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The Culture And Tradition Of The Tiv People Of Benue State, Nigeria

The Tiv people belong to a minor ethnic group in Nigeria numbering about six million. They have a rich history associated with their existence. The culture and tradition of the Tiv people is one that is envied by many who come in contact with them.

Quick Fact About The Tiv People

They occupy the middle belt region of Nigeria, comprising of states such As Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa and Plateau.

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They can also be found in Cameroun.

They are predominantly Christians although Islam is also practiced among them.

They are great farmers producing crops such as yam, cassava, maize, mellon etc

Tiv land stretches from Agede in Benue in the south east, Iyala, Gekem and Obudu in Cross River, Chambam and Junkun of Taraba in the northeast and Idoma of Benue in the south.


History of the Tiv People

Tiv became known to the outside world during an expedition lead by Lieutenant-Colonel Huge Trenchard from 1907 to 1908.

Tiv people descended from a man known to many as Takurudu, Shon, Gbe,Awanje And Karagbe. He was regarded as the founding father of Tiv.

He gave birth to two children Ichongoa and Ipsu. Ichongo gave birth to Gondo, Ikyura, Nongo, Ihar, Mase and Turan,while Ipusu gave birth to Shitire, Kum, Kpar.

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These ten children are the direct descendants of the Tiv people. According to its history, Tiv first settled in Swerm but due to overpopulation they spread from the hills of the south eastern Tivland to
the middle belt region.


Culture and Tradition of  The Tiv

Culture is generally refers to the way of life of people. The people of Tiv have some of the most unique cultures in Nigeria. Their traditions have been passed from one generation to another. I would be considering some of these under the following subheading:

  • Marriage
  • Dressing
  • Music
  • Food



Marriage in Tivland is rooted in the rich culture of the Tiv people. There are four ways marriage is sealed in Tiv land;

  • Marriage by exchange
  • Marriage by capture
  • Marriage by purchase
  • Marriage by bride price

Mariage by exchange (yamshe): In this type of marriage, the man looking for a wife simply approaches another man looking for a wife also. The marriage will only come to fruition when both parties have women to exchange; such as daughters or wives.

Marriage by capture (kwase-ngohol): Here a woman is forcefully snatched from her husband during travel. This type of marriage was rampant during the early Tiv migration and it was responsible for majority of the inter-clan wars. Another form of marriage by capture occurs when a man visits another country to lure a woman away from the country.

When the man visits another country he stays in the house of a man whose mother is also from his country. He then sends his friends or relatives to look for unmarried girls for him.

After he selects the girl he likes, he would then visit the house of the girl.

Also the men who make up this group would go to different communities to perform dances. When ladies come over to watch them, they are usually attracted to some of the men.

Eventually the men would take some of these ladies as their wife back to their country. This process of obtaining a wife is called Iye; a honorable marriage of capture as opposed to the forceful marriage of capture described above.

Marriage by Purchase: This type of marriage is known as kwase u sha uikya. Here girls are captured as slaves and married off.

Marriage by bride price: This is the marriage currently been practiced in Tivland. It became prominent as a form of marriage during the European administration, when they decided to abolish other forms of marriage.

The European administration insisted that men should pay bride price before he can take any girl as his wife.

The man would continuously send gifts to the girl and her family. When the girl’s family is satisfied with his gifts, he is then informed on come and pay the bride price for the girl.

Most of the time, the couples would elope without paying the bride price. The bride price is paid later when the man is ready.


Music and Dance

Music is part of the culture of the Tiv people. They have being able to advance a form of communication that blends music intricately with it. This communication promotes the use of various traditional musical instruments such as;

Kakaki: An instrument which is used to pass important messages to the community. This message could be the crowning of the King, the birth of the King’s son, the marriage of the King’s son or during an attack by opposing community. Members of the community are told to gather at the village square.

Ilyu: This is an instrument made of light wooden material which is also used to gather elders for a meeting with the King. It is also used to announce the death of someone in the community.

Indyer: This is a special musical instrument made from mahogany trunk. It is used during festivals such as the Yam Festival to pass information as regards the festival to the people. It is also used to announce the success of a good harvest year.

Gbande: This is a large musical instrument played by young men of the community during festival. The gbande produces strong rhythms when played and it beats carry with it messages to the people. It is significant during occasion like coronation and death of the King.

Adiguve: This instrument resembles the violin and it is one of the popular musical instruments used by the Tiv people. During festival, the Adiguve is played to the admiration of all. It is also symbolic during the death of an elder in the community.


Tiv Dressing Code

Since time immemorial, the Tiv people have perfected the art of weaving; a craft passed from generation to generation. Tiv people favor their traditional attire to any other form of attire due to the strong cultural identity it commands.

The anger is Tiv most popular form of attire. It is made up of white and black stripes woven together to form a beautiful design.

There is Tugudu which is used strictly for burying dead ones. The women of Tiv like to put on a special fabric known as Ivvavtyo which is worn during important occasions.

Other fabrics used by the Tiv people are Lishi, Gbev-whaa, Godo, Gurugu, Chado, Deremen and Gbagir.

The Tiv people apply a very painstaking process in making their fabrics. It takes about a day for one person to weave, dye and prepare the fabric for sale.

The fabric is greatly patronize by many people and it has helped to boost the economy of the state.


Burial in TV Land

The Tiv people attach great significance to the burial of their loved ones. The burial is steeped in their local customs.

The process starts with the sending of messages to Takurudu who is regarded as the ancestor of the Tiv people. This is usually done with the aid of musical instrument such as Idya or Ilyu.

He is informed of the death of the person and told to await the arrival of the dead in the ancestral world.

On the day of the burial, the corpse would be washed by elderly woman and wrapped in Anger, Tugudu or Gbagir attire.

Usually the dead is buried within 24 hours and no coffin is used.

Watch the Video of a Documentary about the Tiv people below

It is interesting to note that the culture and tradition of  the Tiv is still valid up till now, though some parts of it have been made redundant over time due to modernization and the influence of Christianity.

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  2. Mwuese angbian u a nger kwagh sha mlu u tyo i Tiv la. Mumbur ayange ker jime kpee nahan angbianev asev mba kpishi wa gomneti u Benue kwagh er : man i tesen zwa u tyoo ne ker makeranta i kiriki er primary man secondary nahan. kpa zan zan nyian mba a fatyo i er kwagh ne ga. A er nan ve ior asev vea fa kwagh u tyoo tsembelee? Tiv mba ve lu ker atotyev ka vea nenge a or zwa ve kpa mba tesen kyav er ve mba angbianev ga. Ne mba ne gande yol yo sor nen tar Tiv kpa nea fatyo ga yo se mba kiriki se son Aondo una wase se yo, se sor tar wase. Msugh tyo.

  3. Achebe,Soyinka and other writers are proud of their heritage, evidence of this is seen in promoting their culture in their creativities. So my brother keep it up! It is a welcome development.

  4. Brothers i belive we need to put some sense into our elders.we can do this by speaking on radio benue.08170605612

  5. Islam is not practice among the tiv people, cos of its tradition Islam forbid some many things a tiv eat or do. I am pround to be a tiv man

  6. Doom er m lu ortiv nahan,
    kpa gema zam iyol kpishi er ónov Tiv mba tagher tagher ve lu nzughur a kwagh u Tiv, sha aci u ijen man uhua vev nahan.
    Aluer se mough sha ga yó, yange a lu ungwan a ungwa er yange ikyurior i gen i lu i yilan er Tiv!
    Kwagh u doon mo yó shie la nahan me kera lu uma ga, nahan a kera zam iyol ga.
    De nen pati a vihi se tar Tiv a bee,
    man nenge; er m tse shawon m lu been iyol ne,
    ka nyi Tiv vea tese er ka kwagh u pati a ne se ne?
    M pine ka akoko a ukya a ónov asev ve iin a ii la ga.

  7. My Tiv people have a reach tradition and culture. Am proud to be a member of the Tiv family. Tnx

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