The diversity in African cultures and traditions is the uniqueness in African society. African society will not be where it is today without its cultures, traditions and values.
African cultures and traditions are engraved in our hearts subconsciously from a young age. A lot of homes practice/engage with African cultures. Nevertheless, for proper understanding, let us study the fineness of these African cultures and traditions.
We need to take a look at its foundation. For we cannot go forward without taking a tour around the history of African cultures and traditions.
We are Africans not because we are born in African but because African is born in us.
A Brief History About African People
I will like to start this history from the early 19th century. At this time, there is more documented research on African people, culture and traditions.
The state of politics is a major factor in determining African history. While some African countries have gotten independence at this time, others are yet to. Social engagement also varies from each kingdom to the clans.
Africa is the second-largest continent in the world with a population of over a 1.2billion people. The land is divided into four major parts. North Africa, West Africa, East and South Africa. Our diversity in cultures and traditions is our uniqueness.
The countries under North Africa are morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. In Morocco, there was fair trade with Europe nations but in Algeria, the main centre of the Barbary pirates was under minor Turkish suzerainty.
Tunisia’s used piracy as a medium of trade but after much pressure from Europeans, the occupation was abandon in about 1820. Nevertheless, in Tripolitania piracy is still ongoing.
Turkish lost the power of controlling the Cyrenaica in the 1840s. It became the home of a religious Muslim group. Their teacher Mohammed Ben Ali addressed the coming back to the simplicity of early Islam.
In this region, we have Nigeria, the Ashanti and Dahomey (present-day Ghana.), Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Guinea and Ivory Coast. The Nigeria community have different kingdoms and tribes – each tribe have their distinct language among which are the Urhobo, Okpe, Ukwani, Isoko, Nope but the popular ones are Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani and Ibo’s.
The major trades in Nigeria are farming, arts, tie and dye, used for making clothes. The sculptors made in Benin and Ife are the most prominent. There are three major religions in Africa – African traditional religion, Islam and Christianity.
Ashanti and Dahomey were the chief kingdoms in West Africa. The coastal tribe conquest, brought the Ashanti into political enmity with the British stations, in the 19th century. A mixture of the Fulani and Mandinka tribes live in guinea and Ivory Coast.
EAST AND SOUTH AFRICA
The Arabs from Oman controlled the Swahili area of the East African coast (Kenya and Tanganyika). Buganda was one of the most advance kingdoms in East Africa among Rwanda, Burundi, Kikuyu and Masai tribe. The people are peaceful and they lived in a spacious environment full of greens.
In 1830 an invasion from the south upon the Rizvi kingdom in Zimbabwe was destroyed. This was caused by the northern movement of the Zulu people, who had formed a nation.
During the 18th and first half of the 19th century, the authority of the Ethiopian king reduces and the country was always in a state of disorder.
Angola and Congo basin were mostly controlled by the Portuguese. Both are the most hit areas from the slave trade era.
By the end of the 18th century the lightest coloured people Hova, have gained authority over the lands in Madagascar. The French also have stations and minor influence on the land. The Hova queen Ranavalona who reigned from 1828 to 1861, pass a bill of rejecting all Europeans – foreign business almost ended.
As the year changes so do most African countries. Some advanced, while others are still developing but in all, the African cultures and traditions of shared community is still practice.
If we begin to mention all-African cultures, this post will be too long. However, African culture and traditions are tribe specific. In Nigeria alone, we have more than 5,000 tribes and each clan has their distinctive style and language. African cultures and traditions range from food, cloth/fashion, art, birth, worship….
This continent house diverse cultures and home to a lot of traditions. In recent times, external influences are beginning to rub off on these unique cultures. If you are into myth and fable, Africa should be your next visit or you want to experience another level of excitement, visit African. Here are a few least about my favourite and admired African cultures and traditions.
Favourite African Tribe
The Ijaw people are also known as Ijo. They are a group of tribal people living mostly in the forest region of Bayelsa, Delta, and the Rivers States within the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Their land consists of mangrove swamps, creeks, rivers, and farmlands. People living in this settlement are a combination of native migrates from Edo, Ondo and Akwa – Ibom states in Nigeria.
Roughly numbering about 15million people, the Ijaw’s have longed stayed in locations close to the sea. They were the first set of people that came in contact with the white man because the water was the major route of transportation. Other tribes related to the Ijaw’s are Izon, Kalabari and Ibani.
Living close to the sea, provided the opportunity for fishing. So fishing became a major occupation and later farming.
As early as the 15century the Ijaws are connected to other areas of the trade like oil. The Ijaws have the largest lands that sit oil in Nigeria.
Traditionally, the Ijaws pay homage to the water spirit. Celebrations hold for days and the climax is a display of a masquerade, depicting a water spirit. The intensity of the dance is unimaginable – with elaborate costumes for both men and women.
The Ijaws are good swimmers and there is a myth about them. It is said that when a traditional Ijaw woman gives birth, at three months, the child will be thrown into the river for some few minutes. This is to reduce the fear of water in the child. A typical Ijaw child at age three is an excellent swimmer. You will be surprised at the length these kids can swim.
The fishing festival is another elaborate display of culture and traditions. The ladies dress in beautiful costumes, moving their waist in a clock-like rhythm standing on a canon. The men also dress in colourful costumes while they paddle the canon and sing along with the ladies. You do not want to miss this festival. It is a fishing festival with swag.
When you see a group of tribal people wearing white and black, know that you have found the Tiv tribe. According to oral traditions of Tiv origin, the Tiv tribe migrated from the southeast of Nigeria to Benue River Nigeria. Since they live close to the sea, they are also one of the first set of people that came in contact with the Europeans in November 1907.
Despite the numerous views about their origin, historians believe that the ancestors of this distinct tribe could be traced to the Bantu people. The Bantu tribe live in the central African continent, in the Shaba area of the present democratic republic of Congo.
They are a population of about six million people with a known history of being the best storytelling tribe and also the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria. The royal trumpet called kakaki is used in many West African groups in Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. It is one of a kind instrument used to convey special messages from the thrown house.
Tiv people are known for their black and white attire – a replica of the zebra’s stripe. According to this mythology, it is said that the Tiv people love the zebra’s skin a lot. A kill of zebra is a great catch and its use for hide and skin. Their love grows with it over time and it was used for making bags and clothes but when the zebra became a rear find, they made a material using the white and black colour.
The major occupation of this tribe is farming. With main crops as yams, millet and sorghum. From these, they make the famous pounded yam, stew or porridge.
Bush Man Tribe
I first came in contact with this tribe through a movie. I thought it was just a makeup story until I did my research. The title of the movie is called the gods must be crazy. Have you seen it? I love the way the tribe handle every challenge during the movie. A creative idea is always thought through.
The Bushman tribe has a population of about 80,000 between Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. History has it that the bushman tribe are the first settlers in first South Africa. The san, are popular for their lifestyle – they are deeply connected to nature and their language sounds like clicks.
San’s are of the minority tribes in South African and the same challenge every minority tribe face, also rubs off on the clan. The bushman is always exploited and pushed deep into the woods. Sad, but this is the reality. What will become of the tribe in years to come?
Traditionally, the Khoisan people were hunters who lived far from their lands, moving around from place to place to study tracks of animals. Over time, they have been forced into minor choices, limited to small gatherings around the Makgadikgadi pan.
Remember when I say the bushman is creative? This is it. The bushman’s art date back thousands of years – they are the great artists of South Africa. Their works can be found in caves and rocks around the land. It is who they are and what they live by. Their arts consist of animals and humans alike.
Anthropologist suggested that rock arts are a pictorial representation of the widespread trance dance. For years people believed that the arts were just a depiction of everyday life. Little did they know that it was also a home to elephants and leopard. Which are hardly seen these days in the region.
Another interesting idea about this art is that it serves as a realm for worship – a solace place that shamans use to connect to the spiritual world.
With the help of community members, maintaining rhythm through clapping and chanting, the healers and elderly oversee the ceremony. The elders/healers dance round the fire stamping, clapping and mimicking the sound of animals.
I have once experienced a scene like this – o boy; it was on a different level. It may look silly at first but with time, you will not know when the spirit will take over you and that is why it is called a trance dance. It is an integral culture of the bushman tribe. This ritual is sometimes called the healing dance and it involves the whole community.
African Traditional Food
African food depends on the country and tribe you visit. Each tribe in Africa has its special delicacy that is unique to them. Over time, some became popular as other tribes adopted them.
Since we have farmers around us, we can easily grow our foods and sell others. Traditional African food is also sold outdoors at market, street and parks. In Nigeria West Africa, we have our famous jollof rice, Banga soup, pepper soup, ewedu and amala and pounded yam and egusi soup.
Thieboudienne is a dish from Senegal made from rice, fish and tomato sauce and it is spiced with onions, cabbage, cassava, carrots and peanut oil.
In Liberia, we have Eddoe soup – a tropical root vegetable similar to yams or sweet potato.
When you visit any African country or tribe be sure to be welcomed by mouthwatering delicacies. Do plan a trip to any African land to experience African cultures and traditions.
In conclusion, African cultures and traditions are diverse. Every country has a unique tale to tell before and after colonization.
Western influences have affected some of Africa cultures and tradition but as time pass, we are going back to our root. Writing our stories in our voice and sharing our communal living spirit with the world.