FAT IS BEAUTIFULJun 08, 2022 11:00AM ● By Minna Davies
Picture of woman after the fattening room
It is safe to say that in this era, getting "fat" does not figure on the list of body goals. That is not the case in the Efik/Ibibio clan In Calabar. Calabar is the state capital of Cross River in Nigeria with a population of approximately half a million people. The Efik/Ibibio of south Calabar are a proud tribe with a long history and rich culture, and one of which is the fattening room. Getting fat especially for a new bride is a symbol of beauty wealth, fertility, and attractiveness. This is cultural practice that invented the fattening room. This practice is called ‘Nkugho’
The fattening room is a place where young women go to get ready for motherhood and womanhood. Acceptance into the fattening room was seen as a privilege because it necessitated a demonstration of virtue, sexual purity, and verified virginity. The ability of the young girl to gain weight in the fattening room demonstrated that she possessed all of the qualities listed above.
The Fattening Room Process
This cultural practice, like any other, has its own set of protocols in which the girl's father pays 'Eme' (coral beads) to please 'Nku,' the house's river deity, before she is allowed into the fattening room. The idea is to convey that the girl's parents are rich enough to provide a pleasant life for her.
On the day the fattening begins, palm oil is rubbed all over the young lady’s body and she is thereafter put in the fattening room where she is to sit on a mat.
The training and beauty therapy last for a month or more, during this time, the girls are kept in isolation away from the public in preparation for marriage and motherhood. The daily routine is to sleep, eat, and grow fat. The girls are kept away from their families and friends once they enter the fattening room; the only visitors are elderly ladies from the village who come to teach them about marital etiquette and acceptable social conventions and behavior. In addition, the females are served high-carbohydrate, high-fat meals. They also are provided a complete beauty treatment from head to toe, using 'ndom' (native chalk) and other natural plant-based massage oils.
The Efik/Ibibio people believe that fattening comes with the following advantages:
• It is a sign of privilege and wealth.
• A lot of lessons are learned during the process. For instance, financial lessons, folklore, and other related traditions are taught during this time.
• Pampering is also part of the treatment as it is considered to be a good time for relaxation.