The story of the Lantern in the Old Eastern Region and south-west Cameroon region – Philip Nosa-Adam

The story of the Lantern in the Old Eastern Region and south-west Cameroon region – Philip Nosa-Adam

Utuenikang which translates to the hurricane Lantern is a very small but significant item with a long history in the Old Eastern region and some divisions in Cameroon. The Hurricane Lantern or the Kerosene Lantern was an article of trade during the years of the transatlantic trade. It is unclear when the item may have been introduced. Although it may have been introduced during the Era of Efik-Dutch relations in the 17th century. Modern and more popular designs of the lantern were constructed later by polish inventor Ignacy Lukasiewicz in 1853.

The Lantern has similar names among several Ethnicities of the Old eastern region. Some of which include

Ohafia – UtrikangAbriba – OterikangOro – UtrikangIbibio – UtuenikangUwet – UtuenikangObanliku – ItenikangEtung – Okurikang 

Among the Igbo, the lantern has three different names depending on the dialect. Central igbo use the word Mkpanaka for Lantern. Cross River Igbo use the word Utuenikang or its equivalent while some Igbo particularly those in present-day Oji River Local government area use the word Utukpe.

Interestingly, the word Utukpe has its origin in the Efik Language and is a corruption of Utue Ekpe (argiope aurantia), a large yellow striped bush spider native to the lower Cross River.

Thus, the shadow images produced when the hurricane lantern is lighted must have been likened to the colours on the spider. Within south-west cameroon, the following communities use the word “Utuenikang”Balondo (Ndian Division)Balue (Ndian Division)Ngolo (Ndian Division)Ekombe (Ndian Division)Bima (Ndian Division)Korup (Ndian Division)Batanga (Ndian Division)Bakoko (Ndian Division)Mbonge (Meme division)Bakundu (Meme division) 

It is fascinating that the same word is used across several communities with a few pronunciation differences. There exists a reason for the common use of the word and it’s variations.

The hurricane lantern would likely have been obtained by a coastal community and sold to the communities in the interior. Thus, the community which first obtained the lantern would have given it an indigenous name and its name would have been adopted by nearby communities. The communities closest to the atlantic in the Old Eastern Region and the Cameroon axis include the Obolo communities (i.e Ibeno, Oron and Idua), Efik, Douala, Ijaw, Balondo etc.

The Efik being by far one of the most widely travelled West African trader in the Old Eastern Region during the years of the triangular trade would be a top contender for the origin of the name. This is further confirmed when the word “Utuenikang” is studied from an etymological perspective. In the Efik Language, Utuenikang is a conjunction of two words. “Utuene” and “Ikang”.

The latter translates to fire and the former comes from the verb “Tuene”. The verb “Tuene” first translates to, to light or to be lighted and secondly, to twinkle. Examples of sentences with the verb include:- 
Tuene ikañ mi, nọ mi nkut usuñ – Show the light here for me to see my way. 
Ntantaọffiọñ etuene – The stars twinkle 
Like the Greek mythical figure Prometheus who is regarded as the bringer of fire, the Efik are responsible for the use of the name Utuenikañ in several Communities. It is our hope that the Efik will continue to be the importer and an inventor of more useful artefacts in the future.


Tony Tokunbo Eteka Fernandez is an International Award Winner, Published Author & Poet, Broadcast Journalist, MC and Youth Empowerment Consultant . He is also The CEO of AFRICA4U and The Founder of Africans in The Diaspora People also see him as a Cultural and Social entrepreneur, which means he is skilled in working with many different communities, bringing people together in successful focused events. Tony has organised many cultural events …involving both BME and mainstream communities. He is skilled in hosting events that reinforce community cohesion and bringing different kinds of people together. He has organised events in The UK, The U.S.A, Holland, Germany, Romania, Malta and Nigeria and has visited over 22 European Countries. Tony has also organised The Black History Month Celebrations at The UK House of Parliament for over five years in a row He continues to promote the true life and success stories of Africans in Europe and Africans around the world and has organised several small scale literary and awards initiatives aimed at empowering young people. He has also spent time as an International broadcaster and was The Producer and Presenter for AFRICA4U International Radio Talk Show at Reading4u Radio Station for nearly three years. Tony has interviewed high profile Members of Parliament, Distinguished celebrities and some of Africas best musicians including Ivonne Chaka Chaka and Kanda Bongoman. He has also been a guest on BBC Radio on numerous occasions to discuss the community cohesion events he organises at UK House of Parliament and also to recite some of his published work in memory of Nelson Mandela, 50 Years Anniversary of The race relations act and major community issues. Tony has also a Guest on popular Radio stations in Nigeria and The States In the last few years he has been very passionate about Youth empowerment, community cohesion and cultural intelligence. Tony was born in South London and has lived in several parts of England and Nigeria . He started writing at the tender age of nine, a habit he expressed with creative enthusiasm. Tony writes Poetry, short stories and proverbs on personal development. He is currently working on his 4th book which will also be his first novel. He is also into Public Speaking at Special events and Social functions and is a Mentor for young people in the UK Community. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of Lagos, Nigeria in English and World Literature. He later went on to attain a teaching qualification at The Frances King International Training Institute, South Kensington London, it was here he studied Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He also studied Web Design at The City University in London. He published his first book in June 1999 called “The Beauty in the Dark” (A Collection of Poetry which received critical acclamation in many circles around the world). .Tony’s aim in life is to inspire the young generation and to encourage the youth to make the very best of their dreams and aspirations,. He published a 2nd book in June 2009 called ” The Sound of Running Water” – A Family gift book of proverbs and quotations on Personal Development and Positive Thinking . In December 2009, he published his 3rd book called “One Moment of Peace”.- A collection of Poetry inspired by personal experiences and spiritual growth. Besides the fact that the Artist has won International online awards, he is mostly inspired by Life experience, love, music and cultural awareness. He was Resident Poet at the 5th London Poetry Festival in 2009 and has been a guest on BBC Radio on very many occassions including The famous Anne Diamond Show. He has also been a guest on a few SKY TV stations and several International Radio Stations around The World
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