Friday, June 27, 2014

Èkpé and Abakua with Chief Dr. Ivor Miller, Asukuo Ukpong and Roman Diaz.

In recent radio show here in New York I had the opportunity to broadcast from the home of Afro Cuban master drummer  Mr. Roman Diaz. We sat down with Chief Dr. Ivor Miller, Asukuo Ukpong, Pan-Africanist, architect and scholar, to discus the nature and context of select Calabar Highlife and urban styles of Cuban Son that feature Èkpé and Abakuá themes. Click on the links below to hear the programs. You may also download the archive if you like.

 Tuve la dicha de transmitir dos programas con ilustres maestros de las sociedades Èkpé y Abakuá, reunidos en  casa del maestro Roman Diaz, para llevar a la luz la raiz y el contexto de temas culturales dentro del genero Highlife de Calabar y el Son urbano de Cuba. Escuchemos la influencia del Èkpé y el Abakuá, respectivamente, llevado por custodios de la cultura como eran Ekpe Ita y Ignacio Piñeiro. Dos generos tan importante en la cultura popular en ambos lados del atlantico. El Embakara, Dr. Ivor Miller de la Universidad de Calabar y el señor Asukuo Ukpong del Calabar, junto a el maestro Roman Diaz, hablaran con mucha profundidad sobre este tema  para todos aquellos que aman esta cultura, llevenadola siempre a los niveles mas altos de la esfera socio-cultural.

Abasi menguame,

 Onel Mulet

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Abakúa day in Miami Florida. Jan. 6 2013.

This is a brief depiction of an Abakúa masquerade portrayed by Angel Guerrero Aberiñan Itia Mukanda. Members ,from most if not all of Cuba's Abakúa potencias (lodges), exiled in Miami are present at this gathering which happens once a year in commemoration of Colonial Cuba's Three Kings Day processions. During this day of celebration all the Cabildos, Potencias, Ile's and various mutual aid societies would bring out their finest regalia, drummers, dancers and chanters in order to win favor with the Governor who would then bestow upon their respective nation group the Aguinaldo( gift of gold coins)which they would  each in turn use to buy the freedom of their enslaved compatriots.

 The Dia de Reyes(Three Kings Day)celebration was suppressed after the abolition of slavery in Cuba. The Abakúa day tradition is a way of maintaining those values of fraternity alive. The Cuban's combination of  innovation and  orthodoxy in regard to their Èkpé traditions has ensured the survival of the seed planted in Cuba by Qua, Ejagham, Efut and Efik people over 500 years ago. The fact that it does not exist in the U.S., in it's ritual context, is insignificant when you consider that these traditions remain in the hearts and souls of men who, wherever they may go, continue to remain true to the vows they took on the day of their initiation, upholding Bongo Itá. I would like to extend special thanks to Angel Guerrero Aberiñan Itia Mukanda, and all the ekobios present on that day for welcoming me and allowing me to partake in the contagious joy.

Asere Nunkue, Okobio Eyenison
Abasi Menguame,

Onel Mulet  for The Voice of The Leopard.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cuban and Cameroon Ékpè in DC

 This past weekend has been an important one for Abakuá and Ékpè members alike.  Here are images and music from all the encounters between Cuban Abakuá Roman Diaz and Angel Guerrero accompanied by a song they learned from Sisiku Assám Assám .  In just a little while Dr. Ivor Miller will be presenting his talk as Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian museum. We are very grateful to Dr. Johnnetta Cole and all the staff at the National Museum of African Art. Soon I will post more video and pictures of the events following Chief Dr. Ivor Millers talk.

Abasi Menguame,

Onel Mulet
for The Voice of The Leopard.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Senior Smithsonian Fellow Chief (Dr.) Ivor Miller Presents.....

                           November 25th Event with Cameroon Èkpé and Cuban Abakuá

Monday 27 August at 2:00pm at the Smithsonian Institution's NMAfA’s Lecture Hall

950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560
For Directions Click Here<>

Chief (Dr.) Ivor Miller will present new research on Cross River civilizations and their manifestations in the Diaspora. Also featured are the music and masquerades of both Cameroon Ékpè and Cuban Abakuá. Musicians 'Román' Díaz, Ángel Guerrero  with NY based musician, composer Onel Mulet will participate.
For centuries, the Ékpè ‘leopard’ society of the Cross River region in southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon was the supreme institution of governance that also embodied esoteric teachings about the life-cycle. African migrants in colonial Cuba recreated Ékpè in the early 1800s to protect members in a slave society and to gain their freedom. They called it Abakuá, after the Àbàkpà community of Calabar, Nigeria. During this process, Abakuá scribes documented large portions of their cultural history in 19th century manuscripts. Hidden from outsiders until recently, this little-known ‘people’s history’ is being shared with West African cultural leaders who are using it to understand their own pre-colonial traditional institutions and arts.

With reference to photographs in the NMAfA collections, Chief (Dr.) Ivor Miller will present key themes of this story with the support of traditional intellectuals as well as musicians and dancers from Cameroon and Cuba. The foci will be on trans-Atlantic cultural identities, symbols of ‘universal motherhood’, and the functions of ‘life-giving’ drums. The role of the Museum as a link between continental Africans and African-descendants in the USA to explore their legacies in the arts will be addressed. Traditional chiefs from Cameroon who live in the Washington D.C. region will participate.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ntongho Eyang Ékpè

In November, 2011 several Ékpè leaders from Cameroon gave a certificate of recognition to their Cuban Abakua counterparts, that stated: “This is to certify that the title of Ntongho Eyang Ékpè has been awarded to the Cuban Ékpè, for their dedication towards the preservation, research and promotion of the Ékpè culture. On this day of October 17th, 2009. Signed Sisiku Emmanuel Ojong Orok.”

Ntongho Eyang Ékpè means ‘teacher of Ékpè’ in the Ejagham language of Nigeria and Cameroon.

The certificate had been created in response to the reunion of Cameroon Ékpè and Cuban Abakua at the CD release party for Eyenison Enkama at Joe’s Pub in NYC, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the two parties met again. The award was presented in the home and Ékpè lodge of Ékpè USA leader Sisiku Emmanuel Ojong Orok in Baltimore. It was received on behalf of all the Cuban Abakuá by Roman Diaz, who holds the title of Moni Bonko of Havana lodge Apapa Umon Ekori Tonko. For 200 years Cuban Abakua have preserved and maintained the traditions of their ancestors in Cuban Ékpè (Abakua) lodges spread throughout Havana and Matanzas. The very first Cuban lodge, called Efik Ebuton, was founded in the Havana neighborhood of Regla in the nineteenth century and was named after Obutong, an Ékpè lodge in Southeast Nigeria.

Roman Diaz is photographed here with Dr. Ivor Miller, Sisiku Philip Tazi (our gracious and most generous host), Sisiku Emmanuel Ojong Orock. This Ékpè ceremony commenced a week of activities with Ékpè U.S.A and Dr. Miller's talk "A Cultural History of Cross River Civilization" at the National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., where he is currently a Smithsonian Senior Fellow. Roman Diaz was a featured artist along with Cameroon Ékpè masquerades, who were all graciously welcomed with introductory remarks by the Museum’s Director, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chief Dr Ivor Miller and Chief (Mrs.) Anni Offiong on CRBC Television Calabar Nigeria 2012

 Chief Dr Ivor Miller and Chief (Mrs.) Anni Offiong on  CRBC Television Calabar Nigeria 2012

Part One

Part Two

Chief Dr. Ivor Miller talks about  the first ever Èkpé festival held in Cuba in May of 2011. In this interview he shares with us the significance of archives outside of Africa that preserve the rich, valuable history of Èkpé culture and displays rare late nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs of Old Calabar courtesy of the Eliot Elisofon photographic archives, National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C..  Chief Dr. Millers  exhaustive field work in Nigeria and Cameroon and his commitment to the culture allow him to shed  light on many important details about these rare photographs never before documented.

 I would also like to remind everyone that has not already purchased a copy of Chief Dr. Millers book " The Voice of The Leopard: African Secret Societies in Cuba(University of Mississippi Press)2009, you can now find it on paperback. The book describes Cross River and Èkpé history with great attention to  detail in the words of Chief Dr. Miller, elder Cuban Abakuá members and elder Èkpé men from the Cross River region.

Abasi Menguame,

Onel Mulet

for Ndibo Yeve Ngo

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dr. Ivor Miller On Greenpeace Radio Oct.3rd 2011

Dr. Ivor Miller On Greenpeace Radio Oct.3rd 2011

Kert Davies interviews Dr. Ivor Miller for Greenpeace Radio. He speaks about Afro Cuban culture and the environmental impact of a modern world on the forests of ancestral Èkpé lands in Nigeria and Cameroon. This is an uninterrupted version of the riginal Greenpeace radio podcast featuring the music of Arsenio Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, Enyenison Enkama and Victor Herrera. You will also hear a rare recording from Lydia Cabrera's archives later released on Smithsonian Folkways. Please enjoy.

Abasi Menguame,

Onel Mulet

for Ndibo Yevengo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nunkue Ayaya!! An Homage to the Morua!!!

In the deep heritage of Ekpé legend exists a perfectly balanced ritual lineage that preserves the richness of the Qua, Efik, Efut, and Ejagham. Wrapped in this womb are the traditions of the Ekpé societies and their sister Ndem societies. Careful stewards of both sides of the Kalunga line they are ensuring the survival of this profoundly rich cultural treasure trove for generations to come.

Last week thanks in great part to the generous help of Martin, Vivian, and Matt Cohen with the help of Javier Raez and Ben Baurer we were able to explore these very spiritual connections and pay homage to the Morua by joining the enormous talents and profound knowledge of both Maobong Oku and Roman Diaz in this piece so eloquently presented by Dr. Ivor Miller. Enjoy and thanks to all who have tuned in to Ene Ita's radio broadcasts with Dr. Miller and the re-broadcasts on Cuba Calabar Radio. More to come.

Abasi Menguame,

Onel Mulet

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sese Mariba Kondo:"The Voice That Comes From The Sea"

In April Enyenison Enkama performed a spectacular set at the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. The enthusiastic crowd received the group with love and admiration as it revealed the traditional Abakuá masquerade and sang songs of praise for their comrades, the ancestors and the traditions that were brought from Ekpé lands in southeast, Nigeria and southwest Cameroon. Our dear friend inventor, entrepreneur and professional photographer Martin Cohen captured these images posted on his blog. Cuban photographer Juan Caballero was there and captured these brilliant images. Cuban filmmaker and author Aristides Falcon also documented the event and video footage of the concert will be posted very soon. Download Ecobio Enyenison, the latest release by Enyenison Enkama(Roman Diaz, Angel Guerrero, Pedro Martinez) at the iTunes store.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ekpe Masquerade

I missed carnaval in Calabar this year, and this video reminds me of the stark majesty and power of Ekpe masquerades. The different Ekpe masquerades bring together the communities of the Cross river and it's diaspora year after year in honor of their common ancestors and Ekpe culture at large; transcending distance and time in the retelling of the founding traditions of Ekpe resonating with the voice.