This unit focuses on iconographic channels of communication, a mode of communication in Africa. The various types will be outlined and examples presented.
It explores objectified as a type of iconographic communication. It examines the concepts, present some examples and highlights their communication functions.
Furthermore, it examines floral, plants and crops as iconographic communication devices. It also highlights their communication functions.
- define iconographic communication
- outline the various types of iconographic communication
- discuss the communication functions of iconographic communication
- discuss objectified as a group of iconographic communication
- discuss some examples of objectified drawing from their cultures and communities
- discuss the communication functions of the various example of objectified
- discuss florals, plants and crops as a group of iconographic communication
- discuss some examples of florals, plants and crops drawing from their cultures and communities
- discuss the communication functions of the various examples of florals, plants and crops
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Iconographic Communication
Icons are symbols. For instance, your photograph is your icon. According to Doob (1966:60), “In a symbolic relation, the medium is able to suggest reality because, not through any necessary or inherent connection but through custom and habituation, the symbol arouses response very similar to those evoked by reality itself”. In some parts of Nigeria, when people who are living abroad want to do their traditional marriages and can not come to Nigeria either for reasons of cost, or questionable travel documents or their documents are expired and they might be refused entry when returning to the foreign country, their families normally, place the enlarged and perhaps framed photographs of the bride and the bride groom in a strategic place at the venue of the ceremony to represent the couple. This has become established in many parts of Nigeria and it is understood by many Nigerians.
Akpabio (2003:26) noted that “icons are generally regarded as standing for or representing something”; do not uniformly communicate the same message; and they are culture specific as what they communicate is based on a society’s history, experience and circumstance, elements, symbols and icons . This might account for why a number of icons have been in use to communicate and people decoded their meanings as result of long association with their use.
3.1.1 Types of Iconographic Communication and Examples
Wilson (1998) and Akpabio (2003) classified iconographic communication devices mainly into two groups – objectified and floral. This author is of the view that floral is too narrow and that sub-classification should be expanded to include plants and crops.
- Charcoal (treated as black colour under visual communication)
- White dove
- White clay (treated under native chalk. See visual communication)
- Cam-wood (treated as red colour under visual communication)
- Beads (treated as accessories under visual communication)
- Limb bones
- Drinking gourds
However, this author is of the view that charcoal, which depicts black colour; white clay, white colour and cam-wood, red colour be under colours; while beads be discussed under physical (clothes and accessories). So, for our discussion, the position of this author was adopted.
b)Floral – examples
- Young unopened palm frond
- Okono tree, Nsei, Nyama, Mimosa (These are found in Akwa-Ibom and Cross Rivers States of Nigeria)
- Plantain stems.
3.1.2 Iconographic Communication Devices and Their
Every group of people in Africa has iconographic communication devices that are peculiar to their setting that perform different communication functions. Such devices may be totally different from those used by other people or they have special meanings as used by people in other cultures. So, iconographic communication devices are items that transmit messages to the target audience. Essentially, iconographic communication devices are part of items used for communication in traditional African society.
To show that a visitor is welcomed, drinking water is presented first specifically for people in the northern part of Nigeria. Among the Igbos, it is the presentation of kolanut that represents this sentiment. White egg, white he-goat, white clothes depending on the culture represent ritual objects or connection with the occult. Feathers are used in coronation as well as to indicate titled chiefs. Cowries and kolanuts are used in divination to determine the will of deities. Alligator pepper indicates long lasting relationship as in marriage. It is hoped that after studying this unit, you would have become familiar with some iconographic communication devices used in Africa and their communication functions.
3.2What is objectified in Communication?
Objectified is where part of an object is used to convey messages. E.g. Kola-nut, cam wood, used by women who are circumcised or gave birth to a new baby as cosmetics and a mark of regeneration of life; the pigeon, as an object of peace; the owl and vulture, objects of bad omen. Others are cowries, feathers, and flag among others, which also have meanings in people’s minds. The devices in this group are endless. So, drawing mainly from the Ukwuani Speaking people of Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State, some examples of objectified are discussed below to enhance our understanding of this group of iconographic communication devices.
3.2.1 Examples of Objectified and their Communication Functions
Feathers (Ebuba): The use of feathers for various purposes are common more with people of South-Eastern Nigeria and Niger Delta Areas with some spill over in Edo state, Nigeria. According to Akpabio (2003:27) feathers are used in coronation as well as to indicate titled chief. He however, did not state the part of Nigeria where feathers signify coronation or title. Feathers though may be small and light, they carry great impression about people who put them on. However, only
few feathers merit special regards while others join in mass adornments of masquerades, shrines and decorations. The few that are in a class of their own are eagle, parrot tail and cock’s tail crown feathers.
Eagle Feather (Ebuba-Ugo): Eagle feathers are the feathers mainly from the two wings of eagles. They are usually white. However, some small black ends linger on most of them. They are very bold and proud on people’s heads. They are also very eloquent about the personality of the people who plug them on their heads or hats as crowns (Ogwezzy, 1999). Ordinarily they attract dignity of their own and on the people who adorn their hats or caps with them. The feathers on men eloquently declare and inform the public that the persons putting them on have made some remarkable achievements either as heroes at wars or intrepid hunters and have performed acts of bravery. They easily help to identify aristocrats from serfs (Ogwezzy, 1999).
Cock’s Tail Crown Feathers (Npipi): grow on the tails of mature domestic birds e.g. cocks and pea-cock. The crown feathers pinned on cowry cones are carried by pages of a circumcised lady on outing days during festivals. Furthermore, youths of both sexes pin on crown feathers on their heads when in dancing shows particularly during festivals and occasional entertainments. Of course, herbalists adorn their shrines and idols with feather and crown feathers lavishly (Ogwezzy, 1999). The crown feather subtly informs ladies under men, or youths who are social lovers of beauty and excellence.
Peacock Feather: Represents the institution of kingship (Akpabio: 2003).Birds: Pigeon and dove signify peace; the owl and vulture, are objects of bad omen.
Flag: A red, white and red, white, red and black flag at some points in some Nigeria communities signify a shrine and or the presence of a traditional priest.
Rainbow: Signifies that no one should visit the stream (Akpabio: 2003)
Shooting Star: Heralds the death of an important individual (Akpabio: 2003).
Broom: Could communicate quarrel and settlement (Akpabio: 2003).
Alligator Pepper: Signifies long lasting relationships as used in traditional marriage in Nigeria (Akpabio: 2003).
White egg, White he-goat, and White cloth: In most Nigerian cultures these objects represent rituals or connection with occult (Akpabio: 2003).
Drinking Water: In northern Nigeria, presentation of drinking water to a visitor signifies that the visitor is welcomed (Akpabio: 2003).
3.3 Florals, Plants and Crops
Floral, plants and crop as used in this study is referring to decoration with flower, cultivating plants and the display of trees, shrubs and grasses for the purpose of disseminating information. Drawing from the Ukwuani Speaking people of Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State, some examples of floral, plants and crops are discussed below to enhance our understanding of this group of iconographic communication devices.
3.3.1 Floral, Plants and Crops: Some Examples and their
Shrubs: Other signs are when branches of fresh shrubs are dropped across a path or road which tells people to avoid it and follow the open one for security reasons and safe arrival at intended destination. A shrub cut mid-way and strung down with a rope by the entrance to a road or path tells that there is danger ahead and should be avoided to escape being trapped or miss the way (Ogwezzy, 1999).
Grasses: It is also interesting to know that when standing grasses are gathered and knotted on top shows arrival at the desired destination and a sign of spot of conquest or a feat. It is more commonly used by hunters or fishermen to tell people scouting for them, that they are within the area (Ogwezzy, 1999).
Sucker Plants: If a grown plantain or banana plant is cut off high at the top growing end and planted with the sucker base or end turned upwards, it is a clear declaration of war on the people who own the land and against the people who planted it. By this, it is said that the cut off end or tail of the plantain is dug into the ground with the roots and sucker upward.The planter is the aggressor. It has no remedy, except a very quick and powerful intervention is employed (Ogwezzy, 1999).
Offences which attract this type of action are always very serious, such as manslaughter by a fellow citizen or relation. The offending party never takes retaliatory actions, which is the only way they can demonstrate remorse for the ignominy committed by their person or relation.
However after the destructions, negotiations come in to find lasting solutions. On agreement, indemnities are paid mainly in kind. For manslaughter, the aggrieved person or party is compensated with gift of a girl. It is intended or believed that the girl would bear children and increase the family of the one murdered thereby replace the dead. That would reduce the pang of pain and bring solace and relief to both parties to restore peace and harmony. At last it would be peace and harmony between the parties concerned or affected (Ogwezzy, 1999).
Planting Crops Vertically along Ridges: Planting of crops like maize and/or cassava vertically along ridges in a farm denote a boundary between two contiguous/adjacent farms which may either belong to two people.
Palm Frond: A hunter who carries a gun with a palm frond label clearly tells the villagers that he has shot a great animal. Similarly, a motor vehicle tagged with palm frond explains to the public that a corpse is in the vehicle.
Iconographic communication as a classification of traditional communication essentially is about the use of icons to suggest reality and they are culture specific. The unit concludes that in Africa, meanings are attached to parts of objects and that the devices in the group are endless.
This unit has focused on iconographic communication, which based on our classification are of two types – objectified and floral, plants and crops. Their communication functions were brought to the fore. It also explored the various devices under these two groups. It examined objectified, a group of iconographic communication, presented some examples and highlighted their communication functions.
It explored florals, plants and crops – a group of iconographic communication. It presented some examples and highlighted their communication functions as well.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE
- List the types of iconographic communication devices discussed in this unit.
- What is objectified?
- List five examples of floral plants and crops used for communication in Africa.
6.0 TUTOR MARKED ASSIGNMENT
- Drawing examples from your culture, list two types of
- iconographic communication.
- Drawing examples from your culture, list five devices at least under each of the two types of iconographic communication.
- Drawing examples from your culture, discuss two types of feather as channels of communication, highlighting their communication functions.
- Drawing examples from your culture, discuss two examples of floral, plants and crops used for communication in Africa.