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Monday, November 9, 2009

We Got Featured!!!!

The Ndebe Project is featured this week on African Digital Art as part of the fourth installment of their African Weekly Inspiration.

Click the screenshot to visit our feature

A big thank to African Digital Art for featuring us, and thank you to everyone that loves and supports the Ndebe Project.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Scripters Needed!!

The Ndebe Project is looking for Scripters - people to test the script. It's very easy and takes very little time. Every couple of days a short list of words to be transcribed will be posted and we would like Scripters to transcribe the list and scan or take photos of their writing and post them in the group gallery along with feedback about the process. We would like to see how well other people are able to write with the script and the feedback helps in making adjustments. The project is as you know, totally open source so there is no compensation for Scripting (but there's no compulsion to script either) but we appreciate all the help we get and promise to express our gushing thanks to those who volunteer small portions of their time to Script.

If you'd like to Script please let us know either in the comments here or on the group page on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

History 1: Meet your (very recent) Ancestors

The following pictures are of two Igbo women in different traditional Igbo attire. The first is of an Igbo woman wearing the huge Igbo ankle plates that were very fashionable at the time, a torque, a short wrapper and a head scarf. Notice also the mbubu marks that run down the middle of her torso and on her arms. These marks are raised scar bumps that are made on a girl either right before or right after she is pregnant for the first time.

The huge ankle plates deliberately overlap in order to give the woman a rolling gait when she walks which is of course, more attractive. At the time, girls were so crazy about them (and the effect they had on men) that they wouldn't take them off, and many fashionable young Igbo girls would even sleep with their legs hanging off the bed just so they could keep them on at all times!

Also, covering the breasts is optional in traditional Igbo society. Girls and women could wear tops or they might choose not to. It was entirely up to the personal discretion of the individual and public display of the breasts was not frowned upon at all.

In the second picture below, a young girl is dressed in all her finery for her wedding. She is wearing a beautiful woven hat with a line of coral beads coming down the middle and ending in a loop across her forehead, a necklace, bracelets and armbands, coral jigida (waist beads) around her waist, anklets, leg bands, and of course, a huge ivory bracelet to denote her exulted status as a bride. In her right hand she carries an intricately carved wooden staff and in her left hand she carries a horse tail whisk. She is also wearing a waist cloth (ogodo) that passes between her legs and hangs on the other side to cover her privates and buttocks. This young lady hasn't had her mbubu done yet but will when she has her first child.
What is fascinating about these pictures is that both of them were taken in 1922. Most Igbo people have no idea that this is the real traditional Igbo dress because Igbo children are not taught about their ancestors in school. In fact, it is very rare to be taught about anything in Nigerian history that happened before 1960.

The fact that these photographs were taken in 1922 is extremely significant because it shows that most of Igbo traditional culture was still preserved and highly pervasive as recently as the 1920s and 1930s before the missionaries and the colonists managed to wipe it out.

Now a lot of people when they think of traditional Igbo attire immediately think of something like this:

What most people don't realise is that these clothes are fashions that have arisen as a result of European influence in Nigeria during colonialism and especially in Eastern Nigeria where most Igbo people are because of the extensive activities of the Catholic Missionaries who weren't exactly fond of bare breasts.

Most of the fabrics used in so-called 'traditional' Igbo clothing today isn't even Igbo in origin. Igbo fabrics will be discussed in more detail in future 'History' posts on The Ndebe Project.

What does this mean for you? If your grandparent was born in 1912, they would have been 10 years old when this picture was taken and they would be 97 today. That means that quite a number of the people that were born or that were children during this time are still alive today. If you're lucky a grandparent (or a great grandparent if you're fortunate to have one) might still remember stunning and precious details about their childhood especially the aspects that have almost been destroyed by westernization such as traditional Igbo dress, and certain customs.

Have fun mining your grandparents, great grandparents and those of your friends for information!! You'll be surprised and delighted at what you find!

The original photos can be found here (along with the date taken):

Friday, July 31, 2009

Writing 1: Basic Forms


In order to write in Igbo there are 11 basic forms you must master.

All the consonants are made up of two parts:


The radicals are joined to the stems by a horizontal bar, like so:

The following video demonstrates writing the basic forms that make up the script:

Different consonants are formed by combining different stems and radicals.
The chart below shows how to do this, and can be used as a reference when reading.

The consonants in the chart are grouped according to STEM. Each horizontal stem line represents a sound group.


Vowels on the other hand have to be memorized. Since vowels are used so frequently in Igbo you should have very little trouble becoming familiar with the vowels with practice. There are eight vowels in Igbo broken into three sub-groups:

  • High-Tone vowels
  • Mid-Tone vowels
  • Low-Tone vowels

Please refer to Lesson1 for the video on how to pronounce the letters

Why Ndebe?

The old Igbo alphabet has 36 letters while the Igbo alphabet under the Ndebe system has 52 letters.

This is because unlike the Roman alphabet which was never designed for Igbo anyway, the Ndebe alphabet has been specifically designed for the Igbo language and accounts for vowel tones which the Roman alphabet does not.

Because this new Igbo alphabet assigns a different letter to each vowel tone, comprehension is exponentially increased when reading. Many Igbo speakers and writers often forget to indicate vowel tones when writing Igbo as they are not used to doing this with English (which is written with the same roman alphabet). This creates confusion as a single word in Igbo can have numerous meanings depending on its tone. If the author of the text that you are trying to read is not readily available, you may be stuck wondering whether the 'akwa' you see means bed, cloth, tears, or bridge.

The Ndebe system does away with this problem entirely and strictly limits the use of tone marks to the very few consonants that occasionally need them.

Also, because the Ndebe writing system is strikingly different from the roman system, it puts the user in a completely different mindset when reading or writing. A mindset that is purely Igbo.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Read Me

Hello everyone, this is the preliminary post before I start putting up the proper material from the Igbo Academy and the Ndebe Project.

I hope everyone will enjoy using this blog to learn and I want everyone to understand that language is a group process. Language is all about communication so the aim of this blog is for Igbo speakers to FINALLY be able to communicate EFFECTIVELY through the Igbo language by introducing some much needed structure to our existing language.

I hope that everyone that uses this site will try to use some of the lessons learned here in their everyday speech, and I believe that if we all resolve to apply the same rules to our Igbo then we will eventually be able to communicate effectively.

The whole point of language is to help you put the picture in your head in another persons head so they can see the same picture you see. Until now Igbo hasn't been able to do that very well because a lot of the Igbo language is far too vague. (e.g. the use of mmili in the following ways - Mili - water, mili - lake, mili - stream, and they all have the same tone. It won't work)

Maybe our ancestors were able to communicate with Igbo as it is now because they didn't have the things we have now and they didn't venture very far from their own land anyway, but today we need NEW, UNIQUE DESCRIPTORS and simply trying to spread the meaning of the same word over too many things just won't work. (e.g. Akwukwo = leaf, book, school, education } a.k.a. perfect recipe for confusion)

In plain English. We are going to make up words. Yes, we will make up new words wherever there are none. We shall not resort to the tomfoolery of borrowing words from English (e.g. Bisa = Visa } Hausa language or Ofisa = Officer} Igbo language) We will do this according to the rules of Igbo grammar, and all our words shall be IGBO.

All languages are made up of words that individual members of the group made up in their heads and taught to the others and as such any words we come up with here should be regarded as authentic Igbo words. And please don't argue that some other people might not use the same word: God knows we need synonyms in Igbo.

Another important thing that you should know as a user or reader of this blog is that all lessons and examples will be in Anambra Igbo.

This is because:

  • There is unity in diversity. (It is important for Igbo speakers to become familiar with other Igbo dialects so learning Igbo in Anambra Igbo will help you become familiar with another dialect)

If you're not clear on anything please leave questions in the comments section. Ask and you shall receive.

Please do not claim the Igbo Academy or the Ndebe Project is not orthodox, authentically Igbo or anything else. I am Igbo, this is Igbo, therefore everything here is 100% Igbo. Your Igbo is not always my Igbo but if you're Igbo then you already know that.

Sweet, let's get to work.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome to the Ndebe Project


Hopefully you have found yourself here because of your interest in the Igbo language, the Igbo people, and our amazing culture. If you have never even heard the word Igbo before now that's okay. You're welcome too.

The Ndebe project is an ongoing development of a new writing system for the Igbo language. Igbo is a beautiful melodious language that is mostly oral although it can be written down using the existing English alphabet (with a few modifications of course). Unfortunately, increasing disinterest in Igbo of native Igbo speakers due to its general uselessness in the shadow of English is threatening the very survival of our language.

If Igbo dies out, one of the most beautiful languages in history will be lost to the world forever. For our language to survive it must be relevant. For our language to be relevant it must expand. For our language to expand it must be written down. And for our language to be written down, people must think it is worth writing down.

Many Igbo people have no use for Igbo outside their homes because the technology and circumstances in the world today have surpassed that which our language is able to describe. For those that do not know, that is what language is; description. Igbo cannot be relevant unless we can name every thing under the sun in our own language, not with words borrowed from English which grows ever bigger because it is not shy to make up new words as it needs them. The limited use of Igbo orally is compounded by the fact that written Igbo is so similar to English and so affected by its oral handicap that the modern Igbo speaker encounters nothing but frustration when trying to relay their daily activities in Igbo. Some people don't even bother anymore.

We're here to change their minds. We're here to change YOUR mind.

The Ndebe script is a new writing system designed exclusively for Igbo with the needs of Igbo speakers and hopeful Igbo writers in mind.
  • It is visually distinctive from English eliminating any possibility of confusion with sounds that have been previously associated with English letters.
  • It's interesting to look at. Pretty letters make a happy writer! :D
  • It's economical. It reduces the length of all words by the total number of vowels in each word! Shorter words mean faster, happier writers!
  • It provides a single letter for each of the bilabial implosive sounds (gb, gw, etc) as is proper since these are individual sounds.
  • It is mostly cursive which gives writers greater flexibility when exploring other uses for written Igbo such as calligraphy
  • It accomodates all dialects of Igbo and promotes writing of YOUR own dialect.
  • The Ndebe writing system is embracive of the Nsibidi script and the Ndebe project is developing the Nsibidi script into a full logographic shorthand that can be used to pass secret messages! :D (Love notes anyone?)

Igbo is a great language spoken by millions of people and for too long it has suffered under the limiting clutches of the Latin alphabet. Igbo deserves its very own writing system, and the Ndebe writing system is the first truly Igbo complete writing system in history.

This blog will be continuously updated with Ndebe writing lessons, tutorial videos, learning aids, etc as well as discussion and updates on the expansion of Igbo (with your input of course).
It's time to fall in love with Igbo again