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The present paper is a study of the origins, features and significance of the Nwagu Aneke Igbo Syllabary (otherwise known as the Umuleri Igbo Script), one of the thirty or so indigenous systems of writing which (re-)emerged in West Africa during the colonial period as a medium for challenging alien cultural values and for the re-assertion of the superiority of African spiritual and moral traditions and of the thought-patterns which lie behind them. Beyond the claims of a one-time prosperous land-owner and diviner, the late Ogbuevi Nwagu Aneke of the village of Umuleri in the Anambra Local Government Area of Anambra State of South-Eastern Nigeria as the spirit-inspired inventor of the script, the paper focuses on the mechanics of the script itself and on the possibilities and problems of developing it as a medium for alternative literacy in an African language.


This paper was originally delivered as a lecture at the Literacy Speaker Series of the National Center for Adult Literacy/The Literacy Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 13, 1992, and at the Adult Literacy Training Workshop, also organized by the National Center for Adult Literacy Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, June 15-26, 1992. It was subsequently presented at the Healey Library, University of Massachusetts at Boston, under the auspices of the William Monroe Trotter Institute Forum Series 1992/1993, on Wednesday, December 9, 1992. A revised version was also presented and enthusiastically discussed at the Xth Annual Conference on African Linguistics at the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. The present version benefits from the critical comments and suggestions received from professional colleagues at the above presentations.



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