Home African communication system i OVERWIEV OF VISUAL CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION AND PIGMENTATION/COLOURS AS A GROUP OF VISUAL CHANNELS

OVERWIEV OF VISUAL CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION AND PIGMENTATION/COLOURS AS A GROUP OF VISUAL CHANNELS

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

This unit focuses on visual channels of communication of communication in Africa. The various types will be outlined and examples presented. Using some examples, it also presented pigmentation and colours – a group of visual communication and highlighted their communication functions.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit of study, students should be able to:

  1. outline the various types of visual communication 
  2. discuss the communication functions of visual communication 
  3. discuss pigmentation and colours as a group of visua
  4. communication discuss some examples of pigmentation and colours drawing from their cultures and communities 
  5. discuss the communication functions of the various example of pigmentation and colours. 

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 Visual Communication and their Communication Functions

Visuals communicate in traditional African society. It is derived mainly from the sense of sight and knowledge of the peoples of Africa. The mere sight of someone’s tribal marks, hairdo, tattoos, and incisions communicates. Visual communication is used for different purposes and communicates different messages. Each has its own peculiar meaning. Some warn people or signify sundry things. Black for instance communicates mourning; red, signifies danger, fire, war; green, conveys life; black, gloom, white, purity, simplicity, innocence, purity and gaiety; yellow, lighteness; brown, blightness; and parched environment, communicates famine.

Even in the contemporary business world, organisations use visuals, mainly logo for their brand identity. The logo is created to enhance brand identity and normally defined with a particular colour. Whenever, there is a change it is communicated to all its stakeholders. For instance, on an air freshener Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) distributed as free gifts at the University of Lagos, apart from having the logo of the Bank on the air freshener, there was a copy on the pack which reads:Our new logo was created to enhance our brand identity and public perception. It is vibrant, bold and evolved from our old logo. The new logo encapsulates who we are as a bank, symbolizing equality, solidness, simplicity and flexibility. The orange [colour] is uplifting and stimulates the mind into alertness. It is youthful, dynamic, vibrant and refreshingly optimistic.

Guaranty Trust Bank is innovative, always first! Our new look [orange colour look] is a bold extension of our selves and values. It is a visual means of recognising us and what we stand for. It is as driven, aspirational, dedicated and as principled as we are.

Yes, this Guaranty Trust Bank you know, just fresher…Wouldn’t you rather bank with us

3.2 Types of Visual Communication and Examples

Some examples of visual communication channels include dress code, colours, tribal marks, hairdo, tattoos, incisions and other marks on the skin and they all communicate. According to Akpabio (2003), visual communication can be grouped into two – colours and appearance. This author would rather adopt pigmentation and colour as a group instead of colour. Furthermore, this author would add a third group – records. 

a)Colour – examples

  1. White
  2. Red
  3. Green 
  4. Black

b) Appearance – examples

  1. Physical Appearance 
  2. Clothes 
  3. Accessories. 

c) Records – examples

  1. Written 
  2. Carved 
  3. Painted 
  4. Excavation 
  5. Memorised 
  6. Marked sticks 

3.2.1 Definition of Pigmentation and Colours

Pigmentation here means the use of designs or pastes to deliver messages, information, and warnings, stir up joy, sorrow etc in and among people. They are usually styled with colours. Prominent among the colours are white, red, green and black. When applied for any purpose, there is the sure tendency that the people understand what the colouring is saying. The colours are produced from local materials.
Colours communicate either singly or with other forms of communication. They largely break linguistic barriers i.e. it is universal, though with one or two exceptions. Colours make messages more apparent and specific. They have wide applicability. The information colours convey is immediate. So, it is important to state that colours

communicate in all human societies and the message it communicates could be pragmatic, society specific and also generic. The denotation and connotation of each colour depends on specific communities and people. This might account for Akpabio (2003:43) argument that “colour has been coloured by prejudice. From the Eurocentric viewpoint “white” has been associated with purity, holiness and other positive elements [hence it is used for worship and making wedding gowns]. “Black” on the other hand has been associated with evil and the devil. A look at illustrations in the Bible about the temptation of Christ, cast the devil (a supernatural being having no colour!) as black.

3.2.2 Challenges of Pigmentation and Colours as a Mode of Visual Communication 

A major challenge to the use of this form of visual communication is that in many societies, only few colours are reckoned with. Colours other than white, black and red are classified as dark and light colours. There are no lexical items in the local languages to identify them. The discussion of colours below draws from Emu clan among the Ukwuani speaking people of Ndokwa West Local Government Area, Delta State – Nigeria.

3.2.3 Examples of Pigmentation, Colours and Their Communication Functions

White
White colour speaks and informs the people and public of victories, achievements, purity of heart, peace and goodwill. It also in special cases, speak of bad-announcements of the death of very old people (Ogwezzy, 1999).
Native ChalkIs white in colour, produced from white clay soil and treated to form sticks or balls of chalks. It is also ground into powder form. By native chalk, people telephone, send cable and postal messages to the spirit world as believed. It is further believed that native chalk powder blown into the air would attract blessings to the people from God, ancestors and the spirit world (Ogwezzy, 1999).

When a man makes a spectacular achievement or performs acts of heroism, he is daubed with white powder from his wrist upwards. White chalk daubed on a man tells the world around him that he has made remarkable achievements and must have performed acts of heroism, valiancy or attaining and being initiated into a high social class e.g. chieftaincy class. When women make achievements, white powder of native chalk is poured over their chest, shoulders, round their necks and even heads. Such happen when women are declared free of witchery after taking concoctions of shrines and deities as believed by fetish worshippers (Ogwezzy, 1999).

White ClothesThe other symbol of white is white cloth. With white pieces of cloth, it is believed that people telephone, send cable and postal messages to the spirit world (Ogwezzy, 1999). A long white piece of cloth hoisted at a gate or along the street tells that a very old rich noble is dead. Such death does not call for real mourning, rather children and relations of the deceased feel glad that the person died or walked safely home to God. At such deaths, people do not shed tears (Ogwezzy, 1999).

Red (Ufie)Red is represented by a pulpy substance produced from cam-wood. A piece of red wood is vigorously rubbed over another. The substance it produces is called ufie meaning red. It has double connotations – good and bad (Ogwezzy, 1999).

The good message is given to the public when a young lady is circumcised or when a woman delivers a baby. During both occasions the red substance is rubbed over the body of the young lady from the neck to her toes except areas covered with cloth around her waist for a circumcised lady; and around her feet for a nursing mother. It shows and tells the public of a period of joy for the family apart from announcing the events occasioning the application of the substance (Ogwezzy, 1999). Cam – wood is commonly used by women who were circumcised or gave birth to new babies as cosmetics and a mark of regeneration of life

Again, it speaks and warns people of danger when it is rubbed on certain objects. It scares and frightens away women and evil doers particularly fetish worshippers (Ogwezzy, 1999). Also, among the Yorubas it signifies danger, which accounts for why Sango (god of war) priest wear red.

Green (Orgu Jorji)It is represented by green leaves or products of green leaves (Enu). It serves duals purposes of good and bad. During festivals, youths carry bunches of green leaves to dance round the town and along the main When a married woman commits adultery, the town’s women carry bunches of green leaves and dump them at her gate or by her door to register their hatred and disappointment at her ignominious action. To further declare her unfit for womanhood, ashes are cast on the green leaves to tell that her action, morally, is a disgrace and her value is worthless like the ashes fit to be cast away into dust-bin of life (Ogwezzy, 1999).

Black (Depicted by Charcoal in Ukwani)

Black like any other colour tells and indicates sorrow and evil. When people die, children and relations wear black dresses to tell the world the state of their hearts and that they are mourning the death of their beloved and dear ones (Ogwezzy, 1999).

It is also used to identify bad deeds or actions like thefts. When a person steals anything, powdered charcoal is rubbed on his or her face to tell the world that he or she is an evil and a dangerous citizen. It is to make the person ashamed and possibly correct him/herself (Ogwezzy, 1999).

The good part of it is that when a youth is chosen as the chief or main artists at a festival (e.g. Ukwata of the Ukwuani speaking people of Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State), a shade of black is used to decorate his body for public show. When anyone is being prepared for the show, the person is designed and printed all over his, body and calves with black liquid (ulie) produced from seeds of a climber-like shrub also called ulie. The seeds are ground into soft mash mixed with very little water. The liquid from it is then used to design the person concerned. Patterns produced on the person would depend on the artist’s level, aesthetic value and creativity. The designs on the person are expected to agree with the complexions and shape of the body build of the dancer (Ogwezzy, 1999).

The same applies to a young lady circumcised during annual festivals. Just like the artists, the designs on the person are expected to agree with the complexions and shape of the body build of the lady and her pages for outing on special public shows (Ogwezzy, 1999).

The indigo prints identify them to the public and the roles they play at the particular time of feasts or ceremony (Ogwezzy, 1999).

4.0 CONCLUSION

Visual communication as a classification of traditional communication generally hinges on the sense of sight and knowledge of the peoples of Africa.

Colours of various shades communicate messages. What they communicate could be pragmatic, society specific and also generic. In Africa, meanings are attached to colours in various communities and so they are used to communicate.

5.0 SUMMARY

This unit focused on visual communication, which based on our classification, are of three types – pigmentation, colours, appearance and records. Specifically, it examined pigmentation and colours as a type of visual communication, presented some examples and highlighted their communication functions.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE

  1. Visual communication is hinged on which of the senses? 
  2. List some colours known in your community 

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT

  1. List two types of visual communication discussed in this unit. 
  2. List two examples under each type of visual communication listed. 
  3. Identify five colours in your ethnic group. 
  4. State the meaning and significance attached to each of the five colours identified. 

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