It has long been known that Africa was the birthplace of the human species between 8 million and 5 million years ago. Therefore, it is no surprise that Africa, the second largest continent in the world, has a myriad of different cultures, influences, and people. Expression of this diversity can be found in their languages, art, folklore, religion, music and clothing.
Probably one of the most unique attributes of the African culture is their concept of “self”. The people of Africa, who are mainly indigenous, view the self as one with the world. They are not separate. The “self” is intermingled with nature, land, and one’s community. The ethnic groups within these communities have their own customs and traditions, which are unique to their culture. This oneness with the earth is also seen in African food. The environment has a huge influence in the types of foods consumed, depending on the area of the continent. Most meals contain vegetables, milk, meats, grains and fruits. A popular cuisine is a corn-based dish, which goes by different names based on in which part of the continent you are eating.
Much of the African music and clothing are colorful and lively. Beadwork is prevalent in African clothing, reflecting a community’s history. The bead patterns and colors also have meanings. While vibrant colors are seen often in African clothing, it all depends on the area of the continent. In one area, colors may be more vibrant and, in other areas, less so. Traditional music in Africa includes drum playing and rattles made with dried seeds inside. Dancing and singing are favorite pastimes and enjoyed by all ages.
In many villages, folklores are part of everyday life. Folklores are stories that reflect upon a group’s cultural identity, pride, and rituals. They provide a comprehension of a community’s history, values, beliefs, and customs and are also an education tool to teach and entertain. This type of storytelling is ingrained in many African cultures - villagers gather at the end of the day to listen and tell stories, with each scene only having two characters at a time so as not to confuse the audience. There is always a predator and a victim, and the victim always prevails. Animals and instruments play a large role in these stories. For example, drums may be used to mimic the sounds of animals. Storytelling is a way for families to gather and unwind after a long day of work.
Africa is filled with diversity and culture that cannot be covered merely in words. The best way to understand this diversity is to experience it firsthand, by not only seeing the land, but by also interacting with the people, tasting the foods, listening to stories, and allowing your “self” to be one with the African world.
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