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Types of Traditional communication channels


The traditional or native communication channels exist in various forms; they are used in different ways for diverse purposes. They could be categorized as follows: entertainment media, ceremonial media, symbolic flora, symbolic fauna, folk heroes, location media, faith-based modes, word-based media, sounds and melodies, tradosocial media, tradotransit media and tradotronic media (Nwabueze, 2010a).

Ceremonial media

These include traditional weddings, child naming ceremonies, initiation rites (chieftaincy, initiation into manhood and other social groups) among others. These settings could provide opportunity to put across a word or two on any development programme. Development agents engaged in mass sensitization on any issue, for instance, could collaborate with organizers of these ceremonies to use such avenues in achieving their goals.

Symbolic flora

This entails the use of leaves and various plants in sharing and dissemination of ideas, information, values, etc. It basically consists of the use of fresh palm fronds (Omu), ropes made from bamboo tree (used during burials in Igbo land to indicate that an in-law came with a cattle or its cash equivalent), green leaves (used during demonstrations against a policy or any unacceptable development) among others.

Symbolic fauna

This consists of the use of animals or animal skins in information dissemination. They include white pigeon, rams, goats, horses, cattle, tiger skin, feathers from birds, etc. They are symbols which depict meanings in typical traditional settings. For instance, in Igbo land, during burial ceremonies, an in-law that goes on a condolence visit with cattle is seen as a wealthy in-law, whereas the one that goes with a goat, fowl or few tubers of yam is often seen as less wealthy. Also, tiger skin depicts bravery and royalty. In some communities, when certain kinds of birds appear at night or make certain kinds of sound, it is often interpreted as bad omen.

Location media

This refers to venue-based channels of communication typical to a people. Here, the communicator plans according to settings, places, spots or venues that people frequently gather for specific purposes. These settings include streams, markets/market square, village square, town halls, health centres, schools, churches, mosques, traditional worship centres (including shrines), among others.

Faith-based modes of communication

This refers to communication activities premised on the belief by a people that spirits speak to the living. It consists of all forms of divination, spiritual chants, incantations, spirit-mediated curses, invocations and all kinds of messages from the dead. In some communities today, these communication modes are adopted in detecting culprits of terrible crimes. Spirits of the dead are invoked to tell people who killed them. Some spiritualists use mirrors powered by divinations and incantations to invoke crime scenes with a view to determining the identity of criminals.

Word-based modes of communication

These are communication processes woven around stories, tales and slang words typical to local dialects or specific people. They include various kinds of oral tradition such as folk tales, proverbs, words of wisdom, and tongue twisters. They reflect the communication culture, values, beliefs, and world view of a people. During communication campaigns targeted at a people, these oral traditions could be embedded in messages to arouse emotional interest in the audience.

Entertainment media

These are indigenous channels which communicate by entertaining the audience. The message is embedded in the whole process of exciting people through performances. They include dance, dance drama, choral group performances, masquerades, drama troupe performances, folk songs, folk music, minstrels, folk dance, folk concert and folk festivals. People are fond of their tradition.

Folk-based performances (folk plays, songs, dance, music etc.) arouse sentiments with rapt attention from the audience. Such performances could be built around development themes. For instance, folk dance drama could demonstrate the gains of social entrepreneurship or family planning to the society.

Folk heroes

In every community, there are people who are admired because of their achievements in the community or larger society. These people are seen as models. Some are respected for their achievements in the society. They are listened to when they speak. These folk heroes are opinion leaders in the community. Among such people are credible title holders and former/serving political office holders, sports men and women who have won laurels for their nation (they are respected in their communities), clergy men, credible leaders of age grades, social clubs, market groups, students and workers’ unions, among others. Their opinions are respected in their communities and they often function as opinion leaders. The participation of folk heroes in development communication process gives credibility to the message.

Sounds and melodies

This consists of expression of meanings through sounds of various pitches, harmony and melody. In specific rural settings, certain musical instruments are used in ‘talking’. For instance, in Yoruba land, the drum talks, in Igbo land, the flute and big wooden gong (ikoro) speak, in Hausa land, some kinds of flute also speak, especially while used in praise singing like in Igbo land. Cannon shots communicate different messages about the social status of the dead or the person on a condolence visit, depending on the number of shots.

Tradosocial media

These are organisations primarily aimed at enhancing the well being of members and the society or community at large. People from all walks of life gather and socialize for a common purpose, relegating personal interests in order to respect group interest. They include age grades, town unions, secret societies, women organisations (social clubs, catholic women organisation, market women organisation etc), brotherhood, social clubs, kindred unions, among others. Whatever members of the group discuss among themselves could have far reaching effect on the larger society.

Tradotransit media

Tradotransit media consist of the use of mobile channels of communication common among specific communities, localities or ethnic groups in information dissemination, as well as placement of posters and banners on transit shelters or transit points typical to rural settings. The town crier who moves from place to place is a form of tradotransit medium typical to rural areas (though this form of communication has penetrated some urban areas). Transit points such as streams, markets (especially big market days) and motor parks are typical to rural settings. They have been discussed earlier as location media. In the northern part of Nigeria, for instance, donkeys and camels still play vital roles in transportation. They could be used as transit media. This may seem absurd but could attract attention to the message. However, some transit media typical to urban settings are also found in rural settings. They include buses, taxis, tricycles (keke) and trucks. These can also be used in information dissemination in rural areas. The combination of these media with traditional (culture-specific) communication modes gives rise to trado-transit media scenario.

Tradotronic media

This refers to an integration of the traditional and electronic media in message sharing and dissemination. It is a synergy of indigenous communication channels and ICT-driven channels with a view to blending the credibility, efficacy, reach, accessibility, message structure, and design pattern of the two broad channels (Nwabueze, 2009). It consists of the use of traditional communication modes in electronic media environment.

Folk heroes, traditional rulers and other opinion leaders in specific communities are invited to radio or television programmes to target their communities in their local dialect or English language; it also includes the use of projectors in village square, market square or during kindred meetings to demonstrate messages to local audience. Today, kindred and town union meetings are done via internet by people in Europe and America. There are whatsapp groups for kindred and other culture-based groups. Distance no longer prevents family union meetings, giving rise to tradotronic communication scenario.

(Source: Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Ecology in the Digital Age – second edition, 2021; written by Nwabueze, C.)



About Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a writer with passion for cutting-edge news

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