Culture of Tiv People

The Tiv people are one of the minority ethnic groups in Nigeria numbering nearly six (6) million individuals who predominantly reside in Benue state in the middle belt region of Nigeria. They are also resident in Taraba, Nasarawa and Plateau States. Tiv populations are also found in Cross River, Adamawa and in the Central African country of Cameroon.

The Tiv people own rich agricultural lands and as a result, they have an active farming population who depend on agricultural produce for lifestyle and commerce.  Their main crops are yams, millet and sorghum all of which are eaten either as porridge or pounded into moulds and eaten with a variety of soups, sauces and stew. 

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It is widely said that the typical Tiv person does not hold back when it comes to food. ‘You have cooked’ is the translation for the common phrase ‘u yoo’ they traditionally use after a meal because there is never a need for ‘thank you’. However, due to its popularity, it is safe to assume that pounded yam (Ruam) and soup is a staple in any Tiv home.

Nevertheless, there are three major types of Ruam that are eaten by Tiv people. There’s Ruam Kumen (pounded yam), Ruam Nahan (turned food) and Akuto (potato pottage). Their major soups are pocho, ager, genger, atyever, tur, vambe, ashwe vegetables.  Their local beverage is burukutu and ibyer. Their cultural dishes are also complimented with local snacks such as ibough ahi (roasted or boiled Bambara nuts) mzembe (roasted pears) huu (roasted termites) alie and nyata kuese (beans cake).

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The Tiv have a national attire which is black and white stripes. There is a belief that when the Tivs arrived at their present location in the middle belt of Nigeria several years ago, they discovered that the Zebra they used to hunt for meat and hide for the ceremonial outfits was not native to the area. They decided to honour their heritage by weaving clothes with black and white stripes reminiscent of the Zebra hide, this would then be made into the preferred attire. initially, it was a simple cloth to be draped around the torso. Nowadays, it is made into elaborate robes such as those worn by the traditional rulers and elders downwards. There are also black and white designed necklaces and beads worn by the traditional rulers to match their robes.

The TIV People

In the Tiv culture like any other African culture, one of the most important aspects of marriage is the marriage payment popularly known as dowry. This is made by the bridegroom or his family to the family of the bride. In Tiv culture, this payment does not imply the chattel status of women as it has been misinterpreted by many cultures. Among the Tiv, this payment is best understood as ‘bride wealth’. Marriage payment in whatever form it takes in Tiv culture does not represent the woman as an exchanged commodity. Bridewealth in Tiv culture is to show the woman dignity in her new home, the home of the bride. Culturally, one does not buy a wife.

One must ‘kem’ one’s wife, literally, one should accumulate one’s wife through a gradual process of negotiation. That is why in Tiv culture, bridewealth is not paid once and in entirety. It is an ongoing process that is negotiated at the beginning and set. It is regarded as a point of equilibrium between the two families who have formed an alliance.

Dancing is one of the cultural heritage of the Tivs and they include kwagh-hir, ijov—mbakugh, ingough kpingi, takera, dasenda, hinga and swange and many other dances. The most popular among the Tivs is the swange dance.  Swange dance is a form of urban recreational dance in which men and women dance together and twist in a very fascinating and intriguing manner, it also involves dancing in a circle similar to familiar dance activities typical of village dances and adapted traditional musical themes to highlife rhythms played on a combination of Tiv and Hausa instruments. There is hardly any Tiv activity without the display of swange dance.

ThankGod E. Airiohuodion

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