Africa is the third biggest continent in the world after the Americas and Asia, and it is also the continent where the early humans have originated an estimated 6 to 7 million years ago.
The continent to over 1.2 billion people which is expected to rise to 2.5 billion by the year 2050 and over 4 billion by 2100 making it the most populous continent in the world. In this article we are going to explore the many cultures that make up Africa and the major events that have shaped the culture on the continent.
What Is the Culture in Africa?
Africa is a continent that is made up of not one but an estimated 3,000 different culture practiced by over 2,100 different ethnic groups, many people may be surprised by this as there is only 54 countries in Africa. Despite the thousands of different cultures on the continent, there is a heavy influence from Western culture particularly English, French, Spanish and Portuguese cultures.
This is because these European countries were colonial powers that had traded and eventually took over most of Africa with every country in Africa at some point being occupied by one of Europe’s Great Powers.
This is well represented with the fact that the majority of the countries in Africa each have either English, French or Arabic as their official language. Admittedly, Arabic is not a language that originates in Europe, however it is still the most popular language in North Africa where it is the official language of countries such as Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Egypt.
You may be wondering why we are talking so much about languages, the reason behind this is that when different cultures speak a common language then the flow of information and exchange of culture is much quicker and easier.
This is represented by the fact that all the countries in Africa that speak French and English have Christianity as their main religion while the ones that speak Arabic follow a branch of Islam. Due to this religious link, in Africa you will find hundreds of millions of people celebrating Christmas, New Years, Easter as well as Eid, Ramadan and the Islamic New Year.
Despite there being such strong influences from cultures from Europe and the Middle East in Africa, local communities still celebrate their local traditions and customs. Due to the heavy colonial influences in Africa, most of the modern African countries consist of very diverse group of cultures that were all grouped together by the colonists who previously managed those countries as regional colonial protectorates without taking into account the different groups of people living there.
Biggest Ethnic Groups and Cultures in Africa.
As stated above, there are thousands of ethnic groups and cultures centralized in Africa, below we are going to list the five biggest of those groups in terms of population.
- Maghrebis, based in the Muslim North African countries that speak Arabic, the Maghrebis are one of the oldest ethnic groups in Africa that still survive to this day. With the group being around before the Roman Empire came into existence and before Jesus was born. They are a genetically very diverse group who are a mix of Southern Europeans, Africans and Arabs which is why they do not look like the stereotypical Africans. Their culture is also very different from most other African cultures as they are separated by the Sahara desert which has acted as a natural barrier that has isolated them from the rest of Africa. Some well-known parts of their culture are their bag-pipe music that is said to have originated from Persia as well as their vegetarian and non-pork dishes.
- Hausa, the Hausa people speak the most widely spoken language that has originated in Africa. They number around 40 million and live in multiple West African countries such as Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon but can also be found as far as Eritrea in East Africa. A group that was heavily persecuted during the times of French and British presence in West Africa, the Hausa is a people very proud of their culture. Known for their colorful clothing, architecture as well as their unique marriage traditions where the man has to convince the woman’s parents and tribe to allow him to marry her.
- Yoruba, another ethnic group that resides in West Africa who also number over 40 million. They have their own language that has just recently been produced in written form with the language before being taught just in oral form from generation to generation. Also, they have their own unique religion called the ‘Yoruba Pantheon’ that is based around the belief of gods and spirits for nearly everything in existence.
- Oromo, the biggest ethnic group in Ethiopia and in the region in East Africa known as the ‘Horn of Africa’. They are over 37 million of them just in Africa with millions more descendants in the United States and Canada. It is estimated that 60% of them are Muslims while the other 40% follow the Coptic Christian denomination which is arguably the oldest church branch in the world having been established following the death of Jesus and spreading down from Palestine to the coast of East Africa.
- Igbo, another ethnic group hailing from West Africa with the region being home to an estimated 1/4 of the total population of Africa despite being a fairly small region. Majority of them live in the south of Nigeria near the Niger and Ibibioid rivers. Known traditionally for being proficient farmers, traders and also craftsmen for Nigerian souvenirs as well as furniture and other types of ornaments.
How African Cultures Are Different from the Rest of the World.
African culture has far greater influence on the rest of the world than people can imagine, for example popular music genres such as rap, jazz, reggae and RnB all benefit from heavy African influences such as the use of horns, drums and the voices themselves as an instrument to control the rhythm. These forms of music were popularized in Western countries such as the USA, the United Kingdom and France by citizens from African descent.
Furthermore, traditional African clothes patterns and colors are commonly appropriated and used in all types of clothing all around the world without people knowing where these patterns actually originated from.
The population of Africa is expected to grow at an average of 2% a year over the next 100 years which is very high considering that the average birth rate of Europe right now is just 1.6. This coupled with the booming economies of African countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda, Africa will have a much larger cultural influence in the world.
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