AFRICAN CULTURE AT A GLANCE

The African culture is interesting and varies depending on the country or region in question. That said, the continent is home to diverse populaces where every country has its unique cultural differences, languages, and tribes. What is more intriguing is that even the small nations like Uganda boast of over thirty tribes. It is imperative to acknowledge that the “self” is a part of the world, and it is intermingled as well as united with the social and natural environment. In line with this argument, and individual’s relations with his or her surroundings and community help them develop into people of volition whose decisions and actions impact the entire group rather than individuals. This article seeks to investigate culture in Africa by highlighting the continent’s unique languages, music, religions, marriage customs, art, fashion, and food, among others.

Background

The diverse and rich African culture varies from one nation to the other but also within the individual countries. That said, each ethnic group’s culture majors on family and can be depicted in their oral literature, music, and art. People throughout the continent diverse in multiple languages, exercise numerous religions, and dwell in diverse types of homes[1]. Notably, the largest percentage of people living on the continent are indigenous. Nonetheless, immigrants from diverse regions of the world have migrated into the continent for centuries. The Arabs began emigrating from the middle east into North Africa during the seventh century AD. Indeed, they brought the Islamic religion with them into the continent.

On the other hand, the Europeans started settling in the southern areas of the South African continent during the mid-eras of the 17th century. Concurrently, the South Asians also moved into the continent during the same period and settled on South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Accordingly, the African culture has meshed with other global cultures from around the world over the centuries [2]. However, most of the ancient African traditions have prevailed throughout. African tribes and ethnic groups have cultural-unique customs. Their traditions and customs have been woven into a tapestry as equally colorful as the diverse Africans.

African Food

The environment plays a fundamental role in determining the kinds of food consumed in the diverse regions of the continent. Most cuisines are inclusive of milk, grains, fruits, vegetables, as well as meat products. For instance, South Africa has shisanyama, Mozambique has Piri Piri chicken, whereas Nigeria has Jollof Rice. Others include Namibian Venison and Egypt’sKoshari, among others[3]. Notable cultural groups have common foods in their cuisines. However, they embrace different names for such meals. On the other hand, most of the individuals residing in the southern African and western villages are farmers. They survive almost entirely on the crops they grow by themselves. Notably, outdoor markets sell traditional African food. In like manner, nations like Algeria and Morocco serve couscous as a popular dish with vegetables and meat. West Africans grow and eat cassava, plantains, maize, and mille. The continent is very traditional, where girls and women execute the tasks of cooking meals. Most importantly, colonization also impacted the drinks and foods served in some regions of the continent like Kenya, where people have formed a habit of drinking tea.

African Marriage

            The initiative is a significant rite of passage for both men and women. Notably, African society considers marriage as the proof of a man’s maturity as well as his capacity to take care of the family that he creates with his wife. Africans also envision marriage as a channel for expanding kinship connections. The marriage institution occurs between two families and not just between a man and a woman who are in love, unlike the case with the contemporary western culture. In line with this argument, marriage serves as a source of continuity where children born of the union carry on the family’s name. The continent is very diverse, where almost all societies have their unique traditions and culture. Therefore, the stages that occur in a traditional wedding are different. However, communities with similar traditions and customs may conduct identical ceremonies, but there is still a remarkable uniqueness to behold.

Prior to the spread of modernity and Christianity, ancient weddings denoted the only form of marriage ceremonies in the continent. Nonetheless, despite the introduction of new wedding forms like the “white wedding,” as mostly exercised by Christians as well as civil unions, the traditional weddings still command a vital place in the culture of the young generation [4]. As much as the youth still crave for luxurious contemporary weddings, they all start with the traditional rituals where the groom requests the father of the bride for his daughter’s hand in marriage and further pays a dowry to prove his worthwhile at the same time gaining respect from his family and the community.

African Art

As much as music and dance are critical components of Africans’ traditions and play a pivotal role in communication, many people also embrace other expression platforms. In line with this argument, it is imperative to acknowledge that Africans are among the biggest suppliers of sculptural art. The practice dates back to thousands of years, where some of the earliest sculptures were discovered in Egypt. That said, other arts include pottery, weaving, headgear, beading, and painting [5]. Art from diverse regions has unique features, varying on the customs, values, and beliefs of the people. However, some of the common themes depicted in African culture entail animals, women, children, men with weapons, and couples. Masks usually represent spiritual and religious beliefs and are deployed during traditional ceremonies to honor their ancestors.

Concurrently, the contemporary African artwork is featured by a dynamic list of exceptional people whose abstract insightfulness and art-related inventions have paved the way for the next generations of artists. Indeed, the industry’s vibrance is attributed to the receptive attitudes of the target market towards modern art in the near past. Indeed, such people have stamped their positions by utilizing their pieces and talents to construe and depict the continent’s economic and social aspects of their daily lives, traditions, and culture, peace and conflicts, wars, diverse African beauty, as well as political impediments, among others.

Literature Writing

            Across the years, African literature has soared to greater heights and has consequently elicited great interest both domestically and internationally. Beginning from the pre-independence to modern literature, famous writers have successfully narrated stories of a culturally and ethnically diverse continent, yet it still possesses almost common successes and challenges. Most of the famous and widely read authors such as ImboloMbue from Cameroon and Chimamanda Ngozi from Nigeria have expounded on diverse matters ranging from cultural to social issues, feminism, and women’s rights, as well as colonial and post-war identity [6]. Indeed, the list of prominent African writers is inexhaustible.

Music and Poetry

            Music and poetry are also diverse as the people and have significantly borrowed from the west.Ancient music in south Africa mainly entails singing and drums. Instruments such as dried fruit rattles and the thumb piano are very popular.Natural singing is invaluable to Africans since the rhythm and the melody follow the song text’s intonation [7]. The songs are mainly such in call-and-response manner. For instance, a griot is a west African poet or praise and singer who boast of repositories of oral traditions passed from one generation to the other. such individuals must comprehend the traditional songs and consequently improvise new songs that relate to current chance incidents and events.

Songs accompany various activities like hunting and politics as well as marriage, and birth, among other rites of passage. As much as the musical instruments and styles vary from one area to the other, there are some mutual forms of musical expression. Notably, the most crucial instrument in the African music is the African drum. It depicts the people’s moods and further evokes emotions[8]. The beat of the drum represents the heartbeat of the community and its rhythm unites the dancers. Dance is integral to the African culture and embraces symbolic masks, gestures, props, body painting, and costumes to communicate.

Fashion

The type of clothing worn across the continent varies from the south to the north and by religious beliefs as well as customs. Some African cultures wear colorful attires whereas others put on less colors but include shiny threads and minimal jewelry. Nonetheless, the continent’s fashion industry has undergone tremendous revolution in the recent years. The worldwide discussion and demand of African-inspired fashion has aggravated the level of sales of some African brands and designers. The flourishing of African fashion has attracted global celebrities such as the former American first lady, Michelle Obama. Others include Beyoncé and Rihanna, among others. Various young fashion entrepreneurs and designers who are currently partakers in the billion-dollar industry gave spurred the growth[9].

African Religion

Africa’s religion is multifaceted and has been a substantial influencer of philosophy, culture, and art. The modern populations of the continent are mainly adherents of Islam and Christianity as well as lesser extents of traditional religions. Christian and Islamic communities sometimes characterize their religious beliefs with syncretism with traditional religions’ beliefs and practices[10]. It is imperative to acknowledge that Africa constitutes a wide range of traditional beliefs. As much as many local societies share religious customs, they are mainly unique to given geographic regions and populations. Nonetheless, African religions are unified by a mutual core with special vitality to the worship of ancestors.

African Languages

             There are thousands of diverse indigenous dialects and languages spoken in the continent. The espoused languages and dialects do not have a similar importance. Some are spoken by only a few hundreds of people whereas others by millions. Very few African nations utilize any language and for such reasons, numerous official languages are in coexistence, European and African. Intriguingly, each African country has its unique languages, even the smaller nations. Concurrently, the fact that most of the African nations were once part of the European colonial territories enables most people to communicate in pidgin or creole English, French, as well as Portuguese versions. Accordingly, Swahili is the dominant language in east Africa whereas Arabic dominates the northern areas of Africa [11]. The primary ethnolinguistic divisions in the continent are Afro-asiatic in North Africa, Niger-Congo in sub-Saharan, Nilo-Saharan, and Sahel Africa, as well as the Khoisan, who are the south African indigenous minorities.

African Values

Some of the notable values in the continent entail a large family practice, respect for seniors, hard work, value for private property, religion, extended family system, and language, among others. That said, the African family denotes the nucleus of survival and places premium on kids. The more children an African has, the greater their importance in the society. Large families are ideal sources of cheap labor in the production chain[12]. Notably, hard work is a trait that the average African man takes pride in. On the other hand, laziness is attributed to a life of misery and poverty. The occupation is not as vital as the datum that one is engaged in a certain activity. In line with this argument, one of the outstanding values of the African kid is an integrated sense of seniority. Children born in the African society are expected to greet their elders and the extended family is a critical part of the society.

On the other hand, humanity and brotherhood are critical to the African culture. It recognizes the integrity and dignity of a person as God’s creation. Besides, African societies also express the value of communalism through sharing mutual social life, commitment to the wellness of the community, interdependence, caring for others, and solidarity[13]. Most importantly, the morality depicted in both the ancient and contemporary African cultures is social and non-individualistic. Social life enjoins and holds the espoused morality. The African culture also highly values knowledge, particularly that of empirical or practical nature and is based on experience and observations. Practical wisdom is highly relevant in the promotion of well being and the reconstruction of the society. In the rear, the most fundamental values that form the basis of human rights in the African culture are personal responsibility, individuality, intrinsic value and integrity of people, as well as equity and respect of all people’s moral worth.

Conclusion

In summary, Africa has manifold and varied culture that consists of a mixture of countries with diverse tribes. Each of them has unique features from the African continent. It is a culmination of the diverse populace that inhibit the continent today. Most importantly, Africa expresses its culture in the form of arts and crafts, languages, music, religions, marriage customs, fashion, and food, among others. Cultural expressions in the continent are abundant, and with substantial extents of cultural diversity across both distinct countries and single nations. As much as the African cultures are significantly diverse, a close study reveals that they have so many commonalities such as their values and morals, respect and love of their culture, and the respect for the seniors in society.  What is more intriguing is that as much as the continent has been influenced by other continents, it has also predisposed them to its culture. Such can be exhibited in the readiness to embrace the dynamic modern world instead of remaining rooted to the continent’s static culture. On the other hand, its arts and crafts, among other things have crossed borders to a wide market audience, whose demand is significantly high.

 

 

Bibliography

Ambler, Charles, and Nwando Achebe. “Love, Courtship, and Marriage in Africa.” A Companion to African History (2018): 119.

Barber, Karin. A history of African popular culture. Vol. 11. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Hobbs, Jane-Anne. 2017. “15 Of Africa’s Favorite Dishes”. CNN Travel. https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/africa-food-dishes/index.html.

Izibili, Matthew A. “African Arts and Difference.” Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference (2020): 205-215.

Mare, Admire. “Popular communication in Africa: an empirical and theoretical exposition.” Annals of the International Communication Association 44, no. 1 (2020): 81-99.

Msiska, Mpalive-Hangson, and Paul Hyland. Writing and Africa. Routledge, 2017.

Pandarum, Reena, Simon C. Harlock, and Lawrance Hunter. “An empirical study exploring body perception and apparel fit preferences for South African women.” Journal of Consumer Sciences (2017).

Sutcliffe, Steven J., ed. Religion: empirical studies. Routledge, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]Barber, Karin. A history of African popular culture. Vol. 11. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

[2]Ibid

[3]Hobbs, Jane-Anne. 2017. “15 Of Africa’s Favorite Dishes”. CNN Travel.https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/africa-food-dishes/index.html.

[4]Ambler, Charles, and Nwando Achebe. “Love, Courtship, and Marriage in Africa.” A Companion to African History (2018): 119.

[5]Izibili, Matthew A. “African Arts and Difference.” Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference (2020): 205-215.

[6]Msiska, Mpalive-Hangson, and Paul Hyland. Writing and Africa. Routledge, 2017.

[7]Barber, Karin. A history of African popular culture. Vol. 11. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

[8]Ibid

[9]Pandarum, Reena, Simon C. Harlock, and Lawrance Hunter. “An empirical study exploring body perception and apparel fit preferences for South African women.” Journal of Consumer Sciences (2017).

[10]Sutcliffe, Steven J., ed. Religion: empirical studies. Routledge, 2017.

[11]Mare, Admire. “Popular communication in Africa: an empirical and theoretical exposition.” Annals of the International Communication Association 44, no. 1 (2020): 81-99.

[12]Barber, Karin. A history of African popular culture. Vol. 11. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

[13]Ibid


 

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