A Glimpse into Africa

African Rock Art

African Rock Art:

Rock art can date back to 12,000 years to now, these rock art images can document environmental changes. These changes can include the introduction of horses, imperialism, tribal events and natural events. Many of these images also depict human interactions, animals, and theiantropes. The style and content of these images tend to vary by region between the north, south, and central part of Africa. The rock art ranges from engravings to brush painted art. Rock art tends to be found in desert areas as well as caves.

The southern Rock art in Africa depicts conflicts between natives and colonists. This is most likely a depiction of the Dutch coming to Africa, due to the fact that they are the main people who colonized there. The central part of Africa has Rock art that is mainly paintings of hunter gatherer tribes and geometric patterns. These images are some of the least studied since they are also the least accessible. The northern Rock art is made up of engravings of domestic animals and theiantropic beings. Each regions Rock art is greatly impacted by the different social/political situations, geography, and outside influence.


"Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History." African Rock Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

"Rock-art & Pre-history." Home. African World Heritage Sites, 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.

Benin Forest Kingdoms

Benin forest Kingdoms:

The Benin Forest Kingdoms were around what is now modern day Nigeria and began its development as a civilization prior to the 11th century. The forest kingdom started out as family tribes intermingled with Sudanese tribes, creating a relatively small group of peoples. By the 13th century they were heavily involved in bronze trading which then lead them to making extremely famous bronze castes and sculptures. Their early society started out as hierarchical with two kings, the king of the sky (Ogiso) and the head with seven other nobles (Umaza).

The height of the Benin economy and military power was between the 14th and 16th century when they started trading with Europeans and the Portuguese rather than their prior interior trade routes. They established a small fort on the coast so they could trade things such as guns, spices and cloth. Then the Portuguese threatened the Benin people when they told them that they would not continue trading guns with them if they did not adopt Christianity as their religion. The guns are what made Benin such a powerful force within Africa so they agreed. However in the 17th century surrounding countries started obtaining guns due to an increase in interactions with Europeans, this then weakened the Benin kingdom. The Kingdom eventually fell in the 1890’s because they could not fight of the British imperialists.

"Benin: an Ancient Kingdom"


"History of Africa" http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHisto...

Early Slavery

Early: 1550- 1650

GOMES EANNES DE AZURARA was supposedly the first Portuguese man to travel to the west coast of Africa, which increased the popularity of slavery in the 1500’s due to his trans-Atlantic encounters with Africans. 1550’s was when slaves started going to America, before it was mainly the Portuguese who were enslaving them and taking them to Brazil, they turned to slaves from African because their Amerindian slaves were dying from disease. The Spanish/ Portuguese came up with the Asiento contract, a contract that offered a sum of money to the natives for a certain amount of female and male slaves, in order to solidify their slave trades with Africa. The slaves were eventually split into 3 sections in the Americas: south, central, and north. Urban slaves would be artisans, while rural slaves were mainly field workers. However, roughly about 14% of slaves would die on the way over to the Americas due to the poor living conditions on the boat. Slaves were quite literally stacked on top of one another, chained together, and forced to spend the whole time in their own filth with little food and water.

Despite this new discovery of slaves, there were still people who saw the immorality of it. TOMÁS DE MERCADO. A Spanish priest and economist in Mexico in the mid-1500s, was extremely against slavery. He believed that it dehumanized the African people, and shamed those who had slaves. He eventually wrote a short article called “A critique of the slave trade.” Within this text he described the absurdity of justifying the trading of humans with the fact that they are supposedly “savage.” He states that “no one is horrified that these people are ill-treating and selling one another, because they are considered uncivilized and savage.” This explains the disgust a few people had even at the beginning of the African slave trade, which I find interesting due to the fact this slave trade continued for another 2 hundred years, and still a hundred years later we were still treating Africans as lesser beings.

"Slavery in Africa" -Donald Wright http://autocww.colorado.edu/~blackmon/E64ContentFi...

"Slavery in Africa Prior to European contact." http://www.rzuser.uni-heidelberg.de/~el6/presentat...

"Critique of slave Trade" http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm...

African Masks

African Masks:

I chose the Senufo mask for its intriguing designs. The Senufo masks incorporates animal, spiritual, and human like features. The artists who make these masks are highly valued because the Senufo masks are believed to help communication between the living and the dead. The Senufo people live on the Ivory Coast and tend to incorporate ancestry and animals into their masks. This mask specifically is used for rites of passage for young boys, the face depicts the “ancient mother,” who is extremely powerful and influential in the lives of the Senufo people. The “ancient mother” looks over all of the young boys and helps them throughout their life. The poro society is a strict society where young boys get educated and learn the ways of their tribe. This mask is used in many of their ceremonies such as a funeral ceremony or an initiation ceremony.

This mask in particular depicts the great mother ancestor, who is believed to be the mother of all of the Senufo people. The mask is believed to be able to connect and communicate to lesser gods who can communicate with this ancient mother. The animal parts of this mask are seen with the extended pieces from the face which could depict animal-like extremities, or something similar to that of a lion’s mane.

My mask is somewhat based off of the Senufo mask. The red in my mask represents passion; I chose this color because I am very passionate and opinionated on many things. The nose is blue to represent logic and cool-headedness, because at the center of my opinions and passion is logic, facts, and theories. I hardly ever develop an opinion on something that I am uneducated about. The purple at the top represents the mixing of this passion and logic that makes up my conscious thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. All of the dots in the middle and off to the sides represents the multitude of colors my beliefs have, and my ability to see many sides of a situation. The black triangles lined with gold are my representation of what I actually say aloud. The gold represents what people want to hear and the black is my opinion. Sometimes you have to sugar coat things in order to please people and get them to listen.

"African Masks" http://www.artyfactory.com/africanmasks/

"Masks" http://masks.novica.com/

Dutch Imperialism in Africa

European Imperialism: Dutch in Africa

The Dutch imperialism in Africa mainly took place in South Africa. This was one of the earliest settlements in modern African history. It was established in 1652, the Dutch East Indian Trading Company established a supply base which then, after a few years ended up becoming a colony for the Dutch people. Many of the natives that the Dutch encountered were tortured, killed, or enslaved. However, after many years of the African people being enslaved, things got slightly better with the establishment of the apartheid rules. These rules were extremely similar to the separate but equal laws in the U.S. during the 60’s.

These Apartheid rules were recognized as horrible rules by the extremely famous Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was a citizen in South Africa when the Dutch were ruling, he thought that these rules were outlandish and wanted to contribute to freeing his people. He became involved with the African Congress and soon became an activist for equality. During one of his riot-like protests he got imprisoned for 27 years. This outraged the South African people, and they eventually reformed their ways, which lead to him becoming president in 1994. He then abolished the apartheid laws and eventually South Africa was out of Dutch rule and back in the hands of its own people.

"South Africa in the 19th century"- Jim Jones http://courses.wcupa.edu/jones/his312/lectures/sou...

"Imperialism through the years: Dutch in South Africa" http://www.learner.org/courses/worldhistory/suppor...

The Wodaabe Tribe

Location: The Wodaabe tribe is a migratory tribe located in Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. This geography has affected them due to the Islamic influence brought on them from the northern part of Africa and the middle east. This also affects their economy. Their main economy is made up of cattle herding, they will sell cattle but normally keep at least one for each family. However they only eat the meat of the cattle during special ceremonies. When their herds get depleted they tend to harvest grains for income.

Art and Music: Wodaabe art is most famously known for their body art, mainly used during a time called gerewol where men paint their faces in elaborate designs and females tend to dress in all black, loose fitting clothing. However, many paintings have been done depicting the wodaabe people during the time of gerewol. Many artists paint the Wodaabe people during this time because of their unique, and by westerners standards, taboo ways of attracting a mate. They also weave many textiles with beautiful patterns and colors. Wodaabe music is a bit harder to come by, there are only 2 known published CD's of Wodaabe music. The Wodaabe music is normally made up of drums, and one or two people singing.

Rites of Passage: The three main rites of passage take place during the rainy season: gerewol, yakke, and worso. This rite of passage is a two week period when men dress up in elaborate face paint and costumes, and the three most eligible women get to have their pick of the men in the entire Wodaabe tribe. The men wink at the women to get their attention, and quiver their lips in the direction of a place they would like to meet that woman. There are also many ceremonies where "wife stealing" takes place, however they must have the woman's consent, but not her husbands. Another rite of passage that takes place for 15 year old boys is when they are given a cow. This cow is the boys transition into being a man, the cow represents his responsibility as he goes into adulthood. The women also tattoo and scar their faces in order to ward off evil spirits. The women are allowed to sleep with 2 men before they are married, and when they are married they are allowed to sleep with another, more handsome man, because physical appearance is so important to the Wodaabe tribe.

Religion: The Wodaabe are now mainly Islamic due to the Islamic influences because of their geography which is close to northern Africa. However, many of the Wodaabe people do not adhere strictly to religious practices, mainly the richer people within their tribe tend to adhere strictly to religious practices. Also, many Wodaabe people find the term "Allah" ambiguous. They are far more animistic, they believe that some bush spirits live in trees and rocks. All of the spirits are strongly connected to ecology. There are not many widely known religious ceremonies of the Wodaabe tribe, but they tend to follow the Islamic religious ceremonies such as praying 5 times a day.

Tribal Literature:  

Important Tribal Words:

Maagani: knowledge of secret, love, and beauty potions

Hakkilo: care and forethought

Munyal: Grace and Fortitude

Togu: charm, personality, magnetism “For us that is far more important than physical beauty. Those blessed with togu will never be alone.”

Sayings: "If you have guests and there is little milk, you give what you have to them and you eat nothing. With plenty of cows and milk to share, the heart is happy. Everyone will come and see you and respect you.”

“We are like the birds in the bush. We never settle down, and we leave no trace of our passage. If strangers come too close, we fly to another tree.”

Myth: One very important Wodaabe myth is the myth of where their cattle came from. It is told that two children came from the water and built a grass house. Then two cows came out of the water and the two children built a fire for them. Then, because the children had built a fire, the cows followed them everywhere because the cows knew the Wodaabe children would provide for them. The fire, cow, and water, are all symbols of coexistence, which is a very important value to the Wodaabe people. This is also the origin of their little migrations that take place within Wodaabe tribes.

"Wodabbe Conceptualization, Myths, and Land Use" Kristín Loftsdóttir http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_8/Loftsdotti...  

"Wodaabe Distinctions of Society and Nature" KRISTÍN LOFTSDÓTTIR http://www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/vol10num3/kr...

"Wodaabe"- Cultural Survival http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultu...

Modern Issue: China in Africa

Africa's recent economic growth has sparked a scramble between the U.S. and China to become allies with the nations within Africa. Thus far, China has been winning. China has been conducting railway projects in Kenya, energy extraction operations in Tanzania and the surrounding nations, and building schools in hospitals all over the continent. Recently, over one million Chinese moved to Africa to help support the economic growth. However, with this economic growth, comes the difficult decisions for many African nations to decide whether to keep or cut ties with Taiwan.

Many African nations have already withdrew their support of Taiwan, only four African Nations currently express their ties with Taiwan. This is largely in part to China's intensification of the African people into withdrawing their ties with Taiwan  and recognize it as Chinese land.

However, China's presence in Africa hasn't been 100% beneficial to all involved. Many multinational companies in China have been exploiting cheap labor, creating sweatshops, and destroying entire communities with their tyrannical rule. There is also an unequal amount of trading between the two, with Africa receiving less than what China is taking.

"The new Scramble." -Phil Clark http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/justin-mcdonne...

"China's influence in African Media." -New York Times http://www.intermedia.org/new-york-times-explores-...

Modern African Literature (EC)

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a relatively modern book that explores the cultural arrogance of the west, the impact the west has upon small tribal groups, guilt the west has for their negative impact, and the west's superiority complex. These themes are explored through the Price family. Within this family there are 4 children, all girls, the mother and the father. The father is an extremely religious man who decides to take his family to Africa to pass on the word of god because the African people must be saved.

However, while he was in the war he suffered some major head injuries which made his devotion to god hostile and abusive at times (corruption that war has on humans, theme). Their family goes to Africa and one of the daughters is extremely shocked to find that the natives do not wear deodorant and have exposed breasts (arrogance of the west). The people of Kilanga (the tribe where the Prices are staying) are constantly asking the Prices for things that they believe they have, but sadly they do not (impact of the west).

Throughout the book there are many misunderstandings between the Prices and the Kilanga people. Many things happen that cause the village and the family hardship. On an unrelated note about the book, it is formatted extremely similar to the Bible, with multiple books and stories that are similar to those in the Bible. It shows the modern issues within Africa, told through the multiple views of the Price family.

African Literature: Heart of Darkness (EC)

The Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, is set up in the Congo in the 1890's. The book is told from the perspective of the main character "Marlow," who is a vessel for Conrad's beliefs. In this book Marlow gets attacked by natives while he is aboard a steamship carrying supplies to the inland part of the Congo on a river. Later, he meets a man named "Kurtz" who went there as an imperialist but adopted many of the natives qualities. Marlow survives his endeavors and returns home to Belgium, where he tells this story.

Within Conrad's novel one can clearly see the racism towards the natives of Africa. These racist views were brought about after and during the great Atlantic slave trade and the scramble for Africa. However, Conrad believed that it was inappropriate to associate ones country with such savage and primitive beings. He thought that imperialism was bad not only because imposing ones views upon another culture is wrong, but because he believed the natives were inferior, and it was this theme that was the driving force behind his book and story. Joseph Conrad was most often described as a "Bloody Racist," by many which would explain his racism within "Heart of Darkness."