Introduction to african history, culture and society
• The interplay of Socio-economic, political, and religious forces
operating in African societies before and after 1500.
• The political, economic, religious and social currents of Africa.
• How Africans have sought to adapt to and reshape external
forces imposed by colonialism, Western Capitalism, Islam and
• Overview of African Kingdom and small scale societies.
• Slavery in Africa, and its abolition, the great scramble, partition
of Africa, colonialism in Africa, nationalism, and end with an
neocolonial realities in the new independent African states.
• Over three thousand years ago there
were two important developments in
West Africa: long distance trade, and
the ability to manipulate stone, clay
and metals to sophisticated degree.
• Against this background, there arose a
number of kingdoms and empires
starting in the 5th century through to
the 16th century. Common to each of
these great empires was extensive
trans-saharan trade with the North,
large standing armies and an effective
• The empire of Ghana (not to be confused with
modern Ghana which is some four hundred miles
south east of where it was) was first referred to
by an Arab scholar in the 8th century. Two
centuries later the kingdom of Kanem arose
north east of Lake Chad.
• In the 13th century Mali rose under
the leadership of the Malinke Sundiata
to become renowned throughout
the Arab world for its wealth and learning.
• A hundred years later it fell into decline and became the target
of Tuareg raids; the Songhay then took over the territory,
reduced in size, under the leadership of Askiya Mohammed.
• Trade was revived as was the position
of Timbuktu as a centre of learning.
The Songhay remained in control
until the Moroccan invasion.
• By the 18th century the northern
part of West Africa was a patchwork
of city states and kingdoms; further
South the Asante state (in modern
Ghana) rose to pre-eminence.
• In the early 19th century Muslim
reformers changed the political
landscape of large parts of West
Africa, most notably in what is now
northern Nigeria, under the
leadership of Usman dan Fodio. (Usman dan Fodio)
• Central Africa is a fertile area, rich in mineral deposits.
Here a number of states emerged with sophisticated
metal working techniques after 1000 AD in what is
referred to as the 'late iron age.'
• By the 15th century this empire had
collapsed, taken over by the Mutapa rulers.
The Portuguese appeared around the same
time attracted by gold and slaves.
• They made commercial inroads across the
width of southern Africa, from what is now
Angola in the West, to Mozambique in the
• By the 13th century an empire
known as Great Zimbabwe
emerged, which left stone ruins
of what must have been a
spectacular fortified palace.
(slaves digging gold)
(Great Zimbabwe ruins)
• They came across a number of power kingdoms.
1)The Kongo in the West (present day northern Angola and part
of DR Congo)
2) The decentralised and flexible state of Lunda in the centre;
3) The Lundu Kingdom in the east, which cultivated the
cassava and maize which the Portuguese imported with great
• Also in the East, was Monumutapa, under
Mutapa rule, which resisted all attempts
by the Portuguese at subjugation.
Reduced in size, it maintained its vigour
under the military dynasty of
• By contrast the Kongo Empire was, by the
17th century, devastated by the slave
• By the 18th century the slave trade was
sufficiently lucrative and brisk at the coast for
the Portuguese to have not need to assert
their power in any systematic way in the
• The states and kingdoms of the interior
confined their dealings to middlemen in
search of ivory, slaves and gold for sale to
coastal traders, both African and European.
• People in southern Africa also felt the economic
and political impact of a minority of Europeans
from the 17th century onwards. These Europeans
set about taking over, and profiting from, other
• Farming and mining were the principle activities
from which white settlers profited, with the Dutch,
or Afrikaners as they became known, mainly
interested in agriculture.
• The Englishman Cecil Rhodes
led the initiative to exploit the
country's mining potential. His
long term goal was to colonise
the whole continent with white
(Cecil Rhodes )
• The Afrikaners had a huge social impact on
southern Africa. Wherever they set up a
community they pursued a policy of racial
segregation, based on a belief in the racial
superiority of Europeans, wherever they set up.
• This reached its most organised form in the
system of apartheid created by the National
Party of South Africa from 1948 until the 1980's,
when it began to be dismantled.
• Most of Africa had achieved independence by the
early 1960s, it took much longer for southern
African colonies to become independent.
1. Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia and
Lesotho all achieved independence by the end of the
2. But Angola and Mozambique had to wait until 1975.
3. Zimbabwe achieved majority rule in 1980.
4. Namibia shook off South African domination in 1990.
5. It was not until 1994 that South Africa itself was returned to
her people and governed through majority rule.
1. The Maasai People of East Africa.
2. The Himba peple
3. The San Bushmen (Basarwa)of the Kalahari
4.The Samburu of Kenya
5. Omo River Tribes, Ethopia
6. The Hadzabe and Datoga tribes
• The Maasai tribe of East Africa are pastoralists and
warriors. Self-sufficient and proud. The Maasai are now
struggling to maintain their traditions. Their grazing lands
are being parcelled off much of it is now protected by the
National Park land.
• The Himba are semi-nomadic pastoralists
who live in Laokoland which is in the
Northwest of Namibia, The Himba are a
striking people to llok at because theory have
maintained their traditional culture and dress.
• The women are
topless and cover
their bodies with the
paste made from fat
• The San Bushmen (Basarwa)of the
Kalahari are more commonly known as
the Bushmen. The San are traditionally
hunter-gatherers and live in a small
mobile family groups.
• Visitors of the region can
enjoy staying at a
community run eco-lodge
or hop on the back of a
camel led by a Samburu
The Samburu of Kenya live
in Northern Kenya, in the
beautiful Rift Valley region.
The Samburu are staunch
traditionalists and still lead a
semi-nomadic lifestyle for
• Ethiopian Tribes living in the Omo River
Region, South-western Ethiopia are Mursi,
Hamer, Bodi, Ari, Bumi and Karo tribes.
• Each tribes has its unique customs, language,
rituals and ceremonies.
• Hadzabe and Datoga
tribes are from the Lake
Eyasi, Tanzania region.
• The cultural and trekking
tours in the Lake Eyasi
region is famous tourist
• South Africa is called the rainbow nation because
of its variety of people, cultures and religions.
The people follow many spirituals traditions and
• In south Africa the constitution protects freedom
of religion. Everyone is free to follow whatever
faith they want to, or not follow one at all.
• The major faiths practiced in South Africa are
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, traditional African
religions and Judaism.
• European and other foreign settlers brought most
of these religions.
• Traditional African religions is very popular and
arrived in North and West African ancestors. It is
often combined with the elements of Christianity
• The most important thing in the new South
African religion and spirituality are the create
greater understanding and harmony rather than
to divide people as we done in the past.
• Christianity came first to the continent of Africa
in the 1st or early 2nd century AD.
• Oral tradition says the first Muslims appeared
while the prophet Mohammed was still alive
(he died in 632).
• Thus both religions have been on the continent
of Africa for over 1,300 years.
• Most “traditional” groups of people living in South Africa
arrive in the West and Central Africa about 1 500 years
• Most were Bantu- speaking people and were the
ancestors of many South Africans, especially the Nguni
groups like the Zulu an Xhosa.
• Traditional African religion is based on the oral traditions,
which means that the basic values and way of life are
passed from elders to younger generation.
• These traditions are not religious principles,
but a cultural identity that is passed on
through stories, myths and tales.
(Traditional African religion and culture
is passed on from parents to children
• Traditional African religion community is the most
important part of someone’s life.
• This community is made up of people who
remember and share the same traditions.
• A believer's family still has influence over him or
her even if they live far away. Religion in most
African societies also supports moral order. It
creates a sense of security and order in the
• Followers believe in the guidance of their
• In the Zulu culture there are mystics or sangomas that are
responsible for healing and 'divining' - a kind of fortune
telling and counselling.
Sangomas are part of spiritual
traditions and are responsible for
healing and telling the future.
• These traditional healers have to be
called by ancestors.
• They undergo strict training and learn
many skills including how to use
herbs for healing and other, more
mystical skills, like the finding of a
hidden object without knowing where
• Traditional African religion
is a way of life in which
ancestors are part of every
major event such as wedding,
births and deaths.
• During these events usually an
offering is made to honour,
please and thank the ancestors.
• A cow, sheep or chicken is
slaughtered and the ancestors
are called to receive the offering
and bless the gathering.
• Although traditional African religion recognises
a Supreme God, followers do not worship him
or her directly as they do not feel worthy
enough. They therefore ask the ancestors to
communicate on their behalf.
• The Supreme Being is called upon in times of
great hardship and need, like drought or
epidemic that may threaten the entire
• The Supreme Being is the connection between
people and their environment.
• Ancestor worship and belief is an extension of a
belief in and respect for elders.
• Followers of traditional African religion believe that
ancestors maintain a spiritual connection with their
• Most ancestral spirits are generally good and kind.
• The only negative actions taken by ancestral spirits
is to cause minor illnesses to warn people that they
have gotten onto the wrong path.
• To please these unhappy ancestors, usually
offerings of beer and meat are made.
• The only negative
actions taken by
ancestral spirits is to
cause minor illnesses to
warn people that they
have gotten onto the
• To please these
usually offerings of beer
and meat are made.
Cotonou, the largest city of Benin
is located on the coast. It is the
economic centre of the country,
with a thriving trade in second-
Benin is one of the poorest
countries in the world, with about
one third of its population living in
Agriculture is an important
economic factor, built mainly on
• Benin is located in the “Dahomey Gap”, an unforested corridor
stretching from the Upper Guinean rain forests on the West
Coast of the African continent to the Congolese rainforests in
• This savanna landscape is hardly suitable for agricultural use,
due to its dryness. To the north of the lagoon landscape of the
coast, the country rises to a plateau which is intensively used for
agriculture, extending as far as the Atakora mountains.
• The rhythm of working the soil and planting crops is dependent
on the rainy season, which is why planting is in the months from
May to June, and harvesting is between October and December.
• About two thirds of the population of Benin work in farming.
They mainly grow maize, cassava, yams, sweet potatoes and
pulses for their own needs and the local market.
• Cashew nuts and pineapples are important export products,
but the main export from Benin is cotton.
• West African nation formerly
known as Dahomey.
• A French colony until the
1960s, Benin is a tiny nation
tucked under the Elephant Ear
of West Africa, and is best
known for being one of the
• The city of Cotonou whose name in the local
language (Fon) means “River of Death.”
• Regardless of what Cotonou is today, it will forever
retain the soul of a slaving hub at the mouth of a
river that carried an unfortunate cargo down to the
waiting slave ships.
• Benin is expensive. The country produces
little in the way of agricultural products, and
as a result, most of what we consume has
been imported at great expense.
• expat staples like milk, wheat flour, jam,
butter, breakfast cereal, cookies, and such:
are not cheap.
• Benin is the birthplace of the world’s most misunderstood
• Haitians are the second most populous followers of Vaudoun,
but it’s because the slave trade carried Beninese to the
Caribbean island that Haiti gained the religion.
• Vaudoun at its roots is an animist religion with strong ties to
the natural earth, and a belief in good and bad forces.
• Large parts of Benin believe in Vaudoun, but there are lots of
Christians and Muslims as well, and everyone seems to live
together in peace
• Slavery continues to this day, and not just in Benin.
Throughout Africa, families “lend” their children –
sometimes permanently – to construction projects in the
city. These children are poorly paid, sleep on the ground,
and remain uneducated for their entire lives.