Monday, May 29, 2017

Manilla: The first documented modern form of money used in trade in Nigeria

Manillas are the first documented modern means of exchange used in Nigeria

ICMS, Inc Reports
By Tom Okure, Ph.D.
May 29, 2017


The typical Manilla form used in Southern part of Nigeria
Manillas are the oldest documented form of money used by Europeans in trade with West Africa. 
Manillas were widely used in Southern and Western Nigeria especially among the Efiks, Ibibios, Annangs, the Igbos and the Yorubas tribal groups and served the significant monetary functions of convenience, transportability and wealth display by the well to do in Nigerian traditional communities. In Annang communities, bridal price (or dowries) for women was paid with Manillas called "Apkogo" in Annang lanquage. Manillas were made in different forms, sizes, texture and thickness. A traditional husband to be could be required to pay anyway between 10 to 25 or even more manillas in traditional Annang marriage as dowry price and settlement to his father inlaw for the good upbringing of his wife to be. The British colonial adminstration paid for services and bought and sold goods utilizing the manilla. Since there are many sizes and forms of the manilla that was used as a means of exchange, one can suppose that a large size mannilla was equvilaent to a smaller number of manillas. This brass bracelet-shaped objects featured prominently in our culture and was the principal means of exchange from about the 16th century to the late 1930s. Manilla was mainly used in the Annang/Ibibio heartland of the present Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria along with other less renowned local monies. On the Oron coastline of the state, a variety of other currencies such as cowries was widely used.
Variant forms and sizes of
manilla money used in West Africa
Originally made in Europe, perhaps based on an African original design, there were various variants of the manilla form used and accepted either as money or jewelry everywhere in Africa. Manillas though monetary objects, were very desirable and valuable objects. It was not uncommon to see wealthy chiefs use them for body ornamentation in some parts of colonial West Africa. 
Even as late as the 1940’s Manillas continued to serve as money and decorative objects in many traditional contexts. Traditionally, the Manilla is called by different names (Apkogo in Annang land) depending on which part of Nigeria. The proliferation of names throughout Africa is perhaps the result of tribal and regional customs rather than the manufacturing practices for the object.
In terms of historical context, manillas are mostly connected with the Atlantic slave trade. This monetary artifact are increasingly hard to come by but are still available in specialized outlets for purchase by tourists and collectors in many parts of Nigeria as memorabilia or momentous.