Ndébé [NEW]

Ńdébé is a modern writing system for the Ìgbò language. Invented by Lotanna Igwe-Odunze in 2009, the Ńdébé script incorporates ancient Ìgbò graphic designs into a contemporary syllabary.

“The vagaries of history, but British colonisation and missionary evangelism especially, suppressed the natural growth and development of Igbo as a language and a medium of expression and communication,” Lotanna Igwe-Odunze writes. “Long after Nigeria and Ìgbò people received independence, our language never caught up with the modern world…. Our language will never truly flourish until we write and read widely in Ìgbò.”

“The limitations of the Latin alphabet introduced by English are a well-known and deep source of frustration for everyone who has ever tried to read or write Ìgbò.”

The Latin alphabet, she argues, makes tone marking a chore, and does not fully cover the range of Ìgbò sounds, whereas Ńdébé has a built-in tone notation, and introduces a revolutionary method of visually representing the Ìgbò tones, covering the full range of Ìgbò phonemes by introducing characters for “the interchangeable Ìgbò sounds such as R/L, F/H, etc.”

Ńdébé pays homage to the old Nsibidi logographs, as well as Nwagu Aneke’s proto-script, but is a unique, original, but more importantly, functional creation. Nsibidi, she argues, while beautiful and significant, is severely impractical as a daily writing script and is better suited for decorative, symbolic, or religious purposes.

Ńdébé has 1174 characters, but only 97 of them need to be memorised to able to read and write Ìgbò competently.

T-shirt featuring the names of Igbo deities in the Ndébé script

9.0820° N, 8.6753° E