STUDIO PRODUCTION AND COMMUNICATIVENESS OF TIV TRADITION CLOTHING
1.1 Background to the Study
Studio production is the creative activities which takes place within the workroom of an artist or producer. According to (Merriam-Webster) “A studio is “the building or room where an artist works”, while production is a process of combining various material inputs and immaterial inputs (plans, know-how) in order to make something for consumption (the output). It is the act of creating output, a good or service which has value and contributes to the utility of individuals. (Wikipedia). Therefore, studio production is the process of combining diverse tangible and intangible material inputs in order to create consumable functional and aesthetic items or objects which possesses economic value in an artist workroom.
Kaiser (1997) observed that clothing can be any tangible or material object connected to the human body. Clothing whether sewn or not sewn has symbolic import which facilitate and defines the concepts of a person, people and their culture, social relationship, history, beliefs and their comprehension of human experiences and existence. Clothing offers two fundamental functions for human beings, namely: as a medium or vehicle for communication and as a body modifier. For cloth to serve as a medium of communication which is an integral part of this study, an individual or a culture has to ascribe meaning and symbol to the cloth and over a period of time the symbols and meanings are tied or connected to that individual or particular culture though the meanings could undergo some modification with time and usage. This is the case for studio production and communicativeness of Tiv traditional clothing.
In Tiv society like any other African society their cloth which is an aspect of their art and life share an affinity. Their cloth symbolism serves as an interface by which they gain a lot of insight and comprehension of themselves, the concept of their cloth; their society and larger global society. All these though, no doubt transcend beyond and deeper than the superficial aesthetics of the cloths as they have an innate aesthetics in their symbolism, colour and motifs as well as the meanings and the message they communicate. To understand the meanings and messages they communicate and to appreciate them, their semiotics relevance is imperative, this is because semiotics deals with meaning making, it is a science of signs and symbols in relationship with every human event. It is a focus of enquiry into the manifest and latent meanings of every human phenomenon. In this case, it’s integral part is the replication of Tiv traditional clothing produced in weaving and dyeing techniques in a hand screen-printed fabric surface decoration using same to analyse semiologically and to leave a written document of their semiotics upon which other researchers can build upon with time, since clothing language like any other language is dynamic.
The studio production (screen printing) of these clothing may facilitate the clothing production in large quantity within the shortest possible time compared to weaving which takes many days to produce a complete cloth for an average adult male or female wrap around or dress. The diversification of the products from weaving and dyeing to printing will not make the clothing lose their meanings and aesthetic values but further enhance them. The aesthetic value of a cloth is not only dependent on the methods of production but on other factors like the end use purpose, tensile strength, suppleness of the fibre and cloth, colour fastness, texture, durability, ability to withstand abrasion during scouring, laundry detergents, solvents and chemicals effects, number of yarn twist, temperature and fibre types. Any clothing whether woven by hand or machine, printed by hand or machine must possess if not all, some of the qualities listed above to maintain a high aesthetic value though some cloth are valued more and above others based on functional purpose, design technique and fibre type. Example, fabrics or garments made from animal fibres most often are more esteemed above other garments and fabrics from natural and synthetic fibres.
Omatseye & Emeriewen (2012). State that just like most African visual art forms; the African conception of cloth is created not just to please the eyes. The African cloth has its underlying symbolism which actually takes its root in the people’s values and belief system. In the African belief, cloth goes beyond mere covering of the body, to prevent exposure. There is this inherent aesthetics in its symbolic usage, motifs and colours, and the messages, cloth “speaks”.
Communication is the repelete diverse behaviours, processes and technologies by which meanings are broadcasted, exchanged or derived from information. The term is also employed to describe diverse activities. Communication is at the foundation of our human nature: The manner we communicate with one another tends to mold our lives and the universe. Humans rely heavily on communicative skills requiring their integrity, tractability, and decisive thinking when confronted with daring situations. Communication involves intrapersonal, interpersonal, public, group, mass and so on; a means by which human beings communicate their ideas, views, information, values and ways of life with one another. It is the life wire of human existence which in turn improves unity; progress and subsequently all round human development in our society.
African cloths have had and still have an exceptional significance as a means of communication, information and mutual association within particular communities. The choice of colours, dyes and type of threads or yarns used are not just historically and spiritually significant, but also in the decorative elements, the symbols used and the figurative compositions which are directly related to historical proverbs and events. They are a sort of representation of storytelling often taking the place of the written words and conveying messages of importance for an individual, family, or the larger social human family unit. African clothing are often used to make social and political comments, for commemorative purposes marking special occasions like political or tribal events, weddings, funerals, burials and naming ceremonies. Historically, their functions were controlled by chiefs and regional leaders and therefore, were distributed with favour.
According to Wilson (1996, p.vii) communication is, “…a process or a means to the mind or thought of another. It is an exchange of meaning, with each participant coming into the communication situation with his or her own experiences which he or she hopes to exchange with the other participant(s)”. Communication is very pivotal for the all round functional development of man. The symbolism of Tiv traditional clothing was developed to satisfy the all round functional needs of the Tiv people in non-verbal communication so as to show and appreciate their communicative relevance.
Traditional means of communication facilitates the promotion of peaceful co-existence, self-awareness and understanding of others. These communication activities may take the form of symbolic interaction, as people interact among themselves using symbolism, humans respond to each other according to the innate understanding of what they comprehend. In recent times the sight of a man picking trash from a refuse dumped site, two things come to mind: either the man is mentally challenged or picking the things for commercial purposes.
The Tiv traditional clothing with its simple and sometimes complex inorganic symbols can be seen to elicit innate perceptions and responses. The cloths may be seen by their outside users as only satisfying their aesthetics and functional needs, while their producers and owners may view them differently, since they may have more understanding of the symbols in terms of their functions or meaning among them. Tiv traditional clothings with their symbols like the Uli, Kente, Kanga, Bunu, symbols have been highly incorporated and over time have become structurally functional to the Tiv people thus providing the basis of the reality they experience in some situations.
Supporting this view Freese & Burke (1994) state that symbolic communication can be extremely rewarding, depending on the ability of others to interpret or to decipher the symbols used in the communication situation. This is what this study sets out to achieve. Though there is a wide acceptance and adaptation of the symbols for their aesthetic expression by some artists, yet their communicative significance and meanings are not entirely comprehended. It is needful therefore to know what the Tiv traditional clothing symbols communicate and only then will the meanings and interpretations of these symbols make sense. The Tiv traditional clothing is not the only channel to communicate symbols as the Tiv people also employ proverbs, Kwagh-hir (Tiv puppet theartre or storytelling), music, dances and religious rites as channels of communication. This research should be seen as a contribution, which would lay the foundation for future semiotics study and understanding of Tiv traditional clothing symbol. Therefore, it will be proper and good if Tiv traditional clothing symbolism is divorced from its aestheticism so as not to create chaos when treating both concepts within its traditional setting because the evaluation of a good cloth as a nonverbal communication is based on measuring comprehension by the audience, not on aesthetic or artistic preference, though in this study both concepts are imperative.
The creative cultural products of the Tiv people especially their traditional hand woven and dyed cloths present a broad variety of subjects for research. This motivated the researcher to undertake a study such as this. Many Tiv artists have employed some of the symbols on Tiv traditional clothing in their works of art in a bid to capture the visual essence for aesthetic purposes without knowing the meanings and communicativeness of the symbols.
Artistes and other ethnic groups who have employed these symbols in various media and channels have different meanings for them. This is because the classification of African cloths and symbol systems are difficult, due largely to cultural, social, political, geographical, religious and historical differences. It is the meanings and communicativeness of the Tiv traditional clothing symbol systems that this researcher sets out to investigate though Tiv traditional cloth weavers are churning out these articles in large numbers for commercial purposes and to meet the needs of various users for many socio-cultural events demanding these dressing codes. Such purposes include Tiv dances, burial, kwagh-hir, marriages, and Tiv Day in Gboko.
The Tiv traditional cloth and its attendant symbols are not mainly for aesthetic appeal or gratification but a depiction of the traditional wisdom, lore and morals of the Tiv people as well as a reflection of their innate socio-cultural beliefs and life. The true origin of the use of the Tiv traditional clothing and its symbols cannot be ascertained; nevertheless, legend has it that the progenitor of the Tiv people Tukuruku when he arrived Swem was said to have worn the black and white cotton stripped hand woven cloth called A’nger.
Tiv people are an ethnic-linguistic group in West Africa. They make up approximately 2.5% of the total population of Nigeria numbering over six million persons both in Nigeria and the Cameroon, but mainly in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and Northern Cross River State in Nigeria, they are numbered more than 2.2 million based on 1991 census. The Tiv language is a part of the Southern Bantoid Tivoid family, a branch of Benue-Congo and basically of the Niger-Congo phylum.
The Tiv early history is covered by three theories of origin. These are: creation theory, Bantu and Family theories. According to the creation theory Aondo (God) created the Tar (world) and decided to settle very close to Tar and humans until he was hit with a Pestle by a woman who was pounding food, this resulted in Aondo moving higher into Kwav Aondo (the skies) where he presently resides. The second version is the Bantu version mentioned above and supported by Chia (2013) who gave evidence of sixty-seven (67) words list indicating the similarities between Tiv language and the ‘Bantu Nyanza’ language, dances and worship in present day Malawi and other central African races. The third version traced the origin of Tiv people to one man or single family. Tukuruku is identified in one version while in others is either Tiv, Anyamazenga, Shon, Gbe, Karagbe, Awange or Akem. Whoever the founding father of the Tiv race was, the genealogy or the race rest on two of his offsprings. These are Ipusu and Ichongo. Ichongo the eldest begot Gondo, Ikyura, Nongo, Ihar, Mase and Turan. Ipusu begot Shitire, Kum, Kpar and Tongo. All the Tiv people globally today are descended from these ten children through whom they are connected to the Tiv family tree.
1.1.1 Tiv Modes of Dressing
The Tiv people have many types of dresses employed for various occasions. These include Agbende Akurugh; Akughul A Anyam; A’nger U Tiv; A’nger U Ichenge Igbee; Ashiva; Ate U Tiv; Chado; Deremen; Gbagir; Gbeleve; Gere; Gbevwar; Godo; Gurugu; Ivav Tyo; Kumashe U Tiv; Lishi; Mule U Tiv; Ishundan U Tiv Swem Karagbe; Tugudu,
The male folk usually adorn themselves with many of the above-mentioned dresses. Casting the unsewn one over their body and knotting over their shoulder with a cap of the same design to match or sewn into jumper and a cap to complete the dressing is a very common sight. Sometimes the elderly male` carries a bag made of animal hide and a staff. The female folk will wrap the dress around their waist; wear a white blouse to match and a head-tie made from the same cloth as the wrap around.
1.1.2 Printing, Weaving and Dyeing Techniques of Cloths.
The main cloth printing techniques are screen printing, blocking printing and photocopying. The focus here is silk screen printing technique. Silk screen printing is a technique of printing on textiles in which a textile printing ink or paste is embedded in the cloth. A stencil can be employed to control the ink which passes through the open holes created on it when placed directly over the cloth. This process can only handle one colour of ink at a time. If a motif, or design has more than one colour, each colour is housed by one screen frame, this allows the colours to be situated at their right positions, if the colours are accurately separated from the whole design on the silk screen. Later the printed design on the cloth is set or baked using a hot iron at the right temperature depending on the fabric type used.
Before any textile design takes place on a textile fabrics a paper design is carried out and the design transferred onto a screen for ease of fabric production see plate…
Weaving is a method of fabric production in which two district sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a cloth or fabric. The other methods are felting, knitting, braiding, making and plaiting. The lateral threads are the weft or filling and the longitudinal treads are called warp or ends. The method in which these threads are inter-woven affects the characteristics of the cloth.
Cloth usually is woven on a loom, a device that holds the warp or ends threads in place while filling or weft threads are woven through them. The manner the wrap or ends and the weft or filling threads interlace each other is called the weave. Majority of woven products are made with one of three basic weaves: plain weave, twill or satin weave. Woven fabrics can be plain in one colour like the Tiv traditional cloth called Tujudu or woven in decorative or artistic designs.
The focus of this study is the Tiv cloth weaving techniques which employs the interlacing of the weft and warp thread on a horizontal loom. Before weaving takes place a float chart or point paper design is prepared to be employed as a guide to the weaving see 3.11.2 in chapter three.
Fig. 2: Weaving Point Paper Design.
Dyeing is the process of adding colour to textile products like yarns, fibres and fabrics. Dyeing is usually carried out in special solution containing dyes and chemical materials in particular. After dyeing, dye molecules have uncut chemical bond with fibre molecules. The temperature and time controlling are the two main factors in dyeing process. There are two chief classes of dyes, natural and man-made. Different classes of dyes are employed for different fibre types and at different stages of the textile production process, from loose fibres to yarn and from cloth to completed garments. Cotton is dyed with a range of dye types, including synthetic reactive, vat dyes and direct dyes, Acrylic fibres are dyed with basic dyes, polyester yarn with disperse dye, nylon, and protein fibres like silk and wool are dyed with acid dyes.
The technique employed in dyeing of fabric is not similar to printing, while in silk screen printing method of fabric surface decoration the ink which is in paste state is press through the screen and localized on the cloth surface, in dyeing the design is created first using the tie-dye or batik method then immersed in dye bath which is always in a liquid or aqueous condition, after the dye stuff, sodium hydroxide and sodium carbonate are well dissolved and mixed. In tie-dye method of fabric decoration the area where the dye is not required on the fabric is tie-dyed with twine, or pleated while the area where the dye is required or will accept dye is not tied. The cloth which is so tied or pleated is then immersed in the dye bath and allowed to stay there for a length of up to thirty to sixty minutes while it is turn over between intervals to enable dye take up by the cloth. The cloth is then removed from the dye bath and allowed to oxidize before it is loosen, washed to remove excess dye and put out on a line to dry under an airy shade.
The aesthetic value of the Tiv traditional hand woven and dyed cloths compared to the screen printed fabric are dependent on the choice of the buyer as aesthetic dimension of cloth is hinged on myriad distinct purposes and requirements of the cloth.
Semiotics is the study of the meaning of signs and symbols. African global view is replete with embellished African symbols which are veritable sources of perception into African ways of life. The history, religion, socio-cultural and cross-cultural diversities of the African continent, its people and the attendant changes, makes the classification of its symbolism system consistently difficult to accomplish, as the meaning of a symbol is determined by the subject, group or culture employing it, thus hindering a uniform classification.
Ochigbo (2002, p.9) states, “signs refer to those symbols that are adopted by convention. These could be classified as naturalistic and conventional signs used to refer to something in order to convey a meaning.” Dzodo (2014) distinguishes between sign and symbol in relation to the degree of qualitative information that is conveyed through them. While signs provide simple information, symbols are used to communicate complex knowledge.
The Advanced English Dictionary (2014) defines Semiotics as, a philosophical theory of the functions of signs and symbols. As a communication medium, Nordquist (2014) sees the relationship of semiotics to communication as, “the general philosophical theory of signs and symbols without which communication will be impossible.” He further submits that, “it has to do with the observation and interpretation of signs made up of three basic elements: semantics, pragmatics and syntactic. Ochigbo further states that the expressive quality of the symbols receives semantic interpretation as a phenomenon, which communicates the feelings… symbolographics users.” This study sets out to studio produce select Tiv traditional clothing symbols with a view to eliciting their denotative and connotative meanings and communicativeness.
1.1.4 The concept of code
The conventions of codes represent a social dimension in semiotics. According to Chandler (2015). “Code” is defines as “a set of practices familiar to users of the medium operating within a broad cultural framework”. Fiske (1982, p.68) defines codes as “the system into which signs are organized. These systems are governed by rules which are consented to by all the community using the code” Hall (1980, p.131) observed rightly that “there is no intelligible discourse without the operation of a code”. Codes are, therefore, frameworks that help both producers and interpreters of artworks in creating and understanding artworks as in texts. Selection and combination of signs are made relative to codes with which we are familiar. This, according to Turner (1992, p.17), is “in order to limit the range of possibilities of meanings they are likely to generate when read by others”. To this researcher a code in an artwork sign/symbol is like salt to food, without which there is no meaningful interpretation or communication.
To interpret an art piece as a sign approapriately, the sign receiver/interpreter has to read the signs with reference to appropriate codes which are usually determined by various contextual cues provided in the sign and the environment in which they operate. The medium and channel employed influence the choice of codes for interpretation. Codes help to organize signs into meaningful systems which co-relate signifiers and signified. When applying a code to a textile artwork (text) for instance, we need to be very careful because we may find that a particular code may not have the same meaning or communicativeness, therefore, according to Eagleton (1983, p.123) need to be “revised and transformed. In this situation, continuing to read with the same code may now produce a different text which in turn modifies the code by which we are reading and so on.”