May 27, 2018


So many lectures, symposium, debates, as well as scientific and scholastic research, interventions and study, have dwelt on the concept of a created or emerging universe. There have been questions and comments provoked at answering why we are here and where we come from. Of interest among scholars was to find out why most narratives of the origin of the universe have the creation or emergence of Man as its end. In response to this, Professor Stephen Hawking, in one of his discursive lectures on the origin of the universe, explicated that, “it must have been obvious, even at early times that the human race was improving in knowledge and technology.
So it can’t have been around that long, or it would have progressed even more. On the other hand, the physical surroundings, like mountains and rivers, change very little in a human life time. They were thought to be a constant background and either to have existed forever as an empty landscape, or to have created at the same time as the humans” (cf. Assessed Nov.3rd, 2015).  Many traditions in most parts of the world and especially in Africa, are indeed replete with stories of how the Universe began. One of such fantastic histories was narrated by the Efik tribe. This article shall journey into an analysis of the implications of this narrative.

A fragment of the Universe
A fragment of the Universe


The visible universe seems the same in all directions around us, at least if we look out to distances larger than 300 million light years…the cosmic microwave has been travelling to us for about 14 billion years, supporting the conclusion that the universe, at sufficiently large distances is nearly the same in all directions. It is difficult to imagine that we are in any special position in the universe, so we are led to conclude that the universe should appear isotropic to observers throughout the universe (Steven Weinberg, “Cosmology” NY: Oxford University Press, 2008, page 1).

My people, the Efiks have through their narration offered to give an account of the origin of this universe. The Efiks are an ethnic group located primarily in southeastern Nigeria, in the southern part of Cross River State . The Efik speak the Efik language which is a Benue–Congo language of the Cross River family (

The Efik traditional dance maidens
The Efik traditional dance maidens

In corroboration with one of the first Christian missionaries to the Efik kingdom, namely Hope Waddell, another scholar (Aye) wrote:

…the origin of the Efik people points to the Orient; this is evidenced by the fact that in most of their habits and tradition they are different from their immediate neighbours in many respects, but have strong similarities with early oriental peoples.

In the antiquity sense of the name “Efik” (which derives from the Hebrew word Aphik or Hepik), it is synonymous with Old Calabar – both names has been used interchangeably in nearly all historical accounts of the Efik for over six centuries (from the fifteenth to the twenty-first) (cf. Assessed Nov. 3rd, 2015).

Efik male wear
Example of the Efik male traditional wear

In narrating the account of the origin of the universe – having briefly looked at their place and origin – the Efiks believed that, “the creator, Abassi, created two humans and then decided to not allow them to live on earth. His wife, Atai, persuaded him to let them do so. In order to control the humans, Abassi insisted that they eat all their meals with him, thereby keeping them from growing food in the earth, and they stopped showing up to eat with Abassi. Then the man joined his wife in the fields, and before long there were children also. Abassi blamed his wife for the way things had turned out, but she told him she would handle it. She sent to earth death and discord to keep the people in their place” (cf.  ssessed Nov. 3rd 2015).


Each tribe, people or clan has its own concept of the origin of the world. God is at the basis of all the concepts…The problem of the origins is presented as a dialogue between God and the creation” (Martin Nkafu Nkemnkia, “African Vitalogy: A Step Forward in African Thinking” Kenya; Nairobi: Kolba Press, 1999, page 131).

It is to be noted that the concept of ‘nothing’ does not exist in the Efik tradition, as narrated above. Abassi fashioned man out of something concrete and in their present form. The material used was eternal as Abasssi but not equal to him, because only he (Abassi) made everything including the material (Martin Nkafu, 132). The world as we have come to know today and through the different theories, is not just subject to mathematical science but subject to the same conditions as the Efik Man. It is the express dialogue between Man and the World (and as elucidated above), God and creation that its true meaning emerges.. there are various aspects of the world, which due to their distance and exceptional nature, such as the sky, the horizon, moon, stars, et cetera, show that a certain difference between the worlds as perceived and the Efik Man exist. Hence, the Efik man proudly sees in these entities, denominated as “world,” the dwelling place of his Abassi (god) (Martin Nkafu, 134).

A beautiful scene of the Sun from space
A beautiful scene of the Sun from space

The universe, as the Efik man knows, is completely identical to his immediate environment. Therefore he speaks, “of the world, as all that exists and all that he knows…for the world is one. No planet opposes another and no planet can live a life of its own. Since it is not possible to determine precisely the limits between these worlds, apparently separated from each other, then such worlds are considered as “a whole in the indispensable wholeness.”

The seasons make their rounds, vegetation is in continuous renewal and the soul of the world, its vital force suggest that this is the best world the creator (Abassi) could make” (cf. ibid., 138). Though the Efik narrative of the origin of the universe might not be scientifically proven, I dare to agree ‘in toto’ with Martin M. that, “Africa does not give up its secrets easily. Buried there lies answers to our questions about the origins of humankind” (Martin Meredith, “Born in Africa: A Quest for the Origins of Human Life” Sydney; Australia: Simon and Schuster UK Ltd, 2011, xiii).

Author: David Francis

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