The Family setting is a universal group through out Africa, and they have many different forms and functions. The family group is made up of small groups witch usually consists of a Husband, his Wife, and their children. Many times the family can also include other family members. This usually happens when there is a death of one of the spouses, or a divorce.
Small groups in Africa called Clans, recognize many rituals such as taboos on certain foods that give them a distinctiveness from others and unity. Clans are usually segmented or divided into separate groups, with each group giving credit to a more recent founding ancestor than the clan founder. These are usually referred to in literature as lineages. Lineages themselves may be divided into smaller groups. The smallest of these groups being the core or center witch a domestic family is established or built around.
Almost every African society has some sort of descent group as the base of its social organization. The recognition of the different variations of ancestral descent is a way of constructing local groups that are able to last for several generations. In this way the close-knit ties of kinship provide strong links through the notion of common blood.
(Countries And Their Cultures – http://www.everyculture.com/Africa-Middle-East/Introduction-to-Africa-Family-Kinship-and-Domestic-Groupings.html)
In the biggest part of Africa, marriage is more of a union between two family’s or lineages than what it is between the actual husband and wife. Marriage is undertaken for many reasons, but the main reason is to provide legitimate successors to inheritance and status, and also to form alliances and ties between clans and other unities to bring them together as a society.
Incest in certain degrees of kinship is forbidden everywhere. Exogamy, the prohibition of marriage within certain groups of decent is normally practiced with regard to clans and other social units.
The most crucial factor in a marriage is whether patrilineal, matrilineal, or cognatic groups form the most basic social structure. In a patrilineal system, the marriage is usually bonded by the transfer of property. This is known as bride-wealth. This is usually in the form of cattle. The husband’s group transfers property to that of the wife in trade for procreation and sexuality on the wife’s part. This is give by the ones who were her guardians such as a father or brothers. Usually if a divorce occurs, the bride-wealth must be returned less a portion for each child who stays with the husband’s group. In matrilineal the bride-wealth is not transferred because the children belong to the wife’s clan or lineage and will inherit from that group. The husband’s heirs are his sister’s children. His own children inherit from his wife’s brothers. Bride-wealth is not necessary because rights in a woman’s children are not transferred. However small gifts are always given. The husband may have to work for the wife’s parents for a long time.
(Countries and their Cultures – http://www.everyculture.com/Africa-Middle-East/Introduction-to-Africa-Marriage.html)
The government of Africa his usually classified into three base categories. These categories have come to be recognized as Bands, Tribes, and Kingdoms. Bands are not as widely spread as other groups, and their economies are based on hunting and gathering. Basically the Bands are large kinship groups who are under the authority of family, elders and ritual leaders.
Tribes are larger and more settled than Bands but they still lack an organized center of authority. They have no Kings or even in the past had any formally appointed chiefs. However, there have always been ritual leaders with some sort of authority politically. These societies are usually found in Eastern Africa.
The third type of government in Africa being that of the kingdom or state, the Authority is centered on a King and sometimes a Queen. They are chosen from a royal plan, and given sacred attributes by their subjects. Kingdoms may range in population from a few thousand people to millions. Their rulers very from little more than military despots with powers of life and death, or ritual figureheads. These Kingdoms could have been created as result of conquest, or combining into a federation of states who are related culturally.
The ruler may be referred to as a senior kinsman to his subjects, or a member of a socially royal Clan, or as a member of an ethical autocracy. In every kingdom, no matter how powerful their ruler, there has always been a means of witch the people control royal power.
All of these different types of groups exist today, although the traditional power of Kings were greatly weakened during colonial rule.
There are almost sixty such nations in Africa today. Their boundaries remain as they were after the colonial powers divided the country at the end of the nineteenth century. It is no wonder that there have been boundary disputes witch have almost all been settled by the organization of African unity.
The rulers of the two states have been given the problem of trying to construct national identity. The elite of the indigenous rulers have been weakened and have been replaced by modern elites. These modern elite’s memberships are based on wealth and commerce rather than traditional affiliations. The clash between the two principals of organization and descent lead to most differences in interests and has led to arms struggles within military governments. These governments have suppressed protestations and expressions of democratic descent as “tribalism.”
(Countries and their Cultures – http://www.everyculture.com/Africa-Middle-East/Introduction-to-Africa-Government-and-Politics.html)
Traditional religions in Africa have been and still are too many outsiders today considered primitive, and to be based on emotional displays beyond the realm of non-African’s thinking. African traditional religions all recognize an existence of a God or Creator, usually beyond the reach of, or contact by normal people. Each society has its own creator or god. Between the people and their creator or god, there is believed to be both mystical and living representatives of the supreme creator or god. On the mystical side of things it is usually believed to be spirits and ancestors. To these beings prayer and sacrifice are given in the situation of bad health, or lack of success. Contact to these beings are usually made by living intermediaries such as priests or prophets. All of these living intermediaries are believed to have divine knowledge.
Priests are not normally specialists. They are usually the heads of a lineage or families. However, some such as rainmakers have and play more special roles. Prophets are the messengers for the creator or god. They usually go to communities that have suffered disasters such as natural, medical, or political that are out of there control to give advice and message from the creator or god. They exercise charismatic authority over their followers. If they are successful, the establish new forms of social organization.
The belief in evildoers such as witches and sorcerers are wide spread. The evildoers bring harm to their enemies by mystical means. Harm usually comes from kin or neighbors who are having a disagreement or dispute, and not from distant impersonal forces.
Christianity and Islam both have a long history in Africa. Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia sometime around the fourth century. However, in most of the continent, it was spread by European evangelists. Missionary enterprise did not reach its top until after the eighteenth century. During the twentieth century, most conversion has been done by African Christian Prophets and local leaders.
Islam was spread to the Northern and eastern coasts of Africa in the seventh and tenth centuries. It was also carried southward to the Sudan and the western African savanna zone after the eleventh century mostly by Islamic traders, brotherhoods, or a Holy war.
Today Africa has a higher conversion to Christianity than does any other continent; Islam is also widespread.
Education is another important factor, especially where different translations of the bible have been made available.
Anti-European understanding has definitely fed Africans’ wants to form purely African religious congregations, doing so with their own local leaders. Most people in Africa, as elsewhere in the world, may experiment with more than one religion and choose the one that best suits them and that would bring them the most prosperity.
A lot of Africa’s cultural activity centers around the family and ethnic groups. Music, art and verbal literature help to reinforce religious and their social patterns. Influenced by European culture, and by Christianity, the westernized minority first rejected their traditional African culture. However, with the rise of African nationalism, a cultural revival took place.
(African Culture – http://www.africaguide.com/culture/index.htm
Copyright © 1996 – 2010 africaguide.com)
African weddings are the combining of two lives, two families, or sometimes even two communities. No two wedding traditions are alike on the continent of Africa. Even though every wedding tradition is different, the bride plays a very important role and is treated with great respect. The bride is a link between the possible children that she may give birth to and the ancestors. Because the bride may give birth to a very powerful child, so for this she is given respect. The groom and his family will even move to the bride’s village in some eastern areas of Africa; they set up a whole new home there.
Weddings can be simple or very large; celebrated in large ceremonies involving many couples. These celebrations can involve feasting and dancing for days at a time within the community.
(African Culture – http://www.africaguide.com/culture/weddings.htm copyright © 1996 – 2010 africaguide.com)
African art has many different themes. The art symbolize different things that are significant to African culture. These themes reveal the importance of much of their beautiful art.
The most Common Themes are:
‘¢ A Couple
‘¢ A Woman and a Child
‘¢ A male with a weapon or animal
‘¢ An Outsider or “Stranger”
Couples are shown most commonly as free-standing figures. They are usually the same size and stature. They may be a representation of ancestors, twins, a married couple, or a community founder. This represents the importance of two as one. The main theme of a couple is that of strength and honor. This is not to symbolize love and intimacy.
The mother and child figure is usually to show a representation of Mother Nature and her children.
The sculpture of a man and a weapon or an animal is to show honor to departed ancestors. In these sculptures, the animal is commonly a horse. Rarely are animals sculpted to show their outward beauty. They are usually sculpted to show the status of the person. In some cases the person is shown with a mythical creature or animal. This is done to show the power and wealth they must have.
A final representation that is common in African art is the sculpture or symbol of a stranger. In Africa a stranger would be someone who is from a different country or tribe. The stranger would usually not be welcome. However, sometimes, the stranger is given a form of respect. This is based on their relatively great weapons or power. This is the case especially if the person is a white foreigner.
Africa is a continent of many different cultures and beliefs. They celebrate many different festivals and their art work is very important to their heritage and spirituality. Haven’t you ever wondered what the different strange yet interesting sculptures and pieces of art symbolized that were created by the African people?
Introduction to Africa. (2010). In Countries and their cultures. Retrieved from http://www.everyculture.com/Africa-Middle-East/Introduction-to-Africa.html
African Culture. (1996 ‘” 2010) in Africa Guide. Retrieved from http://www.africaguide.com/culture/index.htm