The richness of African culture has generally been reduced since most aspects of its cultures have either been replaced or grossly over-shadowed by colonial as well as post-colonial activities of the West and other cultures of the world. The thatched roof architecture have been grossly replaced with different kinds of modern forms of roofing. The informal learning methods which sometimes involve series of initiations at different stages in one’s life have been at some quarters partially replaced with formal education. In dressing, most ethnic groups in Africa have practically lost grip of their traditional form of dressing given way to the forces of civilization aided with technological advancement.
However, there are still ethnic groups in Africa that have not only retained some important cultural practices by way of commemoration but also preserved as well as keep on the production of certain cultural materials of unique appearances to date. One of such groups is the Tiv people of Benue state in Nigeria who have refused to let go the culture of producing their unique and symbolic cultural costume (traditional cloth) popularly known as A’nger. Or sometimes called and linked it with its cultural source as A’nger U Tiv.
The A’nger is woven with Black and white yarns to create beautiful features which makes the cloth to appear like live zebra skin. Traditionally, the a’nger is a cloth normally used in the decoration of illustrious sons and daughters of Tiv. The cloth is also worn by Tiv elders or chiefs during Tiv traditional council which is usually held in Gboko – the traditional headquarters of all Tiv people as well as the permanent place for the seat of the Tor-Tiv. The Tor-Tiv is title for the highest chief who rules over Tiv land and also have a final voice on all traditional issues or cases concerning the Tiv people living in other parts of Nigeria and indeed the world at large.
The colours (black and white) on the a’nger are literally signify the true nature of the Tiv people their believe concerning issues of life or existence. A Tiv man believes in taking a clear stand in any issue concerning life. In Tiv: It is either day or night, left or right, yes or no, death or life, etc. It this believe that is symbolically represented in two colours of nature: Black and White. Honesty and Sincerity in speaking or dealing with issues defines the character of a traditional Tiv man. Another way of viewing the black and white features of A’nger is terms of the peaceful nature of the Tiv people in general. In this way, the black and white symbolically represent the nature zebra in the wild. A zebra in the animal kingdom is one among the most peaceful, harmless and beautiful looking animal. The Tiv people are naturally peace loving and hardworking wherever they find themselves. There are many forms of traditional cloth (cultural costumes) of the Tiv which are worn at specific time honored periods in Tiv land, however, the A’nger is the most respected and highly valued among all the costumes.
Sometimes, when an individual of non-Tiv origin has made a landmark achievement and the Tiv traditional council want to honour him or her with a title, it is the A’nger that is used in decorating him. Although, most of such titles have been politicalized, the meaning and honour accorded to such have not change. Today, A’nger is generally used as form of cultural identification. Young boys and girls of Tiv and non-Tiv alike wear it during schools’ cultural week to showcase their culture. Because of the beautiful nature of the cloth, most individuals (men and women) who are non-Tiv, do wear the cap or tie it as the case may be.
During marriages involving an illustrious or respectable Tiv son and a non-Tiv lady, the a’nger cloth is usually used in decorating both of them. This means two things, first for the lady and the second for the man. First, that the lady has been accepted into the Tiv culture and she should not consider herself a stranger or alien in Tiv land anymore. On the part of the man, it means an honour given to him for coming of age to take responsibilities in the Tiv society.