Nsibidi is an indigenous adaptable and fluid writing system of two dimensional signs, three dimensional forms of pictographs and ideographs and pantomimed gestures. It originated as an esoteric form of knowledge understood by a select group of people mostly members of a secret society in Southeastern Nigeria which some sources link to the Ejagham and later spread to Efik, Igbo, Ibibio, Efut, Annang and Banyang speaking areas.
Some of the signs of the nsibidi spread to the Caribbean and Brazil during the slave trade.
Nsibidi the most common name used for the script but the scripts has many variants such as nsigidi (Afikpo) and nsibiri (Eko). However, there exist no clear and reliable etymology. The word seems to have been given to the highest grade of one of the ekpe societies in the Cross River region while sibi means to cut in Ekoi.
The nsibidi writing system is one of the few original world scripts and the only truly ideographic script of West Africa. The script is of considerable age.
The signs are carved on calabashes, painted on walls and on human body or printed on cloth. The signs can also be seen on some skin covered helmet masks among the Ejagham. Also, the Ukara cloth of the Cross River bears many signs.