UBANG community which is surrounded by mountains in Obudu Local Government Area, Northern part of Cross River State, is a community where female and male inhabitants strangely speak separate languages. The testimony of this extraordinary development has been given by many visitors.
A lady was once asked why she can’t speak her husband’s language and her reply was swift; “Why should I speak the men’s language after God has considered it fit to give me my own language? When she was queried why women did not revolt and speak the same language with their male counterparts, her response was; “you will spend the entire week here if you decide to write all the words down because nearly all the words we speak are separate.” Stuffing her nose with snuff from her carefully-held snuff box, she said, “Women call stone ‘koka’, while their men call it ‘okai, we call shirt is ‘ariga’ while men call it Nki.
She added: “If a woman, no matter how old, begins to speak like a man, the women will laugh at her.”
Historical Background of the People of Ubang
One notable linguistic feature of the Ubang community is the presence of two separate speech varieties spoken distinctly by men and women. Infact, one local myth has linked their origin to then Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. According to this myth, the variation noticed in their language is as a result of the curse laid by God as covered in the story.
Fable has it that while sons of men were building a tower in their attempt to reach God’s abode, God frustrated their effort by waving them into confusion and misunderstanding. They were cursed to distinctly begin to speak different languages that they may not understand one another anymore. Eventually, the sons of man were not able to complete their mission leading to the Tower collapsed. This story which has been cited all over the world is believed by locals to be the very same origin of language confusion at Ubang and the allotment of two separate languages.
Some however claimed they were given two languages because they were the most stubborn sects amongst the sons of men at the time as they still attempted to continue the project. Another myth claims that God was standing on a high mountain (OkweAsirikwe) within the community when He was sharing the languages. According to them this very wide footpath seen on this Mountain is a clear sign that He once stood here. No theory or research has been able to unravel the source of the gigantic print. Therefore, it remains a mystery. Some villagers go to this location to bow their heads in praise and worship to God.
The Ubang people are distinguished from others in their own way of life. Their culture is very rich and they believe so much in it. The language serves as a means of communication in the society, in the market and even in the religious system and it is also aimed at being a medium of expression and instruction in schools.
There is a claim that God, himself came down to earth and stood on a very high mountain when He was doing the distribution. Infact, they say His footpaths are still visible on the top of the mountain. As you see above.
Worthy of note is the fact that every child, right from birth, knows he or she will have to learn and speak the language of his or her sex. Therefore, any attempt by the child to learn the version of the opposite sex will end up futile. “If a female tries to speak the language of the male or vice versa, she will not be able because she will be confused and make a lot of mistakes”.
There is also an assertion that the words that form the different versions of the language were given by God. Therefore, no version is superior to the other and each gender speaks the words as allotted to their version with pride and confidence.
The Ubang people are mostly recognized with the Christianity religion. Based on statistics, about 65% of the community population is of the Christian faith while the remaining are traditionalist. The people of this community still depend more on herbal medicines for treatments. There is this nocturnal dreaded cult (ikwong) they operate which forbids non¬indigenes and women from participating.
Language informants say that the people of Ubang still believe so much in traditional marriage even though they are majorly of the Christian faith. Thus, their marriage rites still have some elements of traditionalism and culture heritage.
The major occupation of the Ubang people is cocoa farming. They practice commercial farming in the Ubang community. Some of their farm products are; cocoa, rice, yam, e.t.c. The people of Ubang also practice trading. They trade with their smelt product such as Anklets, bracelets, local necklace, cutlasses, iron weapons, knives, plates, hoes and pot. They trade with the neighboring community and all their products are involved in their trading. However, the community experience lack of transport-able roads which is more reason why travelers and tourists less visit the community.