African culture is a broad term used to collectively describe various strands of African history and tradition, with a common thread running through the history of mankind from the dawn of time until the present day. The bulk of African literature draws on this rich cultural heritage. A typical African textbook or publication will tell the story of the quest of a young boy who is seeking his own identity and becoming a man by conquering a ‘more superior’ (and supposedly more intelligent) race, the blacks, who have occupied most of the land since the beginning of time. The main article will focus on a discussion of the early Africa culture as told through oral traditions transmitted from generation to generation within a specific ethnic group – the African people.
This main article covers a period of about five thousand years known as the New World period. It is during this time that a great influx of colonizers from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe brought with them new ideas, technologies and customs to influence the African people. To better appreciate how African culture has changed over the years, we will take a look at some of the most important innovations and developments that have taken place.
At first glance, the major innovations that are credited to the blacks can be grouped under three headings. The most important was the invention of cooking and eating food in public, or ‘qafe’. This was a marked advancement as previously, when people in Africa used food recipes that remained closely guarded secrets, only being passed on from generation to generation within an ethnic group. Another innovation was the cultivation of cereals, mostly millet, which were used to improve health, increase energy levels and slow down aging. The third and probably the most significant innovation was the use of metal utensils such as bowls and plates for cooking and eating, which were immediately replaced by wooden ones, ceramics and metal.
African history is complex, because over time, different cultures developed, amalgamating and sometimes disappearing altogether. One of the major things that differentiated African societies was their religion. Virtually all Africa’s societies practiced religion, with the exception of Islam and several Berbers (a group of people who used religion to dictate law and social structure). Sub-Saharan Africa was the place where Africa’s rich history is best described. A visit to any city in Sub-Saharan Africa will reveal rich historic buildings and sites, many of which have been included in UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ List.
Some of the most important things that distinguish the modern world from the old ones are language, clothing, cuisine, social organisation and norms. All of these have changed considerably over time, taking account of both developments in the modern world and changes in Africa’s society. While some of these changes took place abruptly, like the spread of English in the West Indies, many changes such as the rise of slavery and the creation of various nationalities took place over time. Slavery was one of the most important events in African history, because it created a massive cross-section of African and European cultures. It also significantly altered African societies, creating duality in their cultural identity and affecting their spiritual, intellectual and political life. The slave trade has largely left a negative mark on African culture, but some areas of the country have successfully fought against it.
Another important area that modern scholars have taken time to study is the impact of European colonisation. This is an important part of African history because it describes how a new continent was occupied and changed through the contact of Europeans with their newly acquired possessions. It describes the ways in which different cultures lived side by side, demonstrating that African culture was more diverse than previously known. In addition, European knowledge about African life has helped African communities to deal with the problems that have beset them for centuries.