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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.           


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








1.1       Introduction

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 of life.


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 performers”.

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 Kwaghalom or Kikya songs, music and dance through Ibyamegh and Ange to a dynamic and more refined hybrid state of a special form called Swange.

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 graphic poetry.

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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