Counterfoil Choices in the Kalabari Life Cycle


  • Nimi Wariboko


Kalabari ethnic identity is under enormous pressure as a result of modernization and Western influences. One Kalabari response to their exposure to foreign values, styles, cultural artifacts and ways of life has been to select, incorporate, and transform borrowed values, styles, and artifacts to create a new combination or ensemble uniquely identified as Kalabari. This process of adaptation has been described as cultural authentication (Erekosima and Eicher 1981,1995; Eicher 1997). In their studies, Erekosima and Eicher have focused only on the use of a limited number of material artifacts (such as textiles) to create and maintain ethnic identity. Kalabari have created clothing that separates them from their neighbors, “for items assembled from their history and the range of their trading contacts resulted in distinctive appearance” (Eicher 1997:231). Why the preference for distinctive appearance? Why are the Kalabari always tinkering with foreign artifacts in order to make themselves distinct from their Southern Nigerian neighbors? Why the deep preference for independence?