Painterly images and imageries from the Tiv Swange dance steps here is an studio
exploration of colour that probelmatized the body language that is inherent in Swange
dance as a creative resource for painting. This project, thus intends to capture the
poetics of corporeal communication expression embodied in Swange dance. Generally
through the response of the human body to the language and rhythms of music and
dance. The project did not aspire to realism in terms of form and content, but the artist
relied on economy of creative means to seek meaning at that point where stylization
meets with symbolism. This project undertakes a study of the communication that goes
on between music and dance and tries to capture the experience in frozen graphic
movement. The artist is not just interested in music and dance but in the meta-art that
result from the body movement. However, the project visually documents the Tiv
Swange dance/music for cultural preservation. The painterly forms equally serves as a
stepping stone for other researchers who may like to do further research in this area. For
a better appreciation of the project, some drawings and photographs are used to
highlight the studied paintings as well as their production processes. The project report
is divided into six chapters which help to bring more insight to the studio project.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title page – – – – – – – – – – i
Certification Page – – – – – – – – – ii
Approval Page – – – – – – – – – iii
Acknowledgement s – – – – – – – – iv
Dedication – – – – – – – – – – v
Abstract – – – – – – – – – – vi
Table of contents – – – – – – – – – vii
Background to the study – – – – – – – – 1
Dance culture in Nigeria – – – – – – – – 2
Tiv Swage Dance – – – – – – – – 3
Statement of the problem – – – – – – – 4
Aims of the Research – – – – – – – – 5
Methodology – – – – – – – – – 5
Scope of the Study- – – – – – – – – 5
Limitation of the Study – – – – – – – 6
Significance of the Study- – – – – – – – 6
Literature Review – – – – – – – – – 7
Some notable artists who painted dancers – – – – – 10
Pre-studio Research and Studio experience – – – – – 12
Processes – – – – – – – – – – 12
Pencil/Colour sketcher for painting – – – – – – 24
Preparation of Painting Surface – – – – – – – 27
Choice of colour/Colour Application and Techniques – – – 28
Tiv Swange Dance as a Creative resource for the Painters – – – 32
Hermeneutical Critiques of Studio Project – – – – – – 49
Conclusion – – – – – – – – – – 58
References – – – – – – – – – – 60
Artists are always interested in those aspects of our daily lives that intrigue their imagination
such as people, animals, human activities, abstract things and so on. From pre-historic times to the
present, humankind has had interest in nature and human activities. The pre-historic man-made
paintings of animals on the walls of his cave dwellings. Also, the ancient Egyptians were equally
interested in nature.
Similarly, artists, from as early as the fifteenth century, have drawn inspiration from their
environment, resulting in drawings and paintings of the various elements such as animals, trees, people
and human activities, in various expressive ways, for aesthetic purposes. Consequently, this research
intends to look into the possibilities of exploring Swange Dance-steps, movement of the body,
gesticulations, gentle swaying of the waist with a view to examining the painterly and imagery aspect
of Swange Dance steps. Thus, the study of Tiv Swange dance steps forms the core of this research.
According to Bhatt (2014), Dance is a performance art form consisting of purpose selected
steps of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as
dance by performers and observers within a particular culture. It further explained that Dance is the art
form in which human movement becomes the medium for sensing, understanding, and communicating
ideas, feelings and experience. Tyonum (1989), opines that dancing is a type of art that generally
involves movement of the body, often rhythmic in time to music; performed in many cultures as a
form of emotional expression, social interaction, or exercise, in a spiritual or performance setting, and
is sometimes used to express ideas or tell a story. Dance may also be regarded as a form of non-verbal
communication between humans or other animals, as is in dance and behaviour patterns such as
mating dances. Tyonum also notes that what constitutes dance can depend on social and cultural
norms as well as aesthetic, artistic and moral sensibilities. Ummeed Theatre (2014), definitions of
dance range from functional movement (such as folk dance) to virtuoso techniques such as ballet. The
Martial art are often compared to dances, and sports such as gymnastics, figure skating and
synchronised swimming are generally thought to incorporate dance. In some cases, the motion of
ordinarily inanimate objects may be described as dance (the leaves dance in the wind). Symbolic
gestures may also be used in dance as in many Asian dance forms. People of different cultures dance
differently and for varying purposes, and these varied forms of dance can reveal much about their way
Music is sound that is usually produced by the use of instruments or voices that are arranged or
played in order to create effects. Without these arranged sounds produced by the traditional musical
instruments and voices, there would almost be no performance, as the performance itself is enhanced
by the music. Music and dance are aesthetic art which are valued and appreciated in every society.
Music and dance, largely serving entertainment function also inform, mobilize, educate and bring
about correlation of parts of society. By this functions, music and dance bring about social charge.
(Ayu, 1986) argued that Tiv traditional music and dance serve similar functions in Tiv society.
According to Tyonum (1989:p8), “the beauty and grandeur of the Swange dance is enhanced by the
Hence, Swange dance steps form the core of this investigation as the paper is in essence an
investigation into the series of body movement and steps, gesticulations, gentle swaying of the waist
and organised steps which are some of attributes of the Swange dance.
Dance Culture in Nigeria
Dance does not leave behind clearly identifiable physical artefacts such as stone tools, hunting
implements or cave painting. As such, it is not possible to say when dance became part of human
culture. Jordania (2002) suggested that dance, together with rhythmic music and body painting, was
designed by the forces of natural selection at the early stage of hominid evolution as a potent tool to
put groups of human ancestors in a battle trance, a specific altered state of consciousness. Performing
art is deeply woven into the social fabric of Africa and generally involving aspects of music and
theatre as well as rhythmic bodily movement. According to Peggy H, (2015) it is widely
acknowledged that African music has undergone frequent and decisive changes throughout the
centuries. What is termed traditional music today is probably very different from African music in
former times. Nor has African music in the past been rigidly linked to specific ethnic groups. Yet, the
individual musician, his style and creativity, have always played an important role.
Nigerian dance is a subset of the African dance culture, it is a very dynamic, rich and magnetic
phenomenon, it is not easy to classify all Nigerian dancers. Music and dance are part of life of every
Nigerian. Nigeria is a vast multi-cultural nation with more than three hundred ethnic groups spread
across the country. According to Abimbola (2010), “with over 300 different ethnic groups and
languages, Nigeria has one of the richest cultures in the world. Each ethnic group has a unique form
of identity: language, dance, music and musical instruments and its own religion and tradition”. This
can be seen in the Ekpe dance of the Efik and Ibibio, the Atilogwu dance of the Igbos and the Swange
dance of the Tiv which are already well known in Nigeria and beyond.
“Iorngurum (2013) asserts that “Dance is the transformation of ordinary functional and expressive
movement into extraordinary movement for extraordinary purposes”.
Tiv Swange Dance
The Tiv, as an ethnic group are largely found in the Benue valley. Omosa (2009:p9) further
confirms that, “they are a hardworking people who are rightly branded as the food basket of the
nation”. Apart from the farming activities, the Tiv people of Nigeria are endowed with cultural
activities like any other ethnic group in Nigeria.
Swange: This is an Imo Igberen (singing). Agber (2013) reveals that the accounts of chronicles
of the form of Tiv traditional music into what is known today as Swange music was an evolution of
different genres of traditional music in stages, from Kwagh – alom or Kikya songs, music and dance
through Ibyamegh and Ange to a dynamic and more refined hybrid state of a special form called
Omosa states that. Swange is a very popular Tiv music/dance that is orchestrated all over Tiv
nation and beyond. Its origin is as far back as the 1930s and has survived unto this present day. On the
contrary, Manta (2006)opines that Swange is a contemporary popular social dance of the Tiv people of
Benue State in central Nigeria. It is a dance of fast, slow rhythmic and undulating movements,
expressing youth and vigour.
Plate 1: live performance of Swange Dance, Photo by Ephraim Agba 2014
Statement of the Problem
There is reasonable volume of scholarly research on the literary, still and motion photographic
documentaries on Swange Dance/music within and beyond Nigeria. However, such studies have not
been concerned with problematizing the body language that is inherent in Swange dance as a creative
resource for painting. This project thus undertakes a study of the poetics of corporeal communication
expression embodied in Swange dance and appropriated in the studio painting in the form of frozen
Consequently, the studio project will not aspire to realism in terms of form and content. Rather,
it will depart from the realistic preparatory sketches by relying on economy of creative means, the very
essentials of form, to seek meaning at that point where stylisation meets with symbolism.
Aims of the Research
The artist aim at visual documentation of the Swange music/dance is to sustain the culture for
posterity sake. Also the research will add to existing scholarship, through graphic poetry and the
communication-expression of moral and ethics from the Tiv culture. Finally, the exploration of
Swange dance/music will further the economy of creative resource for painters and hinder possible
extinction of the culture.
In accomplishing this research, information was collected from primary and secondary sources. The
Primary sources of data include: books, catalogues and interviews and purposive observation of the
live performances. Secondary sources of data include still and motion photographic documentaries.
The primary data was collected from literary archives such as the Benue archives, internet, individual
literatures on Swange dance, and careful observation of live performance from the troupes. Also
interviews were conducted with the performers to know how the dance steps are organised.
Secondary data such as still and motion photographs and documentaries were previewed to
deduce necessary knowledge that will be added to the body of information pertaining to the Swange
dance. Thus, after the relevant data was gathered, the analytical approach was employed in order to
analyse and condense the data for the studio work and the project report. The analytical approach used
involves ideating of imageries, themes and titles. Subsequently, the themes, and titles gotten from the
data above were used in producing sketches, colour roughs for the studio work and project report
Scope of the Study
This research is concerned with the images and imageries from the Tiv Swange dance with
emphases on the body movement, the gentle swaying of the waist and the organised steps.
The challenge here was the inadequate funds to carry out a more extensive research and the
unavailability of documents on the Swange dance from the Ministry of Art and Culture, Benue State.
Also, the apathy of some civil servants who usually are unwilling to release information as well as
lack of knowledgeable people to interview.
Significance of the study
The study will visually document the Tiv Swange dance / music for cultural preservation. The
painterly forms will help further the Nigeria cultural aesthetic and enrich the painting tradition.
Furthermore the study will explore the possibilities of using the body language that are inherent in
dance as a creative resource for developing more painterly orchestrations. This work is significant,
because it intends to capture the poetics of corporeal communication-expression embodied in Swange
dance. It will equally serve as a stepping stone for other researchers who would like to do further
research in this area.
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