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Misconception about Tiv hospitality

25 August 2014, 10:13 John Akevi

The prime purpose of this piece is to examine the Tiv hospitality against the background of the many misconception sold to the wider society by some western scholars, writers and even by some ethnic groups surrounding Tivland.

Despite the attempts made by some latter European writers, anthropologists and ethnographers to redeem the image of the Tiv already set ablaze by their anxiety to penetrate Tivland and to establish alien rule in an era of imperialism,based their understanding of the Tiv people on earlier 19th Century European accounts.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Ushe Mike Ushe in his masterpiece titled, "Kpor of Tiv culture"(2010),elucidates...the gross misconception about Tiv hospitality in pre,Modern and Post-modern times. Some of these misconception are: That Tiv are hostile and aggressive set of people who like fighting with their neighbors in order to expand their territorial boundaries. Second,that the Tiv do share their wives with visitors in the name of hospitality. Third,that adultery and fornication are not sins in Tiv Religion. Those who are either biased or prejudiced about the Tiv people have blown these and other related misconception out of proportion. However,we could ask: Are the Tiv people really hostile? Is adultery as well as fornication not sinful in Tiv Religion or society at large? Do the Tiv people actually share their wives with visitors?

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Dr.Ushe (2010) emphatically expresses this thus:...one important fact to note here is that Tiv are vocal,open minded people,curious,inquisitive and practical,especially when they are unjustly maltreated, subjugated or when they want to project their view. Paul Bohannan and Laura Bohannan (1953) confirm this, thus:

...the Tiv are the most practical and unsuperstitious people that we had met on the vast continent of Africa....They are a group with an independent turn of mind,and are the most ethnocentric people in the world.

In Tiv society fornication and adultery are known as sex taboo.  Dr. Ushe (2010) explain...sex is a sacred thing and if there is a breach of its sacredness,the consequences are grievous. Suemo (2001) opines that fornication and adultery are tabooed acts in Tivland because:

...Tiv people accept sexual intercouse as a natural need that is strategic to human life...But the rate at which a Tiv man looks at someone caught in the very acts of fornication and adultery shows how criminal the acts are. In Pre-modern Tiv society,punishment for committing such offences ranged from severe corporeal punishment to contempt for the preson involved. If such persons swore "Swem"it was believed that the would fall sick,have a swollen stomach,severe headache and subsequently die.

Suemo's presentation above indicates that the Pre-colonial,colonia and even post-colonial Tiv society frowns at sexual aberrations like fornications, incest,homosexuality,lesbianism etc. The Tiv are always forthright in attacking defaulters who indulge in these acts. These deviant behaviors are considered by the Tiv people to sexual aberrations. Those who indulge in any of those sex taboos was required to make some required purification rituals so as to be cleansed.

In Tiv society,the practice of hospitality is highly emphasized. The Tiv people have a strong philosophy of solidarity as "Ya kwagh na wan igban"(eat and share with your brother), they also believed that this philosophy can only be strong when people generously care for others.

The Tiv gesture of kindness and receptibility towards visitors has often been misconstrued. But the fact still remains that Tiv people hold in high esteem the virtue of : welcoming strangers,protecting visitors (u eren a mba van nya dedoo), feeding the hungry (u naan mba ijen i ker ve kwaghyan), housing the homless (u taren ior ikyar ki yaven),among others. But it must be noted that Tiv people do not joke with thier wives talkless of sharing them consciously with others. It is common to hear a Tiv man say, "U keren kwase me tambe u ken ken"(If you have lostful relationship with my wife I must bewitch you).

During the Pre-colonial times,there were several cases of fornications and adulterers in Tiv society who were cursed,bewitched or even killed. If the people could be so brutal against themselves for being promiscuous,what would one expect when it concerns an outsider?

In generations past,the Tiv people were strong warrior tribe. Through war conquests they aquired many slaves,among which were women. When a Tiv man had a visitor,he would sometimes send one of the female slaves to keep him company. The visitor who was not resident there would think that the woman was the Tiv man's wife. But if the slave eventually got pregnant and gave birth,the child became a slave by birth this mean more hands at farm. Must of the slaves were later sold to the whitemen.

I rest my pen.

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