/sister from the same Idip means that they can trace their origin to the same mother or father. Since polygamy is practised in the society those who can so trace their ancestry to the same parents form Ufok (literally a house or compound) Several ufoks make up Ekpuks or extended family and several Ekpuks (extended families) make up the village and several villages make up the clan.
Leadership at the family, lineage, village, or clan level remains the prerogative of the men. And lineage ties extend to women even after marriage. There are many societies and associations (Nka) for men and women which are very important in traditional village life. Individuals are measured by both the number and types of memberships in Nka's and by the achievements of one or more Nkas. Governance is done by elderly males who act as the legislative arm called Afe Ison, directed by the Obong Isoñ (Village Chief and Clan Chief) who is the head and the chief executive but without the authority beyond what the Afe Isoñ gives. A chief can be appointed by the Afe Isoñ and it can also be an inherited office. The strength of any individual, family (or group for that matter) is typically based upon a consensus of the village or clan through this complex social system.
In all this, Annang women are not completely subordinate to the men. The first-born female known as Adiaha is important and commands respect in the family and lineage. Some traditions hold that a woman's first birth should take place in her mothers compound. Women organizations such as "abi-de" and "Nyaama" play important roles in giving the women voice and status in society. There are no traditional or cultural barriers that prevent women from attaining high offices or positions. Indeed, traditionally Annang women have a great deal of economic independence from men. Annangs value the ability to speak well and oratory ability using proverbs is highly desirable, especially among the leaders. The American anthropologist, Peter Farb, stated that the name "Annang" among this group means 'they who speak well' An individual who has the gift of eloquent speech is often complimented as Akwo Annang meaning the singer of Annang.
Very little was written in the European papers about this group before the middle of the nineteenth century. The first recorded mention of the group is in Wilhelm Koelle's account of liberated slaves in Sierra Leone about a liberated slave named Ebengo who hailed from Nkwot in Abak. He was captured and sold to the Portuguese but was subsequently freed by a British warship and later settled in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. The British soldiers listed the languages spoken by the slaves in that captured ship as "Annang" (Koelle, 1854). The second mention is in the description of what is known as the Ikot Udo Obong Wars. The British described the killings of the Annangs by King Jaja of Opobo as a punishment for the Annangs defying his orders and trading in palm oil directly with the British merchants instead of going through the "king". In the war that ensued, the British intervened and with the help of the Annangs captured King Jaja and sent him to the West Indies. The British established a military post at Ikot Ekpene in 1904 and then in Abak.
The Annangs have a historical reputation for their fearlessness and the ability of villages and clans to bind together to fight a common enemy. This is perhaps why they were able to thrive so close to Aro-Chukwu and also why the British created the first local area government unit in Nigeria at Ikot Ekpene.
The Annangs are known for the efficacy of their charms, prowess in trading, and their renown art. This extends to mural paintings, raffia, masks, cement sculpures, markets, ceremonies and exceptional food.
The Annangs suffered genocide during the Nigeria Biafra war 1967- 1970 and lost a significant number of its people and leaders. The front between the Nigerians and Biafrians went from one end of Annang to the other at least 3 times. This did not happen in other areas and has been ignored in most current thinking. For more information about the Annang visit: http://www.annangheritage.org