The Culture of Black Africa

According to countryaah, the cultural typology of Africa is very complex and only in the second half of the twentieth century did a systematic research and reconstruction of the past of peoples and civilizations up to then considered negligible develop, thanks to the work of some African and European scholars. From the study of the techniques developed for the production of weapons and tools in iron, of objects and statuettes in bronze, it appears that the knowledge of metallurgy in Africa is very ancient: the dating of archaeological finds found in the Guinean area, in that of the great lakes and in Ethiopia it places it in the second half of the 1st millennium BC. C.; the mineral used (perhaps of meteoric origin) was rich in nickel, so much so that in the century. VIII the city-states of East Africa exported iron loaves, metal in great demand (the so-called “Damascus steel” was made) by Arabs, Indians and Chinese. The sculpture in fired clay blocks is original, of which considerable remains have come to light in the Nigerian area and which are reconnected to the so-called “culture of Ife ”flourished in the first millennium a. C. Autonomous is also the discovery of agriculture which is directly linked to that of the final Saharan Paleolithic. The scarcity of the population in such a vast continent favored tribal particularism; nevertheless, already at the end of the first millennium a. C. some state entities were established in West and East Africa from which later powerful kingdoms arose (Mali Ghana, Songhai, Luba, Monomotapa) whose social structure was, however, very different from that of similar Eurasian states. Not being considered at that time the land as an object of private property, the monarch, not infrequently with divine attributes (re-sacred), was considered a sort of “administrator” controlled by the council of elders; the same power had the tribal chiefs of the so-called chefferie; if things went badly (a simple calamity was enough) these characters could be put to death (sacred regicide). However, African history preserves the memory of great sovereigns, skilled military leaders who rose to absolute power. Although some tribes admitted servant-slave status for prisoners, there were no defined social classes and a merchant-artisanal bourgeoisie was lacking. Social organization was probably originally based on matrilineal systems by age classes; the totemic structure was exceptional while the position of the woman was often relevant even in the context of a patriarchal family (for example, women could have their own secret societies). Peculiar status of children, considered “children of the tribe”, to which everyone owed respect and protection until they became part of the “society” through initiatory rites that may appear, in the eyes of a contemporary, sometimes cruel. Particularly the figure of the man-medicine, whose knowledge was not limited to treatments with natural products (object of discovery and study by ethnomedicine), sometimes very effective, but also to surgery (from the reduction of fractures to amputations, at caesarean section).

The role and functions of sorcerers are still unclear, who were recognized as having powers of black magic and who were therefore feared and often despised, although not infrequently used by tribal leaders to preserve their power: this figure is linked to beliefs of type animistic, the prevalent form of religion of African populations. Until the colonial era following the subdivision of the continent (19th century), the economy was essentially based on agriculture and pastoralism: the populations of the inland areas of Sudanese and central Africa practiced it in a semi-nomadic state with archaic methods (agriculture to the hoe); In the coastal regions and in the basins of some large rivers, forms of irrigation and, in some cases, plantations were widespread. The breeding, secondary for most of the ethnic groups, was widespread, perhaps starting from the century. XII, the Fulbe in Sudan and niloto – Hamitic in East Africa, then transmitted by Bantu shepherds up to southern Africa. The production was, however, sufficient to maintain a good standard of living for the populations that the high infant mortality helped to control numerically. On the basis of the socio-economic organization there is a tendency to classify the cultures of black Africa in some groups: the culture of tribal “farmers”, once semi-nomadic and structured in patrilineal or matrilineal families, widespread until recently in central Africa; the culture of the Sudanese urban kingdoms (up to the forest areas of West Africa), in which the agricultural economy was organized by a state power and handicrafts and trade were highly developed (Islamic culture had a notable influence on this);, Tutsi, Kongo, Luba, Lunda, Zulu etc.) both in the Democratic Republic of southern Congo and in the region of the great lakes up to southern Africa; the so-called “ Azan civilization ” of the East African city-states. The latter based its economy essentially on metallurgy, crafts and commercial activities with active exchanges both with the interior and with Arab countries, India and, perhaps, China: even before contacts with the Arabs, it was transformed into an urban civilization by building “stone” cities along the coasts and even in the interior (just think of Zimbabwe); from the century VIII possessed a written language (Swahili) and its own navy. Judged by the Arabs of a very advanced level, so as to be influenced locally, it was annihilated in a few decades, from the century. XV, by the Portuguese. Today, after decades of colonialism and even more so due to the influence of the modern Western way of life and the arbitrary division into non-homogeneous states resulting from decolonization, African cultures are undergoing profound upheavals, with evident phenomena of acculturation that differ from country to country and with the birth of a European-style bourgeoisie. The forest and mining exploitation, which led to the forced exodus of large masses of the population, the decrease in infant mortality, the imposition of forms of Western economy have created an urban underclass that has substantially lost all ethnic identity. AIDS, Ebola); the introduction of new economic forms has accentuated deforestation and the upheaval of the environment, which in turn has caused the disintegration of once numerous and powerful ethnic groups (for example Karamojon, Sandé, Acholi), while in the regions of the Sahel, starvation is spreading in Sudan and Ethiopia, a phenomenon never known in the past on the continent. If we add to this the local wars, the establishment of military regimes, as well as massive phenomena of drought, the future of African culture looks very uncertain, so much so that some progressive Pan-African movements ask themselves the problem of how to merge the best elements of Western culture with the positive ones of the local tradition.

Culture of Black Africa

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