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Religious and Ethnic Groups of Africa

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1 Religious and Ethnic Groups of Africa
SS7G4 The student will describe the diverse cultures of the people who live in Africa. Explain the differences between an ethnic group and a religious group. B. Explain the diversity of religions within the Arab, Ashanti, Bantu, and Swahili ethnic groups.

2 Some Useful Definitions
Ethnic Group – People who share common bonds of culture, religion, language, and/or biological traits, and see themselves as different from other groups. Culture – a set of socially transmitted (learned) behavior patterns. This includes arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.

3 Religions in Africa Religion – a set of beliefs, practices, and traditions, often with a supernatural quality, that give meaning to life experiences through reference to an ultimate spiritual power. Islam – from the Arabian Peninsula Christian - from the European missionaries who visited the continent Traditional – from tribal cultures

4 Traditional Religions
African traditional religions, also referred to as indigenous religions or tribal religions, refers to a variety of religions indigenous (native to) to the continent of Africa. Like tribal religions from other parts of the world, African religious traditions differ with the community or area in which they are practiced. Traditional African religions involve teachings, practices, and rituals that reinforce the values of indigenous African societies. These traditional African religions also play a large part in the cultural understanding and awareness of the people of their communities. They share a reverence for common values and symbols.

5 African Tribes and Languages
Africa is approximately four times the size of the United States. In fact, the Sahara Desert, alone is the size of the US! There are about 100 different tribes in Africa – from the Afar to the Zulu, which is the largest – and from the Ashantes, a tribe barely fifty years old to the Bushmen, who have populated Africa for at least over 20,000 years! Languages? Over 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa with about 100 of these regularly used in inter-ethnic communication.


7 ARABS - LANGUAGE Language – Arabic first spread in 2nd century by Arabic Christians into Middle East. Rapid spread of the language with Islam in 7th century, as it was the language of the Qu’ran. Today there are about 225 million people who speak the Arabic language, with the greatest numbers of these coming from Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt.

8 About 20% of the Muslim population live in Arab Countries

9 Arabic Religion and Law
The majority of Arabs are Muslims There are two main groups: Sunni and Shia. Shia is minority (except in Iran). Islam is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. In some countries, the government is secular, meaning there is a separation of church and state. In others, such as northern Sudan and Saudi Arabia, government is based on Sharia, Islamic religious law. There is no separation of church and state. Women have few rights in these countries.

10 For example…the Bedouins
They are Arabs in terms of ethnic group. Their culture is characterized by their nomadic lifestyles, as well as common learned behaviors. Most are Muslims, with some Christians. Their lifestyle is pastoral, centered around herding camels, but also goats and sheep. However, they are becoming more sedentary (settled) with the decrease in grazing lands and suitable aquifers. However, many have urban residences during the hot, dry summers and still lead nomadic lives during the winters. Governments wish to regulate these populations in order to control them more closely.

11 Bedouin Culture –Social Structures
Bedouins organize themselves according to patrilineal (father to son) groups. The size of these groups may vary from a handful of people to thousands. Bedouins define themselves as members of tribes and families. All groups are headed by sheiks, a term meaning “old man” in the Qur’an.” People are divided into social classes, depending on family and profession. Passing from one class to another is relatively easy, but marriage between a man and a woman of different classes is difficult. Traditional Bedouin foods include dairy products, milk and meat. Bedouins sell and barter products, in order to obtain agricultural foodstuff from sedentary peoples. Bedouins live in tents made out of goat or camel hair, as well as plant fibers. Sedentary Bedouins construct simple, unadorned houses, built from mud and stone.

12 At the camel market, a camel with a tribal mark on his rear leg, awaits sale.

13 Boys show off a handsome camel, dressed in saddlebags, leg cushion, long narrow ornament, and headstall and bridle, western Saudi Arabia, 1992

14 Show below is the traditional black tent, but the round tent in the foreground is a "Saudi" tent. These black tents that seem so romantic on the landscape are called in Arabic “house of hair.”

15 Bedouin homes in the Negev Desert
Nomadic Life Bedouin Homes Sedentary Life A Bedouin tent is divided into two sections by a woven curtain known as a ma'nad. One section, reserved for the men and the reception of most guests, is called the mag'ad, or “sitting place.” The other, in which the women cook and receive female guests, is called the maharama, or “place of the women.” Bedouin homes in the Negev Desert

16 A New Tent and Dividing Curtain

17 Bedouin Culture Bedouins mark their graves with exceptional simplicity, placing one ordinary stone at the head of the grave and one at its foot. Moreover, it is traditional to leave the clothes of the deceased on top of the grave, to be “adopted” by a needy traveler. Bedouins, like other Egyptians, wear the jalabiyya, a long, hooded robe that is a standard form of clothing both in big cities and on the desert plains.

18 An elder of the Al Ajami tribe poses with his falcon in front of a tent divider in a guest tent.
(Haneedh, Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, 1989) Children of the Shammar tribe play with a baby camel outside a tent, woven by the mother of one of them. (Near Hail, north central Saudi Arabia, 1992.)

19 Bedouin Weaving Bedouin women and girls take the drop spindles out with them while they are watching the flocks – and continue to spin while chatting among themselves or climbing over boulders after the goats. The whole process is done by hand from the washing, carding, spinning and dying of the yarn to the finished product. The dye pot is shown in the background.

20 Bedouin Weaving In spinning, the thread passes through the "hook" (bent nail) at the top of the spindle before being wound around the stick spindle, which is nearly 2 feet long. Spun fiber is wound around the arm or goes into a shoulder bag. It is then dyed and used for weaving. Tribes often have traditional colors and designs. Looms in background being prepared for weaving. Note the dye pots behind these.

21 Tribal designs shown on a tent divider
Weaving on a ground loom with warp tied to prevent tangling Tribal designs shown on a tent divider Thanks to Joy May Hilden for pictures.


23 ASHANTI The Ashanti are a major ethnic group of Ghana in West Africa.
The Ashanti speak their own language, Twi, and number about 10 million people. They became very influential in the West African Empire during the 17th century.

24 Ashante Society The Ashante society is one of the few matrilineal societies in the world, where land rights and inheritance are determined by the mother’s side of the family. Children are often “matched up” at birth, but the marriage is not a most important ritual in a child’s life, simply a stage in one’s life. Both men and women may own property.

25 Ghanaian Flag

26 Ashanti Golden Stool The birth of the Ashanti kingdom in the 17th century is tied to the Golden Stool, which was commanded down from heaven by a shaman. (A SHAMAN is the spiritual leader that is the link between the visible world and the spiritual world.) It floated down and landed in the lap of the king and was viewed as the unifying force of the new kingdom. Believed to contain the soul of the Ashanti people, it was thought that if the stool ceased to exist, so would their nation. It measures 12x24x18 inches high and is always placed on a blanket. A new king was lowered over it, but never permitted to sit on it. Very few have seen it. The Ashante followed a traditional religion.

27 The Seat of Power Replicas (copies) of the stool were made for the chiefs, and at their deaths, these are blackened with animal blood as a symbol of their ancestral power. Once in the 1890s, they exiled their king rather than risk losing the war and the stool. In 1900, a British governor demanded to sit on the stool, and they went to war over that. Though they lost to Great Britain, they felt they had gained a victory in their protection of the stool. When one of their kings made a stool for himself, they led the army against him, decapitated him, melted the stool, and made two golden masks of his “ugly face” to hang beside the real golden stool.

28 Ashanti Today Ashanti are largely Protestant and Catholic Christians; the major denominations represented are Methodist and Anglican, although the Pentecostal church is growing in popularity. While tribal and ethnic identity are important for Ashanti and other Ghanaians, they do not define a person nor carry as much weight as they did hundreds of years ago. In other words, although the past history makes the Ashanti very influential, Ashanti and Ghanaians in general do not place extreme emphasis on tribe and are now more nationalistic, meaning they think in terms of the good of the nation, rather than the old tribe.


30 SWAHILI Culture and Language
The Swahili are a people and culture found on the coast of East Africa, mainly the coastal regions from Somalia to Mozambique. Although the Swahili as a cultural group number only about a million and a half people, Swahili speakers, on the other hand, number at around 90 million! The name Swahili is derived from the Arabic word meaning "coastal dwellers."

31 Swahili Religion Because of interaction with Arabic traders in the 11th century, Islam is the religion of most Swahili people. The Swahili follow a very strict or orthodox form of Islam. Most men wear protective amulets (charms) around their necks, which contain verses from the Qu’ran. If a person is ill, the medicine man instructs a patient to soak a piece of paper containing verses of the Qu’ran in water. With this ink infused water, literally containing the word of Allah, the patient will then wash his body or drink it to cure himself. It is only prophets and teachers of Islam who are permitted to become medicine men among the Swahili


33 Bantu Bantu, a linguistically (language) related group of people living in equatorial and southern Africa. The Bantu probably originated in what is now Camaroon and eastern Nigeria, migrating downward into southern Africa. They were an AGRARIAN or agricul-tural society.

34 The Effect of a Simple Invention A Change in Technology
With the development of the iron blade, reaping became easier for the Bantu people, and agriculture took on a whole new meaning. Greater production fed more people. Populations grew faster than before, with people encroaching (moving in) on each other's land. Thus, the increasing populations had to find new places to live. This need for land led to the migration of African black tribes from central to southern Africa. The Bantu migration spread through sub-Saharan Africa (Africa south of the Sahara Desert) over some 2,000 years. The Bantu migrations are believed to have taken place over about 2 millennia and are the largest human migrations ever to have taken place.

35 Zulus Plowing Land Like they Did on the Old Days

36 The Bantu Influence

37 Economics and Trade The development of metalworking skills promoted specialization of products, and trade between regions followed. Today Bantu is recognized as a language group, rather than a cultural group. In the western half of the country (where the Namib and Kalahari deserts are located), rainfall was low and desert conditions prevailed Since the African farmers were not interested in settling there. These dry regions remained a safe haven of the Khoi and the San.


39 The Bushmen The San were the original inhabitants of Kalahari Desert, located in southern Africa in the present state of Botswana. Only a few scattered bands remain. The San Tribe used to be known by the term "Bushmen." However, calling them that has recently been considered racist and politically incorrect.

40 SAN San was a name given to hunters by the Khoikhoi of the Cape. The word means “people different from ourselves” and became associated with those without livestock, or people who stole livestock.

41 San Hunter Gatherers The San are mainly vegetarians who eat up to 100 different plant types. One of the most important is the mongogo nut, a staple food that provides more than half of the San tribe daily diet. The San tribes to the North of the Kalahari eat mostly plant foods that grow above the ground, and those living in the central and southern part rely a great deal on underground bulbs and tubers as a source of food and water. The San women have detailed knowledge of the desert environment, and they use special sticks to unearth the bulbs and tubers.

42 San Customs The men are expert hunters, although they rarely kill animals. However, occasionally they are urged by their family to bring home a wildebeest or even one of the smaller animals like a porcupine or a few birds. Large animals include eland, kudu giraffe and antelope. These animals are hunted with bows and poisoned arrows. In some instances they use a snare to trap the smaller game. Animals that are caught in traps are swiftly killed with a spear, to avoid a slow painful death. The meat including liver, heart, etc. is roasted immediately after the hunt. The women normally share out the food to the entire group that spend hours feasting and chatting around the open fires.

43 San Religious Rites The religion of the San people of southern Africa consists of a spirit world and our material world. To enter the spirit world, one must enter a trance, with the help of a shaman through the hunting of power animals. Kazakh Shaman

44 San Power Animal The Eland
There is a key aspect of the San belief : Everything that is taken from nature must meet the needs and must not be more than what is required. Anything that is taken has to have a purpose and must meet the needs of the community. Eland bulls may weigh over a ton!

45 San Religious Beliefs The San believed in a realm above and below the material world. Once an eland had been killed, a link between these three realms was created. The eland was a main symbol of trance or spiritual communication due to its fat, the prime container and essence of trance. Rites of passage are initiated with eland fat. These include marriage and boys’ and girls’ initiation into adulthood (with the boys first successful eland hunt). Once an eland was killed, a shaman would “dance eland potency” and enter the spirit world, often depicted in rock art. The shaman would go through a trance (by wild rhythmic dancing and hyperventilation), seemingly gaining animal senses, and enter the spirit world. Once in the spirit world, they could make supernatural contact with God and important spirits.


47 KHOIKHOI or Koi Khoikhoi is a general name which the herding people of the Cape (of Good Hope) used for themselves, meaning “people with domestic animals” as opposed to other groups such as the Bushmen who had domesticated animals. It also applies to the people of southern Africa, such as the Zulu, who use the “click” language.

48 Khoikhoi Culture Khoikhoi are herders, but feed themselves through hunting and gathering. Any significant hunt is shared by the entire village. Khoikhoi keep large herds of sheep, cattle, and goats, which are used mainly for milk. Oxen were used as pack animals when camp was moved. Livestock are slaughtered only for ceremonial occasions.

49 Khoikhoi Economics All stock were individually owned. Chiefs and headmen owned a large number while servants may have owned no stock at all. Cattle were left to roam as there was no threat from predators. The herds would be taken out every day in search of grazing and returned to the kraal at night. There was probably a strict division of labor among the Khoikhoi, with cattle being men's work and women and children looking after the small stock. During the day, the adults might have remained in the kraal, manufacturing utensils and weapons, or doing domestic chores. Men also went out hunting, and the women gathered wild plant foods.

50 KhoiKhoi Housing

51 Khoikhoi Villages Khoikhoi villages were relatively large, often well over one hundred persons. The basic housing structure was a round hut made of a frame of green branches planted into the ground and bent over and tied together, then covered with reed mats. It could be dismantled and taken to a new location when grazing in the area became depleted. Sometimes the mats were simply removed and rolled up. People left the frames behind if they knew they would be returning to the same site. During the warm weather, it was cool inside with the crevices between the reeds allowing the air to circulate. During winter, the inside could be lined with skins to offer extra insulation against the elements.

52 Khoikhoi Society Several villages would form into tribes, then into larger groups called clans, and the senior headman of the senior clan would be the chief of the tribe. Land ownership was defined not by regular boundaries, but by access to watering holes for livestock. Men found wives within other tribes. The marriage custom was that the bridegroom had to spend the first months of marriage (until the birth of the first child) living at the village of his parents-in-law. Thereafter, the bride was expected to spend the rest of her marriage in the village of her husband.

53 Khoikhoi Ritual Most Khoikhoi rituals marked the critical periods of change in a person's life - birth, puberty, adulthood, marriage and death – rites of passage. New mothers and babies were kept in seclusion for at least a week after birth. It was thought that they were in need of special protection. No men were allowed to enter the hut, and the mother and baby had to avoid inessential contact with water. For the first three months, the child was fed on goats’ or cows’ milk and not from the mother's milk. A special fire was also lit in the hut. Introduction back into the community included smearing the bodies with cowdung, fat and a fragrant plant. After these rituals and great feasting, the mother and new child were accepted as members of the community with newly-defined roles.

54 Quick Quiz Please record in your notebook!
Match the following tribes with their correct area. =Bantu Northern Africa and Saudi Arabia (Think tents and camels!) =Khoikoi Mid to South African farmers (Think plow!) =Bedouins Eastern Horn of Africa (Think language!) =Ashante Kalahari Desert (Think vegetarians & elands!) =San Southern African herders (Think click & nomad!) =Swahili Present day Ghana in western African (Think Golden Stool!)

55 Next Task! Match the appropriate item with its tribe.
Iron plow & language Khoikhoi Golden stool Bedouin House of Hair, weaving San Eland power animal Ashante Pastoral “clickers” Swahili Islamic amulets Bantu

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