Tiv people are an ethno-linguistic group or ethnic nation in West Africa. They constitute approximately 2.5% of Nigeria's total population, and number over 6 million individuals throughout Nigeria and  Cameroon.The Tiv are one of the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. Tiv language is spoken by about 6 million people in Nigeria, with a few speakers in Cameroon.
                       Tiv people from Benue State,Nigeria doing their traditional girinya dance

 Most of the language's Nigerian speakers are found in Benue State of Nigeria. The language is also widely spoken in the Nigerian States of Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa as well as the FCT Abuja. It is part of the Southern Bantoid Tivoid family, a branch of Benue-Congo and ultimately of the Niger-Congo phylum. In precolonial times, the Hausa ethnic group referred to the Tiv 'Munchi' a term not accepted by Tiv people. They depend on agricultural produce for commerce and life.

The Tiv people from the middle-belt region of Nigeria in West Africa can be found along Latitude 6 degrees 30 minutes to 8 degrees North and Longitude 8 degrees to 10 degrees East of the equator. The Tiv people are said to have originated from south-central Africa, with over 20 generations recorded from Tiv himself to the present.

 Traditional weaving is an important cottage industry among Tiv speaking people of Benue State. It is one of the enterprises in the state that is passed from one generation to another and many of those who are engaged in it inherited it as family business.Over the years, master weavers have produced brilliant and popular designs that have earned the state as a notable centre for such fabric in the country.

The industry has blossomed dramatically among the people especially these days when many occasions demanding traditional attires are on the increase, thus increasing its market share. Most notable among the fabrics are Anger (the stenciled stripped black and white attire). There are many other types and each of them is designed specifically for an occasion. There is Tugudu, which is used for burying the dead, Ivvavtyo, exclusively used by women.The other brands of fabrics are Lishi, Gbev-whaa, Godo, Gurugu, Chado, Deremen and Gbagir. Patronage of the products comes mainly from private individuals and sometime government. The technique of weaving depends on a simple technology that is slow but efficient for its needs and does not take more than one person to weave, dye and package for sale. It is a highly respected industry which has created a local economy for the people. Although the clothes are now done in the cities like Makurdi, the Benue State capital for easy accessibility by lovers of the native fabric, the traditional Tiv settlements remain important places where trading take place because many buyers believe the best qualities are the ones made in these communities.
                            Tiv girls from Benue state,Nigeria wearing their traditional dress.

 Although time has obscured the exact dates of the landmarks that make Tiv history, colonial historians made efforts to tally times with  significant events that make the history of a nation factual. For example, evangelists have revealed that the migration of Tiv from the southern part of Central Africa began around 1800.By 1850 Tiv descendants were seen in large numbers in the south of what we now know as River Benue. The Tiv people are in every country of the world, but mainly in Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa and Plateau State in Nigeria, West Africa. The Tiv, who are mostly agrarian farmers numbered more than 2,2m in the 1991 census. Their language is also Tiv and, even though the states mentioned above are ruled by political state governors, their paramount ruler is the Tor Tiv.

                                              Tiv people

Tiv are speakers of a "Bantu related language´. Their early history is covered by three theories of origin. These are the Creation, Bantu and Family theories of origin. The outline of the Tiv Creation theory attributes the creation of the world (tar) to God (Aondo). In Tiv mythology,Aondo (God) had created the world and settled closer to it until He was hit with a pestle by a woman who was pounding food. In response, He moved into the skies (kwav Aondo), which are his present abode. Though there are different versions of the creation theory, and there does not seem to be any particular sequence in the creation process, in at least, one version, Takuruku rather than Aondo is argued to have been responsible for creation. In all the versions however,Swem is identified as the "place´ of "creation´.
              A boy from Tiv tribe in Benue State,Nigeria wearing his traditional cloth and holding horse-tail

The  second state that Tiv`s are from Bantu region and according to R. C. Abraham’s work “The Tiv People” in 1933, he gave evidence of sixty seven (67) word list showing “similarities” between Tiv language and the language of  “Bantu Nyanza” in present day Malawi.  
Additional evidence of the “Bantoid” origin of the Tiv was provided by Abraham in the form of shared traits in dance, physique and worship with other central African groups.

Oral traditions also traces the origin of all “Tiv people” to one man, thus members of a “single family”. 
Tiv  is identified in some versions of this theory as father of all Tiv people while in other versions, it is either Takuruku, Anyamazenga, Karagbe, Shon, Gbe, Akem or  Awange who is the founding father. Whoever the founding father was, the genealogy of the group is hinged on two of his children. These are Ichongoa and Ipusu.  While Ichongo (the older of the two) begot Gondo, Ikyura, Nongo, Ihar, Mase and Turan.  Ipusu begot Shitire, Kum and Kpar. There is a dispute  as to the position of Tongo for while Makar (1975) and (1994) argues that he was begotten by Ipusu, Akiga (1933) places him improbably as a son to both Ipusu and Ichongo. All Tiv today are descended from these ten (10) children  through whom they are linked to the Tiv family tree.
                 Tiv tribe`s man from Benue state,nigeria holding his traditional (staff) symbol of authority

In Tiv “worldview” their earliest point of origin as acknowledged in traditions is Swem.  Though its exact location is still a matter of debate, 16th century AD date derived from the study of Tiv genealogy has been  
argued for its settlement by Orkar (1979). For reasons of over population (see Akiga 1933, Gbor 1974 and  1978) the Tiv  left Swem and spread in streams of the hills of south eastern Tivland from where they further 
spread into   the middle Benue valley.
According to Makar (1975 and  1994) Kparev and Ukan were the first group to move to Ngokugh hill while Tongov, Ikyurav, Nongov and Turan moved to Barakur, Womondo and Ityoughkyegh hills with Masev, Iharev, Ugondo and Shitire moving to Ibinda hills.  Though archaeological studies have confirmed the Tiv settlement of these hills.
Mima Ikyor is an NMVA winning artist in Nigeria,she is Tiv from  Benue,The fabric she is  rocking is known as ''ANGE'' ,It is a very special cloth from  Benue State among the Tiv people.

The Tiv spread from these hills over the Benue plains was propelled by a three pronged attack from the Chamba (referred to in Tiv Tradition as the Ugenyi) on the western banks of the Katsina-Ala River (at Ushongo hills), the eastern banks of the Katsina-Ala River (at Dikpo hills) and the western banks of the Donga River (at Mdema hills). The Tiv victory over the Chamba in these war enabled them to spread rapidly with the Kunav and Gaav sections moving towards the south-west (displacing the Udam) while Jemgbar, Ugondo and Ikyurav moved north-west (pushing the Etulo and Idoma) and Ushitire, Ukum, Iherev, Masev and Nongor moved northeast against the Jukun. Arago, Koro and Migili who were displaced to make room for the Tiv habitation of their present area.

Tiv Language
Tiv language is classified under the the Tiv-Bantu (sub-group) of the Bantoid branch of the Benue-Congo subdivision of Niger-Congo.

Names in Tiv Society
In Tiv society, the day of the native week does not matter to them in giving names but rather circumstances and religious expression.  

                               Tiv man from Benue State,Nigeria

In Africa, people sometimes bear the names of their ancestor. Shorter (1993:60) referred to such practices as “nominal reincarnation”. The bearers of such name are believed to have a very strong relationship with their namesakes. Iti is name in Tiv language. There are parents that give the name “Tiv” to their children. It remains one of the great ancestor of the entire Tiv people. “The children then serve as the line of association
between their living fathers and the deceased” (Janzan, 1977:101). The most ancient of all names in Tiv society are  Aondo (God), Takuruku and Tiv. These names are often given to children. In some Tiv mythologies, Aondo (God) was the direct bodily progenitor of Tiv people who became deified. Other names associated with ancestors according to lorwuese Murkpa (an informant) are:
Terhide – father has returned 
Ngohide – mother has returns
Names associated with death in Tiv society are many and vary. Ku is death.
Ku kaa – Death has passed 
Ku hemba – Death is greater
Ku wua – Death has killed 
Ku kase – Death has surrounded 
Ku yila – Death has called 
Ku too – Death has taken
Kukiigh – Death has come to an end
Ku yange – Death has prevented
Kuyima – Death has saved
                                                    Tiv man

The social organisation of the Tiv is founded on kinship constructed by tracing descent “exclusively” through the male. The Tiv are thus a descent group, which in “etic” terms can be referred to as patrilineal. Though the 
four universal features of kinship — a lengthy infant maturation time, a marital bound creating an exclusive sexual and economic relationship between individual members of the group, a gender based on division of 
labour and an incest regulation are here, Tiv kinship is unique with three distinct forms (see Wegh 1998). These are consanguinity (kinship based on blood) affinity (kinship based on marriage) and secondary kinship 
based on choice outside blood and marriage. The architect of the social system is based on the concert of  tar — an area peopled by units of families tracing their descent to a single ancestor — and known in “emic” 
terms after the plural form of the ancestor’s name. In this way, Tar Tiv which is peopled by the sons of Tiv can in turn be understood as aggregating other  ityar (plural of  tar) each of which is known after the 
plural form of the children of Ipusu and Ichongo.

                        Tiv people of Benue State,Nigeria

Bohannan (1965) has identified the “principle of segmental opposition” as basic to this social structure. According to him,  ityar made up of descendants of ancestors who were brothers developed overtime into an inclusive tar (lineage) named after the plural form of their “fathers” name as opposed to lineage descended from more distant relations. The lineage system is the basis of the Tiv family as well as the pattern of settlement and the political system. Because the individual’s place in society was determined by kinship and genealogy, group challenge was in continuity, balance and co-operation. Egalitarian values and other cultural systems like exchange marriage and leadership based on gerontocracy were therefore invaluable ingredients of this continuity, balance and cooperation.

In classical anthropological writings, the Tiv are a stateless society characterized by the absence of a central authority supported by administrative and judicial machinery. Their political system is characterized by law and order maintained by elders meeting at the different levels and depths of the various lineages.
                                                                 Tiv elder

While the compound is the basic unit of the political organization, the lineage is the most elaborate. The Tiv recognize authority in the roles and status of their social order, (see Tseayo 1975) they conceptualize the 
object of politics as tar soron which literally means the repair of the land. As Wegh (1998) has argued, Tar Soron is not just a physical activity but a social and spiritual initiative designed to ensure that there is balance and harmony in the land. In the process of  tar soron, two councils are important. These are the Ya Council and Ityo Council.
                                  Prof Steve Ugbah,Tiv man

Ya is the compound. Each compound is named after its head (Orya) and is administered by a council made up of  senior male members of the compound. The  Orya chairs this council whose responsibilities include, 
the pursuit of the political, social, religious and economic well being of the compound. The Orya as the head of the ya council has the responsibility of keeping daily peace (of the compound) and settling such other disputes that arise between members of the compound. In doing this he is vested with the authority to punish and ensure compliance depending on the nature of the offense. In addition to these responsibilities, the Orya is also vested with the power to determine sites for new buildings, admit, entertain and expel visitors,   distribute farm land and identify burial positions (see Wegh 1998). The  Orya’s ability to discharge his 
responsibilities can build or split the compound. Every compound head therefore tries to be fair and firm in administering his compound.

The Ityo Council on the other hand is supreme in Tiv “worldview”. No person can go above his Ityo (or  hembe Ityo ga). Ityo provides political and social context within which a man is known and placed in society. It is his patrilineage. The Ityo council called  Ijir (Judgement) has funeral, religious, economic and political responsibility which they discharge in accordance with tradition. Its membership representing the different 
“family” or sublineages that comprise the particular lineage. The council has sovereign responsibilities and its decisions are normally accepted as binding on all members of the  group (see  Tseayo 1975).
        Tiv Elder from Gboko, Benue State, Nigeria.Photo by Fr. John Tavershima Agberagba

Tiv religious thought is hinged on three basic concepts. These are Aondo, Tsav and Akombo — all of which work together for stability, harmony and communal well being (see Wegh 1998).  Though Aondo is the Tiv word for God, the Tiv do not have a personal relationship with Him. As explained earlier, Aondo used to live nearer the earth but was forced to retreat into the skies after he was struck by a woman pounding food. 

There is however a deep acknowledgement of the hand of God (Aondo) in the physical setting as in rain (Aondo ngu noon), thunder (Aondo ngu kumen) lightening (Aondo ngu nyiar) and sun light (Aondo ta yange).

According to Wegh (1998 p.42) though the relationship between the Tiv and Aondo may seem “remote” to outsiders, the Tiv acknowledge that most of the actions necessary for the existence and sustenance of life are 
carried out only by God (Aondo). This world view leaves the day to day regulations of relationships between individuals on the one hand and between individuals and the cosmos on the other hand to  Tsav  and Akombo.
                                    Aver. Tiv  lady from Benue is the Miss West Africa UK 2012

Tsav is a reference to “a  cosmic potency internalized in man as part of his personality” (see Rubingh 1969). Gundu (1980) has argued that it manifests in people in three different forms. The first and most potent form 
appears like the crown of a cock and covers the heart of the individual with “claws”. The second is a dwarf type with no “claws”. (Kpum utsa) while the third type is a small point projection from the heart which gives 
the possessor some awareness of the supernatural. This is called ‘ishima nomsoor’  (a man’s heart) by the Tiv. Those who possess tsav are called  Mbatsav (singular is  Ormbatsav) and their activities are theoretically  
geared towards good governance (tar soron), personal comfort, security and communal well-being. Practically however, the extent to which any ormbatsav can be beneficial to society in the context of his activities is a factor of the type of tsav “growing” on his heart and particular  akombo being manipulated at the point in time. This is probably why Bohannan (1965) argues that tsav is morally neutral and can be deployed for either good or bad. If deployed for good, society is assured of a potent social control mechanism. On the other hand, if it is deployed for evil individuals can be bewitched  — leading to sickness and sometimes death. Other malevolent aspects include crop failure, bad dreams, ill luck, barrenness and the like.

The third basic concept in Tiv religion which is akombo can be defined as some unique mystical forces deployed to ensure a balanced and healthy tar (community) in which individuals are at peace with each other and the physical components of the environment are regulated and protected from “damage”. Each  kombo (singular of  akombo) is represented by an emblem, which could be any relic ranging from a potsherd to a carved piece of wood. Though an acceptable classification of the whole range of akombo is yet to be done here, the Tiv see  akombo in two major categories. Category one is  akombo a kiriki (lesser  akombo) while 
category two is  akombo atamen (greater  akombo).  Each ailment and socio-economic component in society has its kombo with full compliments of emblem and a structured process of “restoration” (sorun) when its foundation is undermined or violated by people who come into contact with it. Each kombo has its master whose specialty is in ensuring a viable role for the kombo in the community.  He does this by “restoring” (sorun) the  kombo’s  equilibrium if and when it is violated, thus, neutralising the damage that would otherwise have been visited on the violator or even the whole community as the case may be.
                                                          Tiv people

According to informants, the life of every human being in the visible world has an end. Ku (death) is the gateway to enter the invisible world of spirits and ancestors. The lossof physical presence often makes death very sorrowful. Zahan (1979:36) noted that death  tends  to  generate  religious  feeling  and  it  is  the  unconscious  foundation  of philosophical reflection. We have Ku dedoo – good death and Ku ubo – bad death. The former goes with full funeral rites unlike the latter category.

Funeral rites begin with advance message to  Takuruku  (great ancestor of Tiv people) using musical instruments called Idyer or Ilu. The great ancestor is usually informed of the death and the need to wait and receive the person in the ancestral world (Beba TaVer, an informant).

On the day of burial, the body of the deceased is washed by elderly women to enable the person to get into the spirit world very neatly and well dressed, to be received in the world. The body is then covered with traditional cloths like Anger,Tugudu, or Gbagir andno coffin was used (Iortyom, 2001:48). Under normal circumstances, the corpse would not stay more than twenty-four hours .In every traditional burial of the Tiv people there is Ku orun – discussing death. The aim is to know the cause of death. This is normally done by the elders of a given community sometimes  comprising  both  the  Ityo (council  of  elders)  and  Igba (matrilineage) depending on the situation. It is a form of judgement on the nature of the deceased life
and how it affected others. If not killed by identified person or group, he may kill himself by using  Tsav  (spiritual talent) wrongly. The elders in the above cases warn relations about the danger of following the same fate as the deceased, and to keep the checks and balances in the community.

In some areas within Tivland, the corpse is buried with household utensils, clothing, and formerly, one’s servants so as to continue to use them in afterlife; or spirit world. Those who die through suicide or are drowned in the river, or have swollen stomach at death are not given the same or full burial rites (Pinga Abiam, an informant from Mbakor)

                                 Tiv people playing their traditional musical instruments

Besides, the Tiv people believe in raising the death after burial. The first night after burial mbatsav (communion of spirits of mbatsav) usually brings out the death person to be judged. A wicked man could be tortured and cut into pieces while a very good man who had lived a moral life becomes an ancestor.  For a wicked man, the person’s punishment may extend to members of his family who are living on earth. It may be in the terms of poor harvest, lack of prosperity, pre-mature death. In some cases, a person
who was nice to others is well treated and sometimes kept in a particular place to be continually fattened (Torkula, 2001:51).

The Tiv idea of resurrection or raising the dead is similar to that of Akamba people. Mbiti (9171:157) pointed out that “In addition to belief in the continuation of life, the Akamba believe also that people rise again from the death”. The good people in Tivreligion  become  ancestors.  The  ancestors  are  invisibly  part  of  Tar  and the family. Downes  (1977:92) was  probably right  with his  conviction that  Tiv  concept  of  Tar,consists of the visible territory and its unseen part. The living and the dead are linked. Even the human family consists of the living and the death.
                                Tiv cultural troupe performing their traditional girinya dance

 Tiv Music and Communication
Girinya ritual dance theatre of the Tiv people of Nigeria. Girinya is performed at two different levels: the social and the ritual. As a ritual dance, performed to honour departed or fallen warriors, Girinya is richer and more encompassing. Out of Girinya the Tiv now have Iwanger or Wanger dance and Swange(https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:UUHhQK5yq0kJ:www.ijih.org/fileDown.down%3FfilePath%3D3/dtl/9a29f70f-c7a5-48e9-a02b-049e7a2994ac%26fileName%3D3-2.pdf%26contentType%3DvolumeDtl%26downFileId%3D32+&hl=en&gl=gh&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShZC4LffYdm8ufpdKaXA0WiefLN1Ui2JBF4hCkzoJIRqVPOb3K3HGjIOPJsx-_GEzXO_tmJvLqDDCuRrbWf3DS8kJ_KUNFgehs-2-KyUz53hREORBuXOQVOhJ6qQMYaeeMMGPG6&sig=AHIEtbRLRpty1pA00uYURsA6F8Pz2hemfg)

Swange- the name given to the traditional dance of the Tiv-speaking people of Benue state of Nigeria .
The dance is characterized by rhythmic contortion in slow mode & vibrant display, typical of African dance forms.
It is heavily percussion- based, aided by a traditional horn (al-gaita), which blows in an unbroken succession for as long as the drumming, Singing and dancing is going on.
                                    Tiv girls performing their traditional girinya dance

Locally made musical instruments were traditionally used for political and ceremonial communication. The key instruments follow/
This is an instrument used to convey specials messages to the people of the community, such messages as the newborn child of the King, his naming ceremony, the crowning of a new king, to gather people together during the marriage ceremony of the king and the king’s son’s marriage ceremony. This instrument was used to convey all the messages to the people to assemble at the square for the ceremony, as well as when there is an enemy attack on the community, a warning sound of the Kakaki is blown to alert those whom can defend the society and every citizen to be alert.
Ceremonial gong and stick, Tiv people (Nigeria), c.1960 (iron, paint, wood & leather)
Ceremonial gong and stick, Tiv people (Nigeria), c.1960 (iron, paint, wood & leather)
A light wooden instrument, it was used to pass messages to the people of the village, probably for the invitation of the people for a particular meeting of the elders at the king’s palace or for the people to gather at the market square for a message from or by the king.it is now used as an instrument to indicate the death of someone.
A heavy wooden instrument carved out of mahogany trunk. It is used especially during festivals of masquerades, yam festivals with music to pass messages for the ceremonies, celebration of good harvest for the year.
It is used together with Agbande (drums) combined with Ageda at festivals to pass a message across to the people for a call for theAdiguve
It’s an instrument like a violin, used for music and dances in conjunction with Agbande (Agbande) at festivals and dance occasions, sometimes to announce the death of a leader or an elder of the community, during this period it is played sorrowfully for the mourning of the dead, most time it is played funerals.
Agbande (plural), a set of crafted wooden musical instrument used to compliment agbande at festivals, this is particularly large and it is played by the young men of the community, the special drum beats communicates special messages and music for the festivals to come and during the festivals, for instance, signifies a royal occasions such as the coronation and funeral.
Ortindin (Ortyom)-Messenger
Usually he is chosen by the elders of the community to do errands for the elders and the leader of the community. He is sent out to the heads of the neighbouring families for a crucial meeting at the head of all the leaders of the community.
Kolugh ku Bua-Cow Horn
This is an instrument made out of cow horns, like in my community, there are farmers' associations that use this instrument when they have job to do, probably they are invite to make ridges on a piece of land, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the association will use this medium to wake up the members for the work they have for that day.
Indigenous communication is not only vertical, from the rulers to the subjects, it is also horizontal. Individuals communicate with society through physical and metaphysical means. A farm owner, for example, may mount a charm conspicuously on his farm in order to stress private ownership and to scare off human intruders.
The fear of herbalists and witches influences social behaviour considerably.

Rainmakers communicate their power to disrupt events through various psychological means. Village sectors in Africa communicate mostly via the market-place of ideas contributed by traditional religion, observances, divination, mythology, age-grades, the chiefs courts, the elder's square, secret and title societies, the village market square, the village drum(gbande) men, indeed the total experiences of the villager in his environment.
Unlike the mass media, access to the native media is culturally determined and not economic. Only the selected group of young men or the elders can disseminate information generally. The young only disseminate general information about events and the social welfare of their communities using the media mentioned above.
The Tiv people of Benue state still practise some of this traditional system of communication, using the KAKAIS, AGBANDE, INDYER, ADIGUVE and ILYU etc., nevertheless the increase in the western world media is threatening the cultural communication system.

Many of the communities in Benue state still use these instruments to convey messages to the people of their community, and it is helping a great deal, since there is a language barrier to the people with the introduction of the western world means of communication, using the western language (English) to convey information.

Oglinye Crest Masks 
Crest masks (Oglinye) in the form of human heads carved fully in the round were made for warriors’ masquerades. The tradition derives from the Cross River area, where human trophy skulls were originally worn atop the head. The British banned Oglinye in 1917, but after 1940 they tried, largely unsuccessfully, to use the masquerade groups to assist with local efforts at social control and to help collect taxes and enforce orders. While the masquerade was associated with male warrior associations, the faces on these two crest masks appear intriguingly female. They may reference the roles of women as arbiters of male social status in the community. 

               The Nature of Tiv Traditional Marriage

 Tiv society, marriage is the discernable and most encompassing reality of life. It is something of sacred obligation and any adult that refuses to marry is seen by the society as either cursed or abnormal. Marriage being a social institution has societal values, most of which are the socio-economic and religio-political values.
Tiv people consider any gesture or favor done to parents-in-law as part of kem (dowry) and could always say that kem kwase ngu been shie mon ga (the dowry cannot be paid at once). Marriage in this context is therefore, a community affair which involves a long period of preparations. The bride is chosen by members of the family based on moral standard, hard work, and level of obedience, politeness and honesty of the man involved. Sometimes, the choice of a lady for marriage is done considering her background or family lineage of the lady in question. This is why a Tiv man would tell a person looking for a woman to marry, “go and marry from so and so family” or vice versa because “so and so family is good.” The Tiv person has a conviction that if such a lady is not from a disciplined home or good family, she could be a problem to her 
husband and the society where she is married at large. Other people also express the fear that the offspring’s of such an undisciplined woman might introduce the gene of wickedness in their community or family. This makes the Tiv people to be inquisitive and selective in choosing a place and family to marry a woman since marriage is a serious commitment.

Even in the case of divorce where a woman is abandoned to remain on her own, she is still called by her former husband’s name. And if she eventually dies, her remains are buried in the compound of the former husband, especially when there are children born in the former husband. Before the coming of Christianity and Western Civilization, people cherished polygamous marriage. But with the tide of socio-cultural change brought about by cultural integration, most Tiv people now prefer monogamous marriage to a polygamous one. Even though the traditional Tiv people view polygamous marriage as more appropriate because of their belief that a man’s prestige is measured according to the number of wives, children and farms, which he has. Yet, due to Christianity and modernization contemporary Tiv people are made to see polygamy as an archaic way of life that is worthy of renunciation.  These facts accounts for the problem involving different forms of   marriage in contemporary Tiv society.

                                           Tiv people

Types of Tiv Marriage  
There are many types of marriage in Tiv society. These forms of marriage are products of the first system of 
marriage introduced in Tiv society but were later abolished by the colonial masters. The Tiv refer to this type of marriage as “Exchange marriage” (Wegh, 1994:18.)

Exchange (Yamshe) Marriage
The word “Yamshe” literally means, “Buying by the eye, (Wegh, 1994:18-20). In the exchange marriage 
context, this emphasizes the importance of having a blood-sister with which one could make an exchange for the blood-sister of another distant fellow Tiv man as a wife. This exchange results in both men getting married at the same time, in the same way and having husband at the same time. The blood-sister used in exchange 
marriage must be the one assigned to the man that is using her in exchange marriage for his own wife. This 
system of marriage whereby a man used his own blood-sister in exchange with other distant fellow Tiv man’s 
blood-sister as a wife was called “kwase  u ishe yamem” (trade by barter).

Exchange marriage (Yamshe) in traditional Tiv society was the first and fundamental form of marriage. It did 
not involve dowry, but rather, the marriage was based on mutual agreement between the two families. The 
essence of exchange marriage was to foster continuity of the family lineage. By its very principle, exchange 
marriage terminates if one of the exchange sister fails to produce children. In such a case the parties involved 
agreed to share the children of the one that is productive and the exchange marriage continues. But in a situation where by the woman that produces children are reluctant to share her children equally with unproductive woman used in exchange with her, the marriage terminates automatically. 

The exchange of marriage system as earlier stated was aimed at filling the gap or vacuum created by exchange of both sisters in the two families. It is worthy to note that even though no much material benefits were enjoyed in exchange marriage system; yet, it contributed in a way by uplifting the dignity of women in Tiv society due to the rights acquired by their children raised during such marriage. This system of marriage has divergent effects on Tiv family system and was later abolished by the British colonialists in 1939 Makar, 1975:28). As the saying goes, when one door closes, another is opened, so also did the collapse of (exchange marriage system) (Yamshe) which gave rise to kem (Bride-price marriage system) in Tiv society.

Bride-Price Marriage (Kem)  
The word “kem” in Tiv language literally means “little-by-little”, or “bit-by-bit”, “acquisition”, “addition”, 
“continuous multiplication of whatever one is doing either on the farm, financial enterprise or becoming 
increasingly knowledgeable (Wegh, 19994:28).  Kem (bride-Wealth) was a form of marriage based on the 
declaration of the consent of the bride and groom. This began when a man stated to make an overture for 
marriage. He was expected to offer gifts to the prospective mother-in-law like a hoe, necklace, dish, salt and 
money. Whilst he also gave presents, especially a piece of cloth to his father-in-law to tie round his waist as an indication that he is seeking an approval from the prospective father-in-law to marry his daughter. Other 
relations, especially the eldest member of the family was equally offered material gifts to make him facilitate the marriage negotiations and to give his final approval.

                                          Tiv couple,Benue State

One thing that should be noted here is that kem (bride-price marriage) was less money involving in pre-colonial times. The ideal of using material things like money and other related gifts mentioned above was a superimposed practice on Tiv people by the British colonialists. Since then the practice degenerated into a 
materialistic disposition  in Tiv society, especially in matters to dowry (Ushe, 2007:48). The effects of these 
changes on Tiv marriage system are that many forms of marriage were introduced into Tiv land and today most Tiv youths look for alternatives since  kem (bride wealth) is sky-rocketing day-in day-out. This financial and material increment in kem (bride-price marriage) coupled with the other difficulties involved in resettlement of divorced couples has really make it a heavy burden for people willing to get married in contemporary Tiv society. Consequently, some people prefer to indulge in another form of marriage system know as (kwase uyevese amin) elopement marriage.

Elopement Marriage (Kwase U Yevese Amin)
Elopement marriage is one of the commonest practices of getting married in Tiv society (Akor Shagher, 2003). It is so pronounced because people find it easy to have a wife without going through the rigors of  kem (dowry Payment (Faasema Danis, 2002). Elopement marriage can be in two ways: first, by running away with a woman when the man is unable to complete the necessary marriage rites. And second, when a young person captured a girl as his wife without paying dowry. This form of marriage is not so common in Tiv society. It was the system of marriage practiced in pre-colonial Tiv society, especially by the lords and warriors who could compel any beautified lady of their own choice to marry them. Sometimes, young people who found marriage difficult but had strong family members were able to marry in this way for them.

This was done by capturing a woman of their choice when she was on her way either to the market square or farm or river to fetch water or any other place. The suitor sets an ambush with his friends or some of his 
relations to kidnap the lady in question  as a wife for him. However, with the advent of modernization and 
cultural integration, Tiv society has experienced socio-cultural changes, especially in matters regarding marriage practices. Today most Tiv youths and even adult no longer accept this form of marriage. Marriage by capture in contemporary Tiv society has become a barbaric form of behavior because it is viewed or interpreted as an abuse of the brides consent (Shikanyi Ushe, 2005). This is why it is mostly referred to as  “kwase u eren sha mkiir” (marriage by conquest or force). 

Even though marriage by capture seems to be an unacceptable practice in modern Tiv society, promiscuous acts sometimes lead to it, especially when two persons are caught in the very acts of fumigation or adultery. This is even worse when an unmarried girl gives birth to a bustard child in her father’s house. She is forced to marry anybody chosen by her parents or family relations without her own consent. This was done to curtail the reoccurrence of this ugly act and to serve as a different to other young ladies in Tiv society.  The Tivs attach great importance to marriage and for a lady to know a man or break her virginity without any legitimate husband is a serious crime that involves drastic actions by her society. (Nor Bem, 2004).

In most cases, the man involved is asked to untie the virginal cowry or pay money for breaking the virginity of the lady if he refuses to marry her as the case may be. Sometime, both of them (the boy and girl) are forced by the society to marry themselves. This explains how Tiv society upholds in high esteem its cultural values, especially virginity. The most complex case that leads to the above form of marriage is when a lady is caught in an act of adultery with a man. In which case, if the husband of the woman rejects her as his wife, then, the man caught in the act of adultery is sometimes compelled to marry the woman as his legitimate wife hitherto, or alternatively, the man could be asked to pay a required amount as restitution for the damages done to the husband of the woman and the family. These practices are no longer respected by Tiv people due to advent of western civilization.

Leverage Marriage (Kwase U Toon)
Leverage or inheritance marriage is the form of marriage whereby a blood relation of the deceased husband 
inherits all the properties including the wife. Sometime, the deceased son is asked to inherit the wife if the father was a polygamist. The essence of this system of marriage was to take care of the widow emotionally and other wise. It was also meant to raise more children for and on behalf of a deceased brother, father or kin as the case may be. One important thing to take note here is that, marriage by inheritance was mostly practiced in precolonial Tiv society. And the practice then was borrowed from  Tiv neighboring ethnic groups such as Udam people (Cross- River States), Igbo, among others, which may have perhaps, imported it from the Hebrews as  stated in Deuteronomy 25:5-6:

If brothers dwell together and one of them dies leaving no child, his wife shall not be allowed to marry outside the family to stranger. But his brother shall inherit her and raise children for the deceased brother… However, if the deceased brother has children, then the brother should take care of them. 

Though leverage marriage was an injunction given by God, it was an imposed practiced on Tiv people and 
because of the numerous effects it has on Tiv society, most Tiv youths and adults no longer accept the 
authenticity of such a practice. Many Tiv people are of the belief that leverage or inheritance marriage does 
more harm to Tiv culture than good. Some Tiv people even question the legality of leverage marriage by asking the following question: can a dead man give birth to a child? If not so, how can a child born after the deceased: person be named after him; rather than his/her biological father? Can the widow inherited allowed the man to marry his own wife? 

All these are legitimate question that could  be asked by any thoughtful individuals, and such have been the 
problems associated with inheritance marriage. It becomes even more pathetic in cases whereby certain men end up not marrying their wives and at the same time not having their own children. Due to all these facts, 
contemporary Tiv society frowns seriously at this kind of marriage. Most Tiv sons and daughters consider this system of marriage as ancient, thereby, has no regard for it.

Marriage By Self-Imposition (Kwase U Nyoron)
Marriage by self-imposition is the most shameful from of marriage in Tiv society. It was the form of marriage 
practiced in pre-colonial times, especially by people who were considered as  agbenga ior (those lacking in 
morals). Whenever such people were greeted Or nyor kwase (an immoral man who marries by self imposition), he would reply shamefully, kpa mfa kwagh u meren yo (but I know what I am doing). The way Tiv society used to look at people of this kind indicated how the society frowns at marriage by self-imposition (kwase u nyoron).
                                             Tiv woman
Today, most Tiv people see this form of marriage not as completely useless as conceived in pre-colonial Tiv 
society. Many enter into it as a means of substance or better still, enhancing their economic status in life. 
Though self imposition, the man in question completely avoids his home or family and pack into the resident of the woman. Yet some Tiv people still see this form of marriage as a good one. Whatever material benefits one  derives from marriage by self-imposition, thing we must bear in mind is that the Tiv people frowns at it and those who imposed themselves on women in the name of this form of marriage are simply considered to be not serious.

Marriage by Convenience (Kwase USha Ime Mnger)
Marriage by convenience was not common in pre-colonial Tiv society. It was the form of marriage contracted at convenience of the couples themselves. Marriage by continence (kwase u sha ime mnger) was usually arranged when a person felt that he/she has no body to take good care of him or her. In such a case, he/she may decide to marry a person of his or her type for convenience sake. In most cases, a widow or widower who has nobody to take good care of him or her but needs assistance may decide to marry a man or woman of his or her own choice without payment of dowry. This form of marriage was based on mutual understanding between the two adults involved. 

                    Tiv women engaged in traditional dance rehearsals

Even today, this form of marriage is still in practice. But one fascinating thing to know here is that, as against 
the Tiv culture of burring the dead woman in her husband’s home, a woman who entered into marriage by 
convenience, was taken to her own father’s home at death for burial, especially if the husband’s people are not buoyant enough to give her benefiting funeral rites. Despite the repercussions involve in marriage by 
convenience, many Tiv elders, widows and widowers prefer it since it does not involve any payment of dowry.

Marriage Arrangement In Tiv Society    
In Tiv society, arrangement for marriage is elaborate. Certain qualities are expected of a man or woman before marriage. These include good morals, respect, honesty, good family background, amongst others. A would-be wife is usually approved by the community. In pre-colonial Tiv society, a man searching for a lady to marry was often directed to a girl known to have possessed such qualities as numerated above. Thus, he may be told “go to so and so person’s family and marry his daughter. She is not pretty but has good character”. Even in contemporary Tiv society, nobody intends to marry a lady that is not approved by the society. There are few exceptional cases whereby some Tiv people decide on their own to marry a lady without the approval of other people in their families.

The arrangements for marriage in Tiv society begins with the introduction, after which the suitor is expected to assist the parents of the lady in farming. This is done to show the parents-in-law whether he can take care of their daughter and assist them when the need  arises for him to do so. Sometimes, the parents might decide to give their daughter to the suitor after he has farmed for them, as was the case in pre-colonial times.

After the introduction, comes the bride price (kem kwase) on the day the parents, relative and children are 
expected to gather to perform all the marriage rituals such as:  ikyundi I orya (money for the head of the 
household or family), ikondo I ter kem (the cloth of the prospective father-in-laws), a toon a taav (money for 
tobacco), a suwa a tondom a (money for silencing of the noisy youths), adzenga a kem (the amount of the bride price), amongst others. Also, certain things are provided for the mother-in-laws (ungo mba kemv) for the completion of the bride price. These include soft drink, bags of salt, red oil, necklace for the prospective mother in-law, pig and the like. The suitor provided all the above mentioned things through an intermediary (or suur kwase). After the bride-price (kem kwase), the lady is given to the suitor as his wife and some delegates, especially woman were chosen to accompany them to the family house of the groom. To herald their arrival a song is announced (angwe yoon) by one of the husband’s relations saying:

"Angwe kpeee, angwe, ka u ana? Ka angwe u via, via, angwe ye nyam, nyam, nyam, ikaa I ruam, Angwe kaa kpagba! Kpagba kpagha!! A we lelelee!!!"

This is translated as:

Here is the breaking news, whose news is it? It is the news of Mr. so and so. This news involves heavy feasting with meant. It is marriage of a new wife, the one who is to cook food for her husband and his people. The news vibrates sonorously! Sonorously!! Sonorously!!! What a wonderful event, let the joy spread non-stop (Ubwa Uura, 1980).

With this announcement, other relatives and well wishers who are waiting for the arrival of the new wife (kwase Uhe) responded to the heralded song with appropriate cries and dance. They open the celebration of the arrival of the new wife with the mockery song of bachelors and their insatiable eating habits in order to spur other bachelor into marriage as follows:

"Or u kwa hemba ye na a hungwa pepe I gbaan iyough me ya! Or u kwa hemba yam, a hunga pepe, pepe nahan a gbaar agbo ve! Or u kwa ye nyi? A gbagh agho ve!!'

This is translated as:

The bachelor eats more than married people. He complains of hunger very early in the morning and asks for 
roasted water-yam. The bachelors eat a lot. Early in the morning he roasted water-yam himself. (Ayomkaa Dura, 2003).

On hearing this song of challenge, the groom who is leaving the bachelorhood then would slaughter a chicken, goat, pig or even a cow for the marriage celebration, depending on his financial strength. This celebration in honors of a newly married woman is called  kwase u kuham (Ushe, Oral interview July, 1997). A day after the celebration, the new wife is brought out and introduced to the head of the household (or-ya), who explained to her the regulations of the family. This is usually done in company of elderly married woman in the family after which the new wife begins to carry out her marital responsibilities within and outside the community.
                           Tiv man weaving Tiv traditional ange cloth



  1. i would like to know some examples of locals female names of the tiv tribe.
    especially one that starts and ends with the letter N

  2. I would like to know about the tiv's traditional construction techniques

  3. hello please i would like to know the effect of the marriage by capture i the tiv land and why it was abolished. thank you


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