by OA Ene — Abstract— This paper highlights the dramatic features of Abang Cultural dance, particularly in the areas of. Costumes, Dance, Songs/Music, Symbols,
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1123 Dramatic features of the Abang Dance Performance of the Efiks of Nigeria Ene, Offiong Amaku Department of English & Literary Studies , Faculty of Arts , University of Calabar , Nigeri a E – mail: offyene@gmail .com Abstract This paper highlight s the dramatic features of Abang Cultural dance, particularly in the areas of Costumes, Dance, Songs/Music, Symbols, and Gestures. The paper also examines the objectives via a general background study, a review of related scholarship and a descrip t ive detail of th e theoretical framework upon which the work is hinged. The ethnographic research methodology was adopted for data col lection during fieldwork. The findings of this enquiry concretize the idea that the Abang indigenous performance is an enthralling theatre o n the go. As a matter of fact, its artistic apparatuses and dramatic orientation deepens our understanding of Efik epistemology . The paper therefore, recommends the preservation , promotion and transmission of this cultural art through the aid of technology as well as through dance competitions, dance societies, dance troupes in schools , universities and across households. In summar y , this re search is an attempt to address the lacuna in the critical documentation of the Abang dance of the Efik people in Cross River State, South – South Nigeria. Key words Efik, Dance, Culture, Indigenous Drama, Performance. I. INTRODUCTION Dance can be viewed as a form of communication in addition to its therapeutic tendencies. Primarily, dance is a remarkable form of artistic expression that offers room to birth passion and emotions. Lee Warren rightfully observes m of dramatic and theatrical , as a performative art , dancing is one of the numerous modes adopted by man to communicate messages, tell stories, showcase culture and reveal emotions. Invariably, through the rhythmic and artisti c movement of the head, torso and limbs , man is able to formulate meaning about the nature of the world h e live s in. T hus, dance reflects society its beliefs, values, struggles, and experiences. Hence, the A bang cultural dance of the Efik people is no exception, because it brilliantly offers a window into the world view of the Efiks, as gleaned from its form , functions, music, technique s and poetry. The Efiks are a minority ethnic group in Nigeria , West Africa . Thei r dialect is also known as Efik, which is highly tonal. Albeit, Therese Nyambi locates the Efik dialect as a Bantu rooted language (20). The Efiks occupy the basins of the lower Cross River in the southern part of Nigeria . As a matter of fact , t he Efiks are indigenes of the Calabar metr opolis and are m ostly found within Odukpani , Akpabuyo and Akamkpa local government areas even extending all the way to the Bak a ssi Peninsula in the Came r oons. However, Calabar, the c apital city of Cross River State remains the ancestral homestead of the Efiks . Covered in verdant rainforest , mangrove swamps and surrounded by many rivers and creeks, the city of Calabar enjoys a temperate climate all year round, little wond er its inhabitants eke out a livelihood from aquaculture and agriculture. Inci dentally , the river plays a dominant role in the l iv e s of the Efiks , for not o nly is it the habitat of their N dems (marine deities of female colony ), it is also, the mainstay of their economy ( majority of her oil wells are off shore) and the river essentially featu res largely in almost all of their orature. at perpetuating the vitality of the community (Bakary Traore, 13). when translated means waterpot in Efik language, is an indigenous performance which seeks to extol the importance of the sea / water. Fundamentally , A bang is a large and round is h ear then ware or plastic vessel used primarily for the storage of water or palm wine in every Efik homestead.
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1124 II. ORIG IN AND DEVELOPMENT OFABANG DANCE A lot of Efik folktales, le gend s , dramas, songs and stories have it that, whenever the N dems were appeased , they appeared and disappeared on the river surface, often times caught dancing beautifully on the surface of the river . Of course, these revered mermaids never danced in full glare of anyone , albeit, female acolytes of the N dem cult and several E fik maidens of old, allegedly claim that while going to fe tch water or offer sacrifices in the river, had stumbled upon dancing mermaids on the river surface . In an interview with Rita Okon – Eyo, a former Abang dancer, she admit s that the N dems dance gracefully on the river surface, in f act , their dance is of a serpentine nature, for their body movements appeared to be in sync with the waves of the sea . Okon – E yo explained to the researcher that the women or the female worshippers of the Ndem, who espied this spectacle on the river bank , in an attempt to co mmunicate and relate with the supernatural naturally, attempted a re – enactment of what they had witnessed as a form of adoration to the marine deities. None theless, this religious dance grew to become more than a ritual at the river bank to a scintillating performance at the village square. In any case, it is believed that as the maidens made their way home, they naturally engaged in this serpentine dance with their water pots securely balanced on the head. Of course, to dance with a pot o requires a great level of skill, grace and art which ideally was perfected after many mishaps. However, dancing with a pot laden with water did not deter the se maidens from flaunting their mermaid – like dance steps during moonlit gatherings or when the occasion warranted . As such, they continually tested out their new dance steps in the village square , the market place and at marriage ceremonies . Moves that were not humanly possible were altered and r eplac ed with femin i ne danc e moves, but the sole intent remained that of communion and worship . Amaury Talbot affirm s that out of the dance, but was there first and the dance was an artistic means to communicate with the N dems. Although, as with any oral performance , t he maidens a dded colour and glamour to their ritualistic performance by experimenting with whatever household item (s) they could place on their head. Items such as baskets, gourds, lanterns, pitchers, calabashes, trays, and mortars were lavishly ornamented and used to exp ress delight and celebrate the ir Ndem s . However, over time, the damsels settled for the waterpot (abang) and the tray (akpan). And only skilled pe rfor mers were allowed to carry the Abang and the A kpan , whilst others danced around them in a circle . For this reason, the A bang dance performance is otherwise known as Abang ye A kpan Ekomo Iba. respectively. H ence, A bang became a quasi – trado – religious dance for the womenfolk and popular E kombi songs Nta nta eyen mi Otop eyop mkpe esa Idem mi eye ye were all co – opted for its performance. ( Ekombi is a popular recreational dance of the Efik women) . O ther folk songs , shouts of ululations and worship songs were also created on the spur of the moment . At the time, t here was neither set costumes nor a definite choreography so the women danced until they became tipsy and vulgar and eventually dispersed. A pparently , being a marine dance or a performance whose source can be traced to the river or the river goddess es , its efficacious benefit was not lost on the Efiks as theatre scholar, Uwemedimo Iwoketok rightly was associated with fecundity, therefore women espec ially the pregnant and barren patronized them (abangdancers ) This wa s so, because one of the most renowned Efik goddesses , Anansa w as the sole giver of children. Etop Akwang corroborates that ; archetypal mother of children in Efikland . Therefore, A bang was no t onlyfor entertainment purposes , but was also meant to secure the man y blessings of the supernatural. However , in the early nineteenth century, Abang ritualistic hold began to decline , for Ndem worship became outclassed by the rapidly growing Christian values and beliefs propagated by the Scottish missionaries . As such , quite a number of Abang dancers who were also fervent acolytes at the Ndem shrine converted to the Judeo – Christian rel igion and subsequently reinvented the original essence of the dance. Abang became a dance form targeted at the public for entertainment; it had no doubt lost its religious purpose of veneration to the marine deities. Its shift from ritual to secular corrob orates with Ossie it is outside its original context or when the belief that sustains it has lost its potency This is not to say that , A bang performance does not retain vestiges of its ritua listic base it still does as demonstrated in its songs and its movements. However, it was during the mid – 5 0s through the 7 0s that Aban g began to have a definite form i.e. stylized floor
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1125 patterns , choreography and dance sequences. It became a pleasurable an d an informal forum for grooming adol escent girls about Efik culture , acceptable values, feminine graces and creativity. Th us, Abang was regarded as a means of indoctrinating younger girls into understanding Efik cultural epistemology. Obviously, the o lder women were preoccupied with this responsibility , serving dutifully as transmitters of Efik lore and wisdom . And so, Abang grew to become a dance competition amongst young girls from different ufok ( extended families ) , who would often move from house to house to display their skills and in turn be rewarded with monetary gifts or food items by their patrons. It was at this point that uniformed costumes and accessories were introduced, primarily for the purpose of identifying each group. The number of da ncers was fixed to about fourteen the Abang carrier and thirteen others in attendance, and of course, a handful of smaller children who made up the orchestra. Ekombi songs still held sway then as it is now , however, as it was during the period of independence , patriotic songs were composed, one of such was Abang Nigeria . F urthermore, f rom t he late 90s on, Abang evolved to assume a place in theatrical performance s , as evidenced in its appearances at carnivals, international and national concerts, cultural fest ival s etc . with a well – trained troupe of adult women and men, not necessarily of Efik origin. In all , Abang is clearly recreational and is characteristically performed during the customary Nkugho / Ndo rites (fattening room and marriage ceremonies ),Emana Jesus (Christmas holidays ) , burial ceremonies and conferment of Chieftaincy titles in parts of Cr oss River and Akwa Ibom State s. III. LITERATURE REVIEW As stated earlier, little critical attention has been paid to the literary stylistics of the Efik Abang danc e. Onyile Onyile in Ideals of the examination of the multidimensionality of the Abang 2). As such, his work is br oad spectrum capturing the modalities of space, rhythm and unity, alongside the artistry of costumes, the feminity and sexuality of the Abang cult . H is explication dynamic form, its narrated content and conceptual meaning , indicates a literary style, albeit a closer look locates it more as a socio – cultural approach. Nonetheless, his contribution remains one of the most recent and significant essays on Abang Dance. Yet another effort which deserves atte ntion is that of Iwoketok, although her pape of passage of the female child in the Ibibio – Annang locale, she no doubts dedicates a section of her work to the Abang performance. For Iwoketok, A bang is a quasi – dramatic pubescent dance that extols the virtues of purity, chas t ity and contentment as revealed through its song texts, dance step s a nd costumes. Although, Iwo k etok discusses Abang as oral literature alright, her approach differs significantly from the present wo rk as this resear ch interrogates Abang indepthly and from the instrumentality of an afrocentric theory, which has been delineated in the next section. IV. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Ethnodramati cs is an afrocentric theory which has been adopted for this study. As its name implies, it is ethnic centered, geared primarily for the interpretation of African indigenous performative arts. Propounded by Ndubuisi Osuagwu and Uwem Affiah in 2012, Ethnodramatics as a theory aims at identifying and interpreting the defini ng characteristics of indigenous African drama. Outlining these characteristics to be Dance, Costumes, Symbols and Symbolisms, Mime, Songs, Music, Make – Up and Gestures , Osuagwu and Affiah make us understand in their treatise, ory for indigenous African Drama , that Ethnodramatics calls for a decentered dramatics which views and reads the indigenous drama of hus , unlike Western theories, Ethnodra matics pays close attention to the arti stic components of the oral performance in order to arrive at its meaning , purpose or function.In the same vein, songs, dances, folklore, (4). And this is the thrust of Ethnodramatics, for through its critical interrogation of traditional aesthetic devices it elucidates African cultural epistemology. Thus, the four dramatic characteristics of Ab a ng that the paper amply discusses are dance, costumes and make – up, songs and music, symbols and symbolisms. COSTUME, ACCESSORIES AND MAKE – UP OF THE ABANG TROUPE T he Efiks decorate themselves lavishly for their dances, masquerade performances and carnivals. Colourful and expensive fabri cs made of silk, damask, velveteen , cotton or brocade are often adorned by Efik performers during any festive outing. So, the Abang performance is no exception,
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1126 for each member of the Abang dance troupe is extravagantly adorned from head to toe. In the table below are the costumes used for the realization of its performance. EFIK NAME ENGLISH EQUIVALENT Nkwa esit iton Beaded Choker Ekari iton Short neck cape Ofong idem Camisole Ekpa nku nkwa C riss – crossing chest beads Ofong ukod anwan/Atia e Waist wrapper/Mini skirt Okpono Broad waist band Akasi Hoop Ofong Akasi Hoop wrapper Anana Ubok Wool l y arm and wrist bands Ndom Camwood chalk Nkparetim Jingling bells for the shin Nyok Anklets Ibot Abang Water pot crown Ibot Akpan Tray/Basket crown Mbobo Ibot Abang & Ibot Akpan Scarves for decorating the waterpot/tray Ntang Peacock f eathers Ukudiso Mirrors Edisad Combs Typically, an Abang performan ce has a dance crew of ten to twelve maidens , excluding its dr ummers. The star dancer is the A bang carrier, she carries the Ibot Abang on her head. The I bot Abang is a round frame securely attached to the waterpot.It is fes tooned with several headscarves (mbobo ibot abang) and feathers (ntang) which n ot only add colour to the paraphernalia , but when tugged at or pulled by its carrier, creates exciting effects. The abang (waterpot shaped like a pitcher ) which lies atop the frame is also decorated lavishly with mirrors, fabrics and feathers. Mirrors have always been a major accessory of Efik feminine dances, as it is an object of divination as well as a make – up item for women . In any case, the tiny mirrors attached to the waterpot serves ornamental purpose as it glints off light during the performance. Originall y, a lantern was placed on the Ibot A bang for the same effect. Going further, the s tar dancer , like all the other dancers, wears a beaded choker (nkwa esit itong) around her neck. The beads are a bright orange colour and are gotten from sea corals . These coral beads no doubt symbolize royalty and the wealth of the Ndem as well as the Efiks . Around her bosom, she wears a loose fitting camisole(ofong idem), on top of which are the long criss – crossing beads (ekpa nku nkwa) that drop from h er neck acro ss both sides of her ribs. It is worthy to note that originally, nothing was worn on the upper part of the body except the heavily patterned neckcape and the breasts were in full view. This was so because nudity was a reflection of aesthetics and well – bei ng amongst Efik maidens. Ekei Essien Oku confirms that IFERI (band of naked girls) However, as a result of westernization , a camisole is do n ned . known as akasi and is made from cane. The akasi actually has two rings, the inner ring which fits closely around the with its larger circumference encircles the inner one. Invariably, the two hoops are kept in place by cane rods sewn in a zig – zag fashion to hold them together. D raped loosely over the akasi frame is the ofong akasi, a long fabric that covers the entire frame right down to the ankles of the dancer. H owever, strewn across its wide perimeter are some carefully folded silk and velveteen materials which gives an air of aesthetic appeal . Around her arms and wrists, the danc er ties patterned woolly bands ( anana ubok), and on her shins are the nkparetim whic h are hidden under the ofong akasi. The nkparetim are quite a lot like shinguards albeit made of velvet and cross – stitched with little bells and jingles. Their primary function is that of musical instrumentation. Similarly, encircling one ankle is a string of ankle – rattles (nyok) . The nyok is made of dry seeds and serves same purpose as the nkparetim. All A bang performers dance barefoot. They have their hair woven in three braids – one braid in front and the other two tucked neatly behind. This M mong – mmong idet decked with brass combs . (edisad). For their facial make – up, animal figures, symbolic shapes or patterns from the natural milieu are beautifully designed with camwood on their foreheads , nose and cheeks. It is common to find such designs of reptiles, twigs, wavy lines These designs ar e highly significant as they go beyond mere aesthetic s to depict the efficacious potency of the Efik marine spirits. As mentioned earlier, Abang is a w ater dance affiliated with the N dem. Thus, the application of camwood/ white clay chalk signifies the spiritual purity and loyalty of the dancers to the N dem cult. Moreso, the camwood mixture serves as a body coolant during the dance performance.
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1127 usually darkened with kohl and they wear a bright coloured red lipstick to enhance their lips. In essence, this is a vivid costume description of the Abang carrier. If the performance includes an Akpan carrier, she is dressed likewise, albeit the Ibot Abang is swapped for the Ibot Akpan (a rectangular cane tray).The other eight dancers are in attend ance to the star dancers, and so are not as elaborately costumed. However, the eight of them are uniformly dressed with similar coloured chokers, a neckcape, arm and wrist bands and a flimsy camisole which exposes the mid – section . They neither carry the abang (waterpot) no r wear the hoop around their waist, rather they tie a short loin cloth around their waists, and on their shins are the nkparetim. The members of the orchestra are usually of the opposite gender and they adorn the Efik traditional attire, complete with the Efik beaded velveteen cap and beaded footwear. SONG TEXTS AND DRUM POETICS IN ABANG Man is an expressive being and the song mode is just one of the countless arti stic avenues through which his energies are released . vocal participation, the physical manipulation of instruments and the rhythmic or dance movements Therefore, Abang rel ies chiefly on Ekombi songs and drum poetics for the realization of its performance. Drum Poetics simply refers to the language/ tones communicated through musical instruments. Accordingly, I instrument is a musical instrument that makes sounds ). As such, t he A bang orchestra consists of a plethora of these tone instruments which int erestingly reproduces Efik word s . the Hence the beauty of these tone instruments are amply demonstrated in performance. Below are some musical instrumentation in Abang. The Talking drum (E yara ekomo): this comes in different sizes and shapes. It produces a mild treble tone and offers cues to the dancers. The Slit drum (Umon ekomo): this is a large cylindrical drum with two square openings at the top, when struck at, produces the heavy bass tones. The Metal gong (Nkong ekomo): these are of two varieties the large conical shaped one that prod uces just one tone and the twin gong that produces two tones albeit smaller in size. Rattles(Nyok) this is constructed from a dried out gourd with beaded netting. It is shaped like an hour glass and produces a rattling effect when shaken. Some others are t he nati ve piano, maracas, castanets, cymbals etc . The importance of drums in Africa cannot be before any traditional dance commences, the drums are firs t heard. This is done firstly to invoke the supernatural , secondly to draw attention and thirdly to prepare dancers for the performance. In Abang, it is the Eyara ekomo that is first heard. It begins with such lowly sounds that says ; Tebede! Tebede this is a get ready call, dousing all anxieties and fears that the dancers may be experiencing. Then still in lowly tones, it appears to be saying Nsiongo ndek ke eyen fo e discharge from your eyes and just get ready . Negede ofong fo your cloth. At this point, the throbbing language is approaching its peak, and the other musical instruments join in to heighten the urgency of the call . H owever, throughout the performance, the talking drum can be heard distinctly over the other accompaniments and choruses, for it gives the dancers t heir cues and continuously cheers them when it Sio ke aba edem Dong ekete sun isin ! D a ga da K i song In any case , several Ekombi or Efik folksongs are sung during the performance. Although these songs are often short in length, the y are no less evocative of Efik traditional beliefs and worldview . Stylistically couched in harmonious melody, proverbial sayings, repetitions, riddles and euphemisms these songs are not only pleasant to the ears, but compelling enough to provoke dancing. Below is a short interpretation of some son gs rendered in an Abang performance: Eswana eda Fill the space Enek A bang Dance Abang This song projects the entertainment value of Abang, as it admonishes both spectators and dancers to make merry, dance Abang and celebrate life. Ndada nsonkpo ndoro udi a What do I use to serve food Nno ebe mi? For my husband?
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1128 Okpokoro mi obung ukot My table has a broken leg . This song is couched in form of a riddle. It is also very waist – the hoop around her w aist as it is large enough to serve as a table. Moreso, Efik women are generally known to be wide – waisted, as a result of their fattening room practices (nkugho). Therefore, this song suggests or points at the voluptuous figure of Efik women. Another s ong text popularly sung in the A being referred to is the peacock, which is of particular significance to the Efiks for its feathers (ntang) are used as decorative a ccessories during traditional marriages , Ekpe performances , chieftaincy titles and in E fik dances. It is important to note that its feathers are used to ador n the ibot abang and ibot akpan in Abang. Another song text goes: Mmen kpe tear tear Do I sit? Mmen kpe nana Do I prostrate? Mbong akam To worship Obong sosongo God thank you Clearly this is a song of worship , supplication and thanksgiving that expr esses gratitude to the ndem perhaps for the provision of children, a bountiful harvest or a health y life. Mkpo mi T his thing (A bang dance) O to ke ekpuk is a heritage Uso iyeneke Your father does not own it Uka iyeneke Your mother does not own it T he song text above seeks to extol the Abang dance as a cultural heritage communally owned by the entire community. It reit erates the fact that even though it has no authorship it isgenuinely Efik in all entirety . Thus, as depicted above, these folk songs exalt and uphold Efik worldview. DANCE DRAMATICS AND SYMBOLISM IN ABANG akak edem ikakke itong, akak itong, itong obungo this s aying encapsulates the movement of the entire body during an Abang dance. In any case, the A bang simply refers to four rhythmic counts observed by the dancers, and upon the fourth count, they turn towards the right all lined up in a single file. The attendant girls lead the procession gleefully smiling , they are closely followe d by the star dancers and the orchestra who bring up the rear . Because A bang songs are fast paced and energe tic, the dancers virtually come running unto the arena singing the ent okom kom iya ya . With their palmsoutstretched, albeit interchangeably cupped and recupped in each other, the y enact the step , calling on the spectators to attend to their performance whilst forming a circle . But the major dance movement exhibited during the entry is the Ekombi dance. The star dancers take their place at the centre until the greeting song is changed. Once this ha ppens, the dancers arc their elbows like a bird in position for flight, and allowing their wrists drop freely to their front, turn their bodies partially to the left this is the first count, then to the right; which is the second count, then to the l eft again, being the third. But, at the fourth count, they turn fully to the right in a rapid motion, that is dif ferent from the half slow turns of the previous counts. This is the four beat count, that precedes Efik feminine dances. With their wrists still da ngling freely in front of th em, the dancers incline their back forward with knees slightly bent, do a swift jump to the left and then to the right till they are able to break into two parallel lines. Then at a cue from the talking drum – ki song own, moving their trunks in a serpent – like motion, in and out, all the way back up. When the beat changes again, they break into a semi – circular formation, and gradually lift up a foot, shake it vigorously before stamping it and engage in a mock run. Their elbows are still arced in front of them and the star dancers always take centrestage. Immediately the music changes , they revert to the four be at count before they engage in the next dance sequence. This time, they tip their back slightly forward and shake their waists vigo rously, then begin to go down tosquatting position, then gradually rise till they are virtually standing on tip toes. All the while their trunks are moving inwards and outwards and their arched arms are swaying to the left and to the right. At the peak of the performance, the attendant girls form a curved line and the star dancers move to the centre and pretend to engage in a mo ck competition – each performing intricate and complicated movements of rapidly strutting, twisting, spinning, twirling, nodding wriggling their trunks, scrapping feet, tugging at their headscarves and shaking their enlarged waist. Symbolically, these move ments exude a fascinating appeal that can only be ascribed to the marine spirits or the underworld. Whilst the star dancers display these trance like sequences , the attendant girls continue grac efully with the
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International Journal of English, Literature and Social Science (IJELS) Vol – 4, Issue – 4, Jul Aug 2019 https://dx.doi.org/10.22161/ijels.44 3 3 ISSN: 2456 – 7620 www.ijels.com Page | 1130  Traore, Bakary. The Black African Theatre and its Social Functions. (translated by Dapo Adelugba). Ibadan: Ibadan UP, 1972.  , Ngugi . Homecoming. London: Heinemann, 1972.  Warren, Lee. The Theatre of Africa: An Introduction. Englewood: Cliffs, 1975. Interviewees and informants 1. Ansa Asuquo Seventy – two years old. From Eniong Abatim. Former Abang Dancer and Teacher 2. Rita Okon – Eyo Eighty years old. From Adiabo, Okurikang. She was an A bang carrier in her youth
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