African society & culture


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African society & culture

  1. 1. 500 BCE – 1400 CE
  2. 2.  Much of what we know about Ancient African society comes from the writings of foreign visitors. African towns began as fortified villages, which grew into larger communities that served several purposes  Towns were center of government  Towns had markets with goods from trade  Towns had artists who made pottery, tools, woodwork, and other crafts  Farmers could trade their crops for goods
  3. 3.  Inmost African societies, the ruler would hold audiences with commoners The king was held in a position high above other people in the kingdom The relationship of the king to his subjects was beneficial to both sides  Merchants received favors from the king, while the king received taxes  The king maintained law and order, which allowed the merchants to practice their trade
  4. 4.  People who lived in villages generally lived with extended family and/or lineage groups  The extended family was made up of parents/grandparents/children and other family members  Lineage groups were the extended family that may live in separate homes in the same village, and were all related  Lineage groups were the basic building block of African society  Members of the same lineage group could claim relation to a common ancestor  Leading members of the group had power over the others  The lineage group provided support for its members, taking care of one another
  5. 5.  Women were usually subordinate to men in Africa, as they were in most early societies around the world  Women often worked in the fields while men hunted or took care of the cattle One critical difference between African women and women from other areas of the world was that lineage was based on the mother; African society was matrilineal, based on the mother. (Most other societies were patrilineal – based on the father. Women were permitted to inherit property and often a new husband would move into his wife’s house
  6. 6.  In the Congo, children were raised by their mothers and were prepared to become part of the community  They learned language, family history, and music from their mothers At age 6, the sexes were separated and the fathers began to take an active role in educating their sons  Boys learned to hunt and fish  Girls learned to work in the villages and fields As they aged, children were given increasing responsibilities until they fully entered the community, usually at puberty.  Their transition was marked by ceremonies and/or rituals
  7. 7.  Slavery was practiced in Africa even in ancient times  Berber groups in North Africa raided farming villages south of the Sahara for captives  The captives were taken northward and sold throughout the Mediterranean as domestic slaves or soldiers Slavery was common in south and East Africa.  Slaves were captives, conquered peoples, debtors, and criminals Life was difficult for most slaves, who often worked long, hard hours In Muslim societies and Asia, some slaves could earn their freedom
  8. 8.  Early African religions varied from place to place, although most shared some common ideas  The Yoruba people of Nigeria believed that their chief god sent his son Oduduwa from Heaven to create the first humans  The Ashanti people of Ghana believed in a supreme being called Nyame, whose sons were lesser gods. Each son served a different purpose, like making rain or sunshine. Most African religions had rituals and ceremonies  One way to communicate with the gods was through diviners, or people who believe they have the power to foretell events by communicating with supernatural forces
  9. 9. A key element in African religions was the importance of ancestors  Each lineage group could trace itself back to a founding ancestor or group of ancestors  Ritual ceremonies were dedicated to ancestors Many African religions shared a belief in the afterlife  They believed life existed in two stages: earth and the afterlife, where the soul floated for eternity
  10. 10.  African religious beliefs were challenged by Islam, but not always replaced Islam swept rapidly across the northern coast after the Arab conquest Islam was spread as a result of trade throughout Africa  The first ruling family to convert to Islam were the Gao’s Islam spread even more slowly in East Africa  Christianity dominated much of the region  Was more successful when Swahili culture emerged
  11. 11.  Earliest forms of African art were rock paintings, dating back as far as 4000 BCE Wood carving existed throughout Africa. Carvers made elaborate masks and statues Clay and metal figurines were found in Nigeria that demonstrated a flourishing culture Metalworkers produced bronze and iron statues African music and dance was extensive and often served a religious purpose Griots were storytellers who kept African traditions and history as part of their stories