The Onyonyo outfit spells regality in every sense of the word. It is a known fact that our Efik brides from Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria do not play when it comes to displaying their cultural roots through dressing and style. Who wouldn’t be proud of such a royal, august and dignifying heritage? The Onyonyo is a Victorian Style dressing adopted by the women of old and modern Calabar. The prestigious outfit is greatly inspired by Mary Slessor, the young Scottish missionary prominent and popular for her works in infanticide especially stopping the killing of twins in the Calabar region of Nigeria in the 1800s.
Mary Slessor lived in Calabar. She learnt and spoke the language, also embracing the food and culture. She lived an exemplary live and was a role model to the Efik women who got inspired by her way of life and dressing. The Efiks refer to themselves as Mbakara, meaning white people. We often hear, “Efiks are white people”, not for race or the colour of their skin but their way of life and early exposure to the British Colonists, hence the phrase “Efik edi Mbakara”. Brides from Oron, Uruan, and Okobo regions in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria which was formerly Cross River State up until the 23rd of September,1987, also dress in the Onyonyo Outfit.
The Onyonyo is a long flowing gown, styled in different ways from the brides’ preferences to the designers’ artistic minds. It is usually worn with sophisticated accessories, the bride’s braided hair divided in five sections, the front, the sides, the obvious centre called “Etinghe” and the back, held together with golden combs. The back is styled such that each piece of comb is aligned as the braids flow down. The length of the back section is determined by the bride’s position in the family, the first daughter “Adiaha” always has the longest back section braids embedded in combs, all the way to the buttocks. The bride holds a long staff, with ruffles at the top and is adorned with beads or other complementary jewelries. In some cases they have a designed velvet scarf thrown over the shoulder, which could match the designs on the bride’s purse. The brides featured in this post totally dazzled in this monumental mode of dressing.