The Ibiebe Alphabets and Ideograms were developed by Bruce Onobrakpeya as part of his experiments as an artist. They are a script of ideographic, geometric and curvilinear glyphs which reflect his knowledge of his Urhobo heritage and rich proverbs. Executed in bronze foil relief plastograph, these glyphs constitute a sign notation system representing various sounds of the Urhobo language and were inspired by Onobrakpeya’s earlier works and his desire to preserve his Urhobo culture. The two patina coated bronze foils are graced with the protruding symbols arranged symmetrically on a board, one part being a copy/mirror reflection of the other. The symbols look very abstract and do not have bear any naturalistic shape, neither are they similar to any known structures or objects. Thus, they are visual codes which anyone will find difficult to interpret. Some of the symbols are: Idolo (wealth), Ufuoma (peace), Otovwe (longevity) and Omakpokpo (health). A lot of thought goes into deciphering these codes for all passionate viewers. However, the features they bear are helpful in drawing broad connections and amplifying their meanings. For example, Ufuoma which means peace is denoted with opposing weapons which have been seemingly rendered harmless by a mediator in between them; Omakpokpo, health is shown by plant-like forms projecting from a container used as herbs for treatments; Otovwe, longevity is analogous of a stylized form raising vigorous arms raised towards the creator in prayer; Idolo, wealth is represented with horn-like motifs similar to the Ikenga figures of the Igbo which convey the message that power and achievement resides in the strength of the hand.


  • Title: Ibiebe Alphabets and Idiograms
  • Creator: Bruce Onobrakpeya
  • Creator Lifespan: 1932
  • Creator Nationality: Nigerian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Agbarha-Otor
  • Date Created: 1982
  • Location Created: Nigeria
  • Physical Dimensions: 134 x 106cm
  • Type: Etching
  • Original Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art
  • Rights: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University
  • Medium: Metal Foil Etching

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