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Tiv Culture: 6 interesting facts about one of Nigeria’s greatest story tellers

Regarded as one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Tiv people are an ethno-linguistic group in West Africa with a population of over seven million throughout Nigeria and Cameroon.

The group which constitutes approximately 3.5% of
Nigeria’s total population, has its language spoken
by about 7 million people in Nigeria with a few
speakers in Cameroon. Most of the language’s
Nigerian speakers are found in Benue, Taraba and
Nasarawa States.

However, most of the knowledge gotten about the
Tiv tribe are often shrouded in misconceptions or
rather limited to the knowledge of their
monochrome traditional attires, their love for
farming and heavily flawed belief about promiscuity
amongst the Tiv people.
With this in mind, has gathered a few
interesting facts about the Tiv people which sheds
more light on their history, lifestyle, traditions and
some of their famous myths and legends.

Here are 6 mind-blowing facts about the Tiv
people of Nigeria:

1. History

According to oral tradition, the Tivs are said to
have emerged into their present location from the
southeast. It is believed they journeyed through
southern, south-central and west-central Africa
before arriving at the savannah lands of West
African Sudan via the River Congo and Cameroon The earliest recorded European contact was in
1852, when Tiv were found on the banks of the
Benue. During November 1907 to spring 1908, an
expedition of the Southern Nigeria Regiment led by
Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Trenchard came into
contact with the Tiv. Trenchard brought gifts for
the tribal chiefs. Subsequently, roads were built
and trade links established between Europeans and
the Tiv.

2. Occupation

The Tiv people are popularly known subsistence
farmers whose main crops are yams, millet, and
sorghum, all of which are eaten in numerous ways
such as in forms of porridge, sauces and stews.
Although goats and chickens are plentiful, few
cattle are kept because of the tsetse fly.

A photo of a Tiv compound and farm/African Farming

The choice of farmland is determined by its
closeness to the compound. This is why it is often
said that the Tiv people live on their farms. Both
men and women clear the land, but men do the
hoeing of mounds and ridges, as well as preparing
the land for planting, while women do the planting
and weeding.

3. Marriage

Just like most cultures in Nigeria, the groom
comes with his family members to see the bride’s
family for an official introduction. They are usually
required to come with salt, palm oil, a bottle of
wine, hot drinks (spirits) and any other thing
requested by the family of the bride. The date for
the traditional wedding ceremony is fixed and The
List is given to the groom’s family. On the day of
the ceremony, the groom and his family come with
the items requested on the list.

After the payment of dowry, the list of gifts are
presented to the bride’s father. This is a very
important part of Tiv traditional marriage. Here we
have the usual example of bride price list: pig,
local gin plus additional alcoholic drinks (which is
often expected in the form of money), azenga
(cowries) Matches, Danchiki (an attire for the
bride’s father).
Though this isn’t a requirement, the groom is
expected to give money to the youth of the bride’s
community after the ceremony. While this can be a
fun game of cat and mouse between the youths
and the groom, it can sometimes get heated and
more often than not, the groom ends up appeasing
the youths before he is allowed to take his bride
If the groom is also Tiv, his family will await the
arrival of the bride in their hometown with Tiv
traditional music and dancers. This process is
called the ‘Kwase kuhwan” which loosely translates
to ‘celebration of wife’.

4. Food

One of the things the Tiv people are known for
when it comes to food, is their love for yams. It is
often said that a Tiv man can comfortably have
fried yam for breakfast, yam porridge for lunch and
pounded yam for dinner.
Their love for yams reflects in the fact that
pounded yam and a native soup known as genger

(it is said to be medicinal and sharpens ones thought process)

is regarded as the staple in a Tiv
home and often served at traditional functions. The
Tiv people are also known for their love for bush
meat, especially the bush rat.
There is a custom Tiv people have when they finish
their meal. Instead of regular a ‘thank you’, they
say “u yôô”, which can be translated as ‘you have
cooked’ which is more or less ‘well done’.

5. Myths and Legends

The popular story of origin contends that the Tiv
people were driven from their mythical home
beyond the waters somewhere to the east of the
Cameroon Mountains by the Ugenyi people,
considered to be their enemies.

As they fled from
their enemies who were in close pursuit, they came
across the great waters of river Aya which they
could not safely cross.
At this point, the Tiv people were stranded and had
no way to cross the river. According to legend, a
friendly green snake called Ikyarem came by and
stretched itself across the river. This enabled the
Tiv people to cross safely on its back to the other
side of the river from where they journeyed through
the South and West, fighting enemy upon enemy on
the way. They finally settle down in the Benue
province of north central Nigeria where they remain

Till date, green snakes are not killed by the Tiv
people as it is believed to have saved them from
their enemies.

6. Misconceptions

One of the things the Tiv ethnic group is known for
is their hospitality. However, over the years there
have been misconceptions about the length a Tiv
man would go to keep his visitor comfortable. One
of such popular misconceptions is the belief that a
Tiv man often offers his wife up for the
‘entertainment’ of his guest.
While this continues to be the mentality of many
people about the Tiv tribe, it is pertinent to
understand while the Tiv people are often friendly
towards visitors, a typical Tiv man does not joke
with three things: his meat, his alcohol and most
importantly, his woman.

By Victor Aluede G.y

Aluede G.y Victory is a history
enthusiast an a mediapreneur living in Aboru,
Lagos. He studied arts at skills click foundation, he is an alumni of Rehoboth college Aboru, Lagos.

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