Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Arts and Crafts/Africa Lore

Africa Lore
Arts and Crafts
East Africa Division
Skill Level 1
Year of Introduction: 2001

1. Be able to name and locate at least ten different African tribes of the present day and name several outstanding features of each.


The answers for requirement two include information about the location of the tribes described. We suggest that you consult a map of Africa and using the information presented below, locate the areas where ten tribes are today. Requirement two also provides many outstanding features of the tribes described.

2a. Select for study an African Tribe. (If you belong to an African Tribe, select one other than your own.)


There are thousands of tribes in Africa, and we will not pretend to describe them all. Rather, we will present a small handful of the largest tribes here, and even then, not with much detail. If an African tribe not described here interests you, you are encouraged to research it. If you like, you can add your research to this Wikibook.

2b. Find out detailed information on the tribe selected, in the following areas: (1) Eating habits(2) Initiation ceremony(3) Witch doctors(4) Living and worship conditions(5) Education(6) Burials(7) Money(8) Dress(9) Industry



Children displaced by the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) of northern Uganda into Labuje camp near Kitgum Town.

Living conditions: Their traditional dwelling-places were circular huts with a high peak, furnished with a mud sleeping-platform, jars of grain and a sunk fireplace, with the walls daubed with mud and decorated with geometrical or conventional designs in red, white or grey.
Religion: Most Acholi are Protestant, Catholic and, in lesser numbers, Muslim. Nevertheless, the traditional belief in guardian and ancestor spirits remains strong, though it is now often described in Christian or Islamic terms.

Burial: When a man dies he is buried near the entrance of his hut. The grave is left open and guarded by a young person until it begins to decompose. At that time, it is considered safe to bury the corpse. After burial, a fence is erected around the grave, and trees are planted on top of it. The Acholi consider it unfortunate for a man to die of natural causes. It is considered lucky for a man to die while hunting or while fighting a war, even though the body is left unburied in these cases, left for the vultures.

Location: Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda
Members: 750,000

More info on the Acholi can be found at


A street in Adi Arkay with a view to the Simien Mountains in the background (Amhara Region, Ethiopia).

Eating Habits: Barley, corn, millet, wheat, sorghum, and teff, along with beans, peppers, chickpeas, and other vegetables, are the most important crops. In the highlands one crop per year is normal, while in the lowlands two are possible. Cattle, sheep, and goats are also raised.
Initiation ceremony: The Amhara consider it dishonorable for a man to marry a woman who is not a virgin. Therefore, girls were until recently married shortly after beginning menstruation.
Shamans:The Amhara have priests to administer their religious rites.
Living conditions: About 90 percent of the Amhara are rural and make their living through farming, mostly in the Ethiopian highlands. Prior to the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution, absentee landlords maintained strict control over their sharecropping tenants, often allowing them to accumulate crippling debt. After 1974, the landlords were replaced by local government officials, who play a similar role.
Religion: The predominant religion of the Amhara for centuries has been Christianity, with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church playing a central role in the culture of the country. According to the 1994 census, 81.5 percent of the population of the Amhara region (which is 91.2 percent Amhara) were Ethiopian Orthodox; 18.1 percent were Muslim, and 0.1 percent were Protestant ("P'ent'ay"). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church maintains close links with the Egyptian Coptic Church. Easter and Epiphany are the most important celebrations, marked with services, feasting and dancing. There are also many fast days throughout the year, when only vegetables or fish may be eaten.
Education: Today, most Amhara are educated in secular schools, but in the past, education was the duty of the church.
Burial: The body is washed, wrapped in funeral clothing, and carried to the church in a straw mat. The body is generally buried within 24 hours of death.
Money: The birr is the unit of currency in Ethiopia. Before 1976, dollar was the official English translation of birr. Today, it is officially birr in English as well.
Dress: The Amhara live at high altitudes (2100-4200 meters ), so their clothing is designed to be warm. In modern times, the Amhara dress in western clothing manufactured in Asia. Some still prefer traditional clothing, which consists of jodphurs and a shirt, with an outer garment called a gabi.
Industry: Most people are employed in agricultural pursuits, but many also run businesses, trading all sorts of goods.
Location: Ethiopia
Members: 19.8 million


Fula women

Eating Habits: Dairy is an important part of the diet, including milk, yogurt, and butter. Their main meal of the day will feature a porridge made from grain (millet, sorghum, or corn).
Initiation ceremony: The Guérewol is an annual courtship ritual competition among the Wodaabe Fula people of Niger. Young men dressed in elaborate ornamentation and made up in traditional face painting gather in lines to dance and sing, vying for the attentions of marriageable young women.
Shamans:Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads the prayer during Islamic gatherings. More often the community turns to the mosque imam, if they have an Islamic question. In smaller communities an imam could be the community leader based on the community setting.
Living conditions: The Fulani are traditionally a nomadic, pastoralist, trading people, herding cattle, goats and sheep across the vast dry hinterlands of their domain, keeping somewhat separate from the local agricultural populations.
Religion: Over 99% of the Fula people practice Islam.
Education: Children are educated by their parents and by older siblings. They also attend Koranic schools where they learn the scriptures and teachings of Islam.
Burial: The body is washed, wrapped in a scented cotton shroud, and buried. After three days, alms are given to Koranic students, the sick, and the poor.

Dress: The traditional dress of the Fula in most places consists of long colourful flowing robes, modestly embroidered or otherwise decorated.
Industry: Nomadic Fula men tend cattle. Some hold jobs in the cities as teachers and businessmen.
Location: The Fula are an ethnic group of people spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa. The countries in Africa where they are present include Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Chad, Togo, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia, and as far as Sudan in the east. Fula people form a minority in every country they live, but in Guinea they represent a plurality of the population (40%).
Members: Over 6 million


O. Equiano • Jaja of Opobo • Chinua Achebe • C. Ohuruogu

Eating Habits: The yam is very important to the Igbo as it is their staple crop. There are celebrations such as the New yam festival which are held for the harvesting of the yam. During the festival yam is eaten throughout the communities as celebration. Yam tubers are shown off by individuals as a sign of success and wealth.

Rice has replaced yam for ceremonial occasions. Other foods include cassava, garri, maize and plantains. Soups or stews are included in a typical meal, prepared with a vegetable (such as okra, of which the word derives from the Igbo language, Okwuru) to which pieces of fish, chicken, beef, or goat meat are added. Jollof rice is popular throughout West Africa.
Initiation ceremony: Boys and girls are initiated into adulthood in a ceremony in which they are given their first clothes, called Ima Akwa. Until that time they are basically naked (and are considered to have nothing to hide until then), with the exception of beads worn for spiritual purposes.
Shamans:In Igbo society, there are intermediaries between individuals or whole communities and specific deities. Variously called Dibia, Babalawo, etc., the priest usually presides at the altar of a particular deity.

The Igbo believe in reincarnation. People are believed to reincarnate into families that they were part of while alive. Before a relative dies, it is said that the soon to be deceased relative sometimes give clues of who they will reincarnate as in the family. Once a child is born, he or she is believed to give signs of who they have reincarnated from. This can be through behavior, physical traits and statements by the child. A diviner can help in detecting who the child has reincarnated from.
Living conditions: Before the development of the oil industry in Nigeria, most Igbo people lived in mud huts with thatch roofs. Today, they live in houses made of cement blocks with corrugated iron roofs.
Religion: Today, the majority of the Igbo people are Christian, well over half of whom are Roman Catholics. There are a small population of Igbo Jews. The ancient Igbo religion and traditions are known as Odinani. In Igbo mythology, which is part of their ancient religion, the supreme God is called Chukwu ("great spirit"); Chukwu created the world and everything in it and is associated with all things on Earth. Chukwu is a solar deity. To the ancient Igbo, the Cosmos was divided into four complex parts: creation, known as Okike; supernatural forces or deities called Alusi; Mmuo, which are spirits; and Uwa, the world.
Education: The nation of Nigeria has made education a priority, so children receive a universal primary education. Secondary education is rapidly becoming the norm as well.
Burial: After a death, the body of a prominent member of society is placed on a stool in a sitting posture and is clothed in the deceased's finest garments. Animal sacrifices may be offered to them and they can be well perfumed. Burial usually follows within 24 hours of death. The head of a home is usually buried beneath the floor of his house.

Different types of deaths warrant different types of burials. This is affected by an individual's age, gender and status in society. For example, children are buried in hiding and out of sight, their burials usually take place in the early mornings and late nights. A simple untitled man is buried in front of his house and a simple mother is buried in her place of origin in a garden or a farm-area that belonged to her father. Presently, a majority of the Igbo bury their dead in the western way, although it is not uncommon for burials to be practiced in the traditional Igbo ways.
Money: Manillas are ring-like armlets, mostly in bronze or copper, very rarely gold, which served as a form of money or barter coinage and to a degree, ornamentation, amongst certain West African peoples including the Igbo. They also became known as "slave trade money" after the Europeans started using them to acquire slaves for the slave trade into the Americas (as well as England prior to 1807).
Dress: Traditionally, the attire of the Igbo generally consisted of little clothing as the purpose of clothing originally was to conceal private parts, although elders were fully clothed. Children were usually nude from birth till their adolescence (the time when they were considered to have something to hide) but sometimes ornaments such as beads were worn around the waist for spiritual reasons. Uli body art was used to decorate both men and women in the form of lines forming patterns and shapes on the body.

Women traditionally carry their babies on their backs with a strip of clothing binding the two with a knot at her chest, a practice used by many ethnic groups across Africa. This method has been modernized in the form of the child carrier. In most cases Igbo women did not cover their breast areas. Maidens usually wore a short wrapper with beads around their waist and other ornaments such as necklaces and beads. Both men and women wore wrappers.

Men would wear loin cloths that wrapped round their waist and between their legs to be fastened at their back, the type of clothing appropriate for the intense heat as well as jobs such as farming.

In the same era as the rise of colonial forces in Nigeria, the way the Igbo dressed changed. These changes made the Igbo adopt Westernized clothing such as shirts and trousers. Clothing worn before colonialism became "traditional" and worn on special occasions. The traditional clothing itself became westernized with the introduction of various types of Western clothing including shoes, hats, trousers, etc. Modern Igbo traditional attire, for men, is generally made up of the Isiagu top which resembles the Dashiki worn by other African groups. Isiagu (or Ishi agu) is usually patterned with lions heads embroidered over the clothing and can be a plain color. It is worn with trousers and can be worn with either a traditional title holders hat or with the traditional Igbo stripped men's hat. For women, a puffed sleeve blouse (influenced by European attire) along with two wrappers and a head tie are worn.
Industry: Growing root crops is the traditional form of employment among the Igbo. However, in modern times the Igbo can be found working in the oil industry, education, business, and construction.
Location: Southeastern Nigeria.
Members: Between 24 and 25 million


An Ijaw mask

Eating Habits: Like many ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Ijaws have many local foods that are not widespread in Nigeria. Many of these foods involve fish and other seafoods such as clams, oysters and periwinkles; yams and plantains. Some of these foods are:

  • Polofiyai — A very rich soup made with yams and palm oil
  • Kekefiyai— A pottage made with chopped unripened (green) plantains, fish, other seafood or game meat ("bushmeat") and palm oil
  • Fried or roasted fish and plantain — Fish fried in palm oil and served with fried plantains
  • Gbe — The grub of the raffia-palm tree beetle that is eaten raw, dried or pickled in palm oil
  • Kalabari "sea-harvest" fulo— A rich mixed seafood soup or stew that is eaten with foofoo, rice or yams

Initiation ceremony: Among the Okrika tribe of the Ijaw people, when a girl is about 17 years old, she (and the other girls in her community) undergoes a ritual called the Iria, which is a coming-of-age ceremony. This ceremony has elements common to many other initiation ceremonies, including isolation, instruction, transition, and celebration. In former times, a girl was expected to marry immediately following her Iria, but now it is acceptable for a woman to finish her education (including college) before marriage. The Iria still serves as an indication that a woman is eligible for marriage.
Shamans:Among the Ijaw, witch doctors are neither admired nor sought. Rather, they are feared, and if a person is suspected of being a witch doctor, his (or her) life could be in mortal danger. Witch doctors are thought to possess the ability to change themselves into animals, such as rats, foxes, goats, pigs, or the like. In this form, the witches can bite people, causing infection, and in some cases death. Witches are considered to be capable of performing almost any evil deed.
Living conditions: The Ijaw people live by fishing supplemented by farming paddy-rice, plantains, yams, cocoyams, bananas and other vegetables as well as tropical fruits such as guava, mangoes and pineapples; and trading. Smoke-dried fish, timber, palm oil and palm kernels are processed for export. While some clans had powerful chiefs and a stratified society, other clans are believed not to have had any centralized confederacies until the arrival of the British. However, owing to influence of the neighbouring Kingdom of Benin individual communities even in the western Niger Delta also had chiefs and governments at the village level.
Religion: Although the Ijaw are now primarily Christians (95% profess to be), with Catholicism and Anglicanism being the varieties of Christianity most prevalent among them, the Ijaw have elaborate traditional religious practices of their own. Veneration of ancestors plays a central role in Ijaw traditional religion, while water spirits, known as Owuamapu figure prominently in the Ijaw pantheon. In addition, the Ijaw practice a form of divination called Igbadai, in which recently deceased individuals are interrogated on the causes of their death.

Ijaw religious beliefs hold that water spirits are like humans in having personal strengths and shortcomings, and that humans dwell among the water spirits before being born. The role of prayer in the traditional Ijaw system of belief is to maintain the living in the good graces of the water spirits among whom they dwelt before being born into this world, and each year the Ijaw hold celebrations in honor the spirits lasting for several days. Central to the festivities is the role of masquerades, in which men wearing elaborate outfits and carved masks dance to the beat of drums and manifest the influence of the water spirits through the quality and intensity of their dancing. Particularly spectacular masqueraders are taken to actually be in the possession of the spirits on whose behalf they are dancing.
Education: Because the government of Nigeria places high importance on education, the Ijaw people receive a universal primary education. Secondary schooling is also quite common.
Burial: When a person dies, the Ijaw consult an oracle to determine whether or not the deceased was a witch or a wizard. If this is found the be the case, the person is buried outside the city. Otherwise, burial takes place within the city.
Money: Like the Igbo, the Ijaw used Manillas as currency.
Dress: Ijaws wear flowing robes and wrappers around the waist. They carry walking sticks which are topped with a hat.
Industry: Being a maritime people, many Ijaws were employed in the merchant shipping sector in the early and mid-20th century (pre-Nigerian independence). With the advent of oil and gas exploration in their territory, some are employed in that sector. Other main occupation are in the civil service of the Nigerian State of Bayelsa where they are predominant.
Location: Southern Nigeria
Members: 10 million


Maasai women and children

Eating Habits: Traditionally, the Maasai diet consisted of meat, milk, and blood from cattle. An ILCA study (Nestel 1989) states: “Today, the staple diet of the Maasai consists of cow's milk and maize-meal. The former is largely drunk fresh or in sweet tea and the latter is used to make a liquid or solid porridge. The solid porridge is known as uoali and is eaten with milk; unlike the liquid porridge, uoali is not prepared with milk. Meat, although an important food, is consumed irregularly and cannot be classified as a staple food. Animal fats or butter are used in cooking, primarily of porridge, maize, and beans. Butter is also an important infant food. Blood is rarely drunk.”
Initiation ceremony: The central unit of Maasai society is the age-set. Although young boys are sent out with the calves and lambs as soon as they can toddle, childhood for boys is mostly playtime, with the exception of ritual beatings to test courage and endurance. Girls are responsible for chores such as cooking and milking, skills which they learn from their mothers at an early age. Every 15 years or so, a new and individually named generation of Morans or Il-murran (warriors) will be initiated. This involves most boys between 12 and 25, who have reached puberty and are not part of the previous age-set. One rite of passage from boyhood to the status of junior warrior is a painful circumcision ceremony, which is performed without anaesthetic. This ritual is typically performed by the elders, who use a sharpened knife and makeshift cattle hide bandages for the procedure. The Maa word for circumcision is emorata. The boy must endure the operation in silence. Expressions of pain bring dishonor, albeit temporarily. Any exclamations can cause a mistake in the delicate and tedious process, which can result in life-long scarring, dysfunction, and pain. The healing process will take 3–4 months, during which urination is painful and nearly impossible at times, and boys must remain in black cloths for a period of 4–8 months.

During this period, the newly circumcised young men will live in a "manyatta", a "village" built by their mothers. The manyatta has no encircling barricade for protection, emphasizing the warrior role of protecting the community. No inner krall is built, since warriors neither own cattle or undertake stock duties. Further rites of passage are required before achieving the status of senior warrior, culminating in the eunoto ceremony, the "coming of age".
Shamans:The central human figure in the Maasai religious system is the laibon who may be involved in: shamanistic healing, divination and prophecy, insuring success in war or adequate rainfall. Whatever power an individual laibon had was a function of personality rather than position.
Living conditions: As a historically nomadic and then semi-nomadic people, the Maasai have traditionally relied on local, readily available materials and indigenous technology to construct their housing. The traditional Maasai house was in the first instance designed for people on the move and was thus very impermanent in nature. The Inkajijik (houses) are either star-shaped or circular, and are constructed by able-bodied women. The structural framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and human urine, and ash. The enkaji is small, measuring about 3m x 5m and standing only 1.5m high. Within this space the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socializes and stores food, fuel and other household possessions. Small livestock are also often accommodated within the enkaji. Villages are enclosed in a circular fence (Enkang) built by the men, usually of thorned acacia, a native tree. At night all cows, goats and sheep are placed in an enclosure in the center, safe from wild animals.
Religion: The Maasai are monotheistic, and they call God Enkai or Engai. Engai is a single deity with a dual nature: Engai Narok (Black God) is benevolent, and Engai Nanyokie (Red God) is vengeful. The "Mountain of God", Ol Doinyo Lengai, is located in northernmost Tanzania. Many Maasai have become Christian, and to a lesser extent, Muslim.
Education: During the British rule of East Africa, the Maasai engaged in a form passive resistance to preserve their culture. THey refused to settle down, take up agriculture, or send their children to be educated by the British. Education was seen as a way to strip them of their culture. Today with environmental pressures mounting, the Maasai are finding that their children need education in order to survive. Maasai Education Discovery (MED) is a non-governmental organization which operates a dual-culture education system. They teach traditional Maasai skills as well as the sorts of things one would expect to learn with a western education (reading, writing, arithmetic).
Burial: For Maasai living a traditional life, the end of life is virtually without ceremony, and the dead are left out for scavengers. Burial has in the past been reserved for great chiefs, since it is believed to be harmful to the soil.
Money: Cattle form the basis of nearly all Maasai transactions.
Dress: Clothing varies by age, sex, and place. Young men, for instance, wear black for several months following their circumcision. However, red is a favored color. Blue, black, striped, and checkered cloth are also worn, as are multicolored African designs. The Maasai began to replace animal-skin, calf hides and sheep skin, with commercial cotton cloth in the 1960s.

Shúkà is the Maa word for sheets traditionally worn wrapped around the body, one over each shoulder, then a third over the top of them. These are typically red, though with some other colors (e.g. blue) and patterns (e.g. plaid.) Pink, even with flowers, is not shunned by warriors. One piece garments known as kanga, a Swahilli term, are common. Maasai near the coast may wear kikoi, a type of sarong that comes in many different colors and textiles. However, the preferred style is stripes.
Industry: Traditional Maasai lifestyle centers around their cattle which constitutes the primary source of food. The measure of a man's wealth is in terms of cattle and children. A herd of 50 cattle is respectable, and the more children the better. A man who has plenty of one but not the other is considered to be poor. A Maasai myth relates that God gave them all the cattle on earth, leading to the belief that rustling cattle from other tribes is a matter of taking back what is rightfully theirs, a practice that has become much less common.
Location: The Maasai are a semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Due to their distinctive customs and dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa, they are among the most well known of African ethnic groups.
Members: 883,000


Oromo boys

Eating Habits: Ethoipian cuisine remains a mystery to most of the world because visitors (who are most often European) are most often fed European cuisine. The Oromo believe it is rude to eat food in front of someone else who is not eating, and thus, food is not prepared in the streets.
Initiation ceremony: In a short article, Geoffrey W. Arnott described an Oromo rite of passage in which young men run over the backs of bulls surrounded by the village community. Bruce Parry filmed the same practice among the Hamar people for his BBC television series "Tribe" transmitted in July 2006.
Shamans:Qallu is a name given to the families who are believed to be descents of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph of Islam, and who are now living in many areas of Eastern Ethiopia. The Qallu are so named by Somali, Oromo and Harari peoples; within each of these ethnic groups, there is a tribe called "Qallu". The term means "people of the religion" because they were the first to bring Islam to their respective areas; on the other hand, the Oromos use the word as "a negotiator between mankind and God". The Qallu inhabit Hararghe, Ogaden, and Dire Dawa as well as the Republics of Somalia and Djibouti. In Somalia, it is also said that Qallu are related with Sheekhaal Clan or they are part of the larger Fiqi Omar Clan.
Living conditions: About 95% are settled agriculturalists and nomadic pastoralists, practising archaic farming methods and living at subsistence level. A few live in the urban centres.
Religion: In the 2007 Ethiopian census in the 88% Oromo region of Oromia, 47% were Islamic, 30% Orthodox Christians, 17.7% Protestant Christian, 3.3% Traditional, and the remaining 1.6% constitute other religious groups. Protestant Christianity is the fastest growing religion inside the Oromo community. In urban areas of Oromia, Othodox Christianity constitute 67.8% of the population, followed by Islam 24% and Protestants 7%. But adherence to traditional practices and rituals is still common among many Oromo people regardless of religious background.
Education: In Oromia, the educational system is virtually non-existent because schools do not have adequate supplies. Further, the lack of experienced teachers and lack of transportation places additional hampers on education. There are not enough schools or libraries, either in existence or being built, so children who live far away cannot hope to receive a formal education.
Burial: When an Oromo person dies, the body is washed and tied into a fetal position. The body is then wrapped in a perfumed mat. The intestines are removed from the body of an elite person, whose burial is done in private to preserve the idea that they are not physically mortal. Graves are generally 2 to 2.5 meters  deep. The body is covered with stones, which are placed on the grave in symbolically important arrangements. Each child of the deceased places a stone on the grave in birth order, and thus, the circle of stones represents each of the deceased person's children. Other people also place stones on the grave, and a person's importance is measured by how many people placed stones there. The family of the deceased will shave their heads in mourning.
Money: The Oromo use the Ethiopian Birr as their currency.
Dress: The Oromo economy is based on livestock, and traditional Oromo dress reflects this, featuring leather and beads. During festivals, men may wear a headdress mande from a lion's mane or baboon skin, and carry a shield covered with the hide of a hippo.
Industry: About 95% are settled agriculturalists and nomadic pastoralists, practicing archaic farming methods and living at subsistence level.
Location: The Oromo are found in Ethiopia, in northern Kenya, and to a lesser extent in parts of Somalia.
Members: Over 31 million


Shona religious priest and healer

Eating Habits: The majority of Zimbabweans depend on a few staple foods. Meat, beef and to a lesser extent chicken are especially popular, though consumption has declined under the Mugabe regime due to falling incomes. "Mealie meal" (cornmeal) is used to prepare sadza or isitshwala and bota or ilambazi. Sadza is a porridge made by mixing the cornmeal with water to produce a thick paste. After the paste has been cooking for several minutes, more cornmeal is added to thicken the paste. This is eaten as lunch and dinner, usually with greens (such as spinach, chomolia, collard greens), beans and meat that has been stewed, grilled, or roasted. Sadza is also commonly eaten with curdled milk, commonly known as lacto (mukaka wakakora), or dried Tanganyika sardine, known locally as kapenta or matemba. Bota is a thinner porridge, cooked without the additional cornmeal and usually flavoured with peanut butter, milk, butter, or, sometimes, jam. Bota is usually eaten for breakfast.
Initiation ceremony: Traditional rites of passage among the Shona are rarely practiced in modern times, having been supplanted by western ceremonies such as baptism an dbirthday celebrations. However, some Shona still practice a ceremony initiating a boy into manhood. In this ceremony, the boy undergoes a public circumcision.
Shamans:Shona healers are called nganga. Nganga primarily use two forms of divination to determine the cause of an illness (or other misfortune). One form of divination is called Hakata, in which the nganga consults a set of charms, each of which has its own significance. The other form is possession in which the nganga causes the petitioner to enter a state of hypnosis. While in this state, anything the petitioner says is interpreted as having come from a spirit.
Living conditions: According to the United Nations World Health Organisation, the life expectancy for men is 37 years and the life expectancy for women is 34 years of age, the lowest in the world in 2006. The HIV infection rate in Zimbabwe was estimated to be 20.1% for people aged 15–49 in 2006. UNESCO reported a decline in HIV prevalence among pregnant women from 26% in 2002 to 21% in 2004.
Religion: Sixty two percent of Zimbabweans attend Christian religious services. The largest Christian churches are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Methodist. However like most former European colonies, Christianity is often mixed with enduring traditional beliefs. Besides Christianity, ancestral worship is the most practiced non-Christian religion which involves ancestor worship and spiritual intercession; the Mbira Dza Vadzimu, which means "Voice of the Ancestors", an instrument related to many lamellophones ubiquitous throughout Africa, is central to many ceremonial proceedings. Mwari simply means "God the Creator" (musika vanhu in Shona). Around 1% of the population is Muslim.
Education: Zimbabwe has an adult literacy rate of approximately 90% which is amongst the highest in Africa. Since 1995 the adult literacy rate of Zimbabwe has steadily decreased, a trend shared by other African countries.

The wealthier portion of the population usually send their children to independent schools as opposed to the government-run schools which are attended by the majority as these are subsidised by the government. School education was made free in 1980, but since 1988, the government has steadily increased the charges attached to school enrollment until they now greatly exceed the real value of fees in 1980. The Ministry of Education of Zimbabwe maintains and operates the government schools but the fees charged by independent schools are regulated by the cabinet of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's education system consists of 7 years of primary and 6 years of secondary schooling before students can enter university in the country or abroad. The academic year in Zimbabwe runs from January to December, with three month terms, broken up by one month holidays, with a total of 40 weeks of school per year. National examinations are written during the third term in November, with "O" level and "A" level subjects also offered in June.
Burial: People of the same clan use a common set of totems. A person with a different totem cannot initiate burial of the deceased. A person of the same totem even when coming from a different tribe, can initiate burial of the deceased. For example a Ndebele of the Mpofu totem can initiate burial of a Shona of the Mhofu totem and that is perfectly acceptable in Shona tradition. But a Shona of a different totem cannot perform the ritual functions required to initiate burial of the deceased.

If a person initiates the burial of a person of a different totem, he runs the risk of being asked to pay a fine to the family of the deceased. Such fines traditionally were paid with cattle or goats but nowadays substantial amounts of money can be asked for.
Money: The official unit of currency is the Zimbabwean dolloar. Although it is still the official currency, the United States dollar, South African rand, Botswanan pula, Pound sterling and Euro are mostly used instead as the local currency is practically worthless. The US Dollar has been adopted as the official currency for all government transactions with the new power-sharing regime.

Inflation rose from an annual rate of 32% in 1998 to an IMF estimate of 150,000% in December 2007, and to an official estimated high of 231,000,000% in July 2008 according to the country's Central Statistical Office. This represented a state of hyperinflation, and the central bank introduced a new 100 billion dollar note. As of November 2008, unofficial figures put Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate at 516 quintillion per cent, with prices doubling every 1.3 days. Zimbabwe's inflation crisis is now (2009) the second worst inflation spike in history, behind the hyperinflationary crisis of Hungary in 1946, in which prices doubled every 15.6 hours. By 2005, the purchasing power of the average Zimbabwean had dropped to the same levels in real terms as 1953. Local residents have largely resorted to buying essentials from neighbouring Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.
Dress: Today the Shona dress in western clothing. In the 19th century the men wore breech clothes of animal hide.
Industry: The Shona were traditionally agricultural, growing beans, peanuts, corn, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. Mineral exports, agriculture, and tourism are the main foreign currency earners of Zimbabwe. The mining sector remains very lucrative, with some of the world's largest platinum reserves being mined by Anglo-American and Impala Platinum. Zimbabwe is the biggest trading partner of South Africa on the continent.
Location: Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique. A small group of Shona speaking migrants of the late 1800s also live in Zambia, in the Zambezi valley, in Chieftainess Chiawa's area.
Members: 9 million


Tuareg from the Hoggar (Algeria) wearing the classical indigo turban.

Eating Habits: The Tuareg diet consists mostly of grains supplemented with fruits such as dates and melons (when in season), and milk and cheese. Meat is reserved for special occasions.
Initiation ceremony: When a male turns 18 years old, he receives a veil to wear over his face. The veil is wrapped around his face by the marabout (see below) in a special ritual. Once a man gets his veil, he is considered eligible for marriage.
Shamans:After the adoption of Islam, a separate class of religious clerics, the Ineslemen or marabouts, also became integral to Tuareg social structure. Following the decimation of many clans' noble Imajaghan caste in the colonial wars of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Ineslemen gained leadership in some clans, despite their often servile origins. Traditionally Ineslemen clans were not armed. They provided spiritual guidance for the nobility, and received protection and alms in return.
Living conditions: The oldest legends says Tuarerg once lived in grottoes, akazam, and then they lived in folliage beds made on the top acacia trees, tasagesaget, to avoid numerous wild animal during old times and even to this day to escape from mosquitoes. Other kinds of traditional housing include:

  • ahaket: Tuareg goatskin red tent
  • tafala: a shade made of millet sticks
  • akarban also called takabart: temporary hat for winter season
  • ategham: hat for hot season
  • taghazamt: adobe house for long stay

Religion: The Tuareg are predominantly Muslim and generally follow the Maliki madhhab, one of the four schools of Fiqh or religious law within Sunni Islam.
Education: Until recently, the Tuareg resisted sending their children to secular schools out of distrust of the government. Today most children finish primary school, and some go on to university.
Burial: The dead are buried as soon as possible. The funeral is presided over by the marabout, and is followed by iwichken (condolences).
Money: The Tuareg use modern currency.
Dress: Unlike in many other Muslim societies, women do not traditionally wear the veil, whereas men do. The most famous Tuareg symbol is the Tagelmust (also called éghéwed in Malian Tamasheq, or referred to as a Cheche, pronounced "Shesh", from Berber), an often indigo blue-colored veil called Alasho. The men's facial covering originates from the belief that such action wards off evil spirits. It may have related instrumentally from the need for protection from the harsh desert sands as well. It is a firmly established tradition, as is the wearing of amulets containing verses from the Qur'an. Taking on the veil is associated with the rite of passage to manhood; men begin wearing a veil when they reach maturity. The veil usually conceals their face, excluding their eyes and the top of the nose.
Industry: The Tuareg are a pastoral people, having an economy based on livestock breeding, trading, and agriculture. Since Prehistoric times Tuareg peoples and their Berber ancestors (the Garamantes) have been organising caravans for trading across the Sahara desert. They also operate salt mines.
Location: The Tuareg people inhabit a large area, covering almost all the middle and western Sahara and the north-central Sahel. In Tuareg terms, the Sahara is not one desert but many, so they call it Tinariwen ("the Deserts"). Among the many deserts in Africa, there is the true desert Tenere. Other deserts are more and less arid, flat and mountainous: Adrar, Tagant, Tawat (Touat) Tanezruft, Adghagh n Fughas, Tamasna, Azawagh, Adar, Damargu, Tagama, Manga, Ayr, Tarramit (Termit), Kawar, Djado, Tadmait, Admer, Igharghar, Ahaggar, Tassili N'Ajjer, Tadrart, Idhan, Tanghart, Fezzan, Tibesti, Kalansho, Libyan Desert, etc.
Members: 5.2 million


Xhosa children

Eating Habits: The Xhosa settled on mountain slopes of the Amatola and the Winterberg Mountains. Many streams drain into great rivers of this Xhosa territory including the Kei and Fish Rivers. Rich soils and plentiful rainfall make the river basins good for farming and grazing making cattle important and the basis of wealth.

Traditional foods include beef (Inyama yenkomo), mutton (Inyama yegusha), and goat meat, sorghum, maize and dry maize porridge (umphokoqo), "umngqusho" (made from dried, stamped corn and dried beans), milk (often fermented, called amasi), pumpkins (amathanga), beans (iimbotyi), and vegetables.
Initiation ceremony: One traditional ritual that is still regularly practiced is the manhood ritual, a secret rite that marks the transition from boyhood to adulthood (Ulwaluko). After ritual circumcision the initiates (abakwetha) live in isolation for up to several weeks, often in the mountains. During the process of healing they smear white clay on their bodies and observe numerous taboos.
Shamans:Traditional Xhosa culture includes diviners known as amagqirha, who serve as herbalists, prophets, and healers for the community. This job is mostly taken by women, who spend five years in apprenticeship.

The Xhosas have a strong oral tradition with many stories of ancestral heroes; according to tradition, the leader from whose name the Xhosa people take their name was the first human on Earth. Other traditions have it that all Xhosas are descended from one ancestor named Tshawe.

The key figure in the Xhosa oral tradition is the imbongi (plural: iimbongi) or praise singer. Iimbongi traditionally live close to the chief's "great place" (the cultural and political focus of his activity); they accompany the chief on important occasions - the imbongi Zolani Mkiva preceded Nelson Mandela at his Presidential inauguration in 1994. Iimbongis' poetry, called imibongo, praises the actions and adventures of chiefs and ancestors.
Living conditions: The Xhosa include both the poorest and the richest members of South African society. The poor live in thatched-roof round huts, and in labor camps, while the wealthiest live in modern houses in suburban neighborhoods.
Religion: The supreme being is called uThixo or uQamata. Ancestors act as intermediaries and play a part in the lives of the living; they are honoured in rituals. Dreams play an important role in divination and contact with ancestors. Traditional religious practice features rituals, initiations, and feasts. Modern rituals typically pertain to matters of illness and psychological well-being.

Christian missionaries established outposts among the Xhosa in the 1820s, and the first Bible translation was in the mid-1850s, partially done by Henry Hare Dugmore. Xhosa did not convert in great numbers until the 1900s, but now many are Christian, particularly within the African Initiated Churches such as the Zion Christian Church. Some denominations combine Christianity with traditional beliefs.
Education: Education in primary-schools serving Xhosa-speaking communities is in the Xhosa language, but this is replaced by English after the early primary grades. Xhosa is still considered as a studied subject, however, and it is possible to major in Xhosa at the university level.
Burial: Xhosa homesteads once featured a cattle kraal, and a chief was traditionally buried in the center of this. Other people were buried outside the villages.
Money: In old times, the Xhosa used cattle as money, but these days they use modern currency.
Dress: Xhosa today have adopted the modern, Western style of clothing. It has recently become acceptable for women to wear slacks.
Industry: Prior to the end of Apartheid, most Xhosa men were employed as miners, and women worked on farms or as domestic servants. Those with the education work in the healthcare, education, and in the government.
Location: The Xhosa are people living in south-east South Africa, and in the last two centuries throughout the southern and central-southern parts of the country.
Members: 7.9 million (2001 estimate)


These drummers were part of a large celebration marking the arrival of running water to their village, Ojumo Oro, Kwara State, Nigeria.

Religion: Yoruba religion and mythology is a major influence in West Africa, chiefly in Nigeria, and it has given origin to several New World religions such as Santería in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Candomblé in Brazil.

The popularly known Vodou religion of Haiti combines the religious beliefs of the many different African ethnic nationalities taken to the island with the structure and liturgy from the Fon-Ewe of present-day Benin and the Congo-Angolan culture area, but Yoruba-derived religious ideology and deities also play an important role.

Yoruba deities include "Ọya" (wind/storm), "Ifá" (divination or fate), "Ẹlẹda" (destiny), Orisha or Orisa "Ibeji" (twin), "Ọsanyin" (medicines and healing) and "Ọsun" (goddess of fertility, protector of children and mothers), Sango (God of thunder).

Human beings and other sentient creatures are also assumed to have their own individual deity of destiny, called "Ori", who is venerated through a sculpture symbolically decorated with cowrie shells. Traditionally, dead parents and other ancestors are also believed to possess powers of protection over their descendants. This belief is expressed in veneration and sacrifice on the grave or symbol of the ancestor, or as a community in the observance of the Egungun festival where the ancestors are represented as a colorful masquerade of costumed and masked men who represent the ancestral spirits. Dead parents and ancestors are also commonly venerated by pouring libations to the earth and the breaking of kolanuts in their honor at special occasions.

Today, many contemporary Yoruba are active Christians (60%) and Muslims (30%), yet retain many of the moral and cultural concepts of their traditional faith.

Location: Nigeria, Benin, and Togo
Members: Over 30 million


Zulu worshippers at an African Apostolic Church, near Oribi Gorge

Eating Habits: In the precolonial period, indigenous cuisine was characterized by the use of a very wide range of fruits, nuts, bulbs, leaves and other products gathered from wild plants and by the hunting of wild game. The domestication of cattle in the region about two thousand years ago by Khoisan groups enabled the use of milk products and the availability of fresh meat on demand. However, during the colonial period the seizure of communal land in South Africa restricted and discouraged traditional agriculture and wild harvesting, and reduced the extent of land available to black people.
Initiation ceremony: Boys between the ages of 16-18 were taken to an isolated area and housed in grass huts. During their stay, no one was allowed to see them other than a small group of older women who were there to give them food and watch over them. The boys are given a small item of clothing, which is the only thing they were prior to their circumcision. After the circumcision, they are given a new set of clothing made from leather, and return to their village where they are considered to have entered manhood.

The initiation ceremony for girls began as soon as she began menstruation. She would gather the roots of a certain shrub and use it to make a porridge which she would eat exclusively for seven days. During this time, and for the next three months or so, she was confined to her mother's hut. During this time she was to learn to perform several tasks expected of women, including basket weaving and making beaded clothing. She was allowed to have one friend come and stay with her during this time. She was not allowed to be seen by anyone other than her mother and this friend. Her sisters would make her a new outfit from twisted grass, and at the end of the three months, she would put this on, be presented to the village, and she and her friend and sisters would dance and sing, celebrating the end of her initiation. On the following day, the grass outfit would be burned, signifying that the girl had become a woman.
Shamans:Inyanga (literally "the man of the trees") is a Zulu word for a traditional healer.

Although the word sangoma is generally used in South African English to mean all types of traditional Southern African healers, inyangas and sangomas are in fact different. An inyanga is an herbalist who is concerned with medicines made from plants and animals, while a sangoma relies primarily on divination for healing purposes. The knowledge of the inyanga is passed through the generations from parent to child.

In modern society the status of these medicine men or women has been translated into wealth. Most izinyanga (plural of inyanga) in urban areas have shops with consulting rooms where they sell their medicines.
Living conditions: The modern Zulu population is fairly evenly distributed in both urban and rural areas. Although KwaZulu-Natal is still their heartland, large numbers have been attracted to the relative economic prosperity of Gauteng province.
Religion: Most Zulu people state their beliefs to be Christian. Some of the most common churches to which they belong are African Initiated Churches, especially the Zion Christian Church and various Apostolic Churches, although membership of major European Churches, such as the Dutch Reformed, Anglican and Catholic Churches is also common. Nevertheless, many Zulus retain their traditional pre-Christian belief system of ancestor worship in parallel with their Christianity.

Zulu religion includes belief in a creator God (Nkulunkulu) who is above interacting in day-to-day human affairs, although this belief appears to have originated from efforts by early Christian missionaries to frame the idea of the Christian God in Zulu terms. Traditionally, the more strongly held Zulu belief was in ancestor spirits (Amatongo or Amadhlozi), who had the power to intervene in people's lives, for good or ill. This belief continues to be widespread among the modern Zulu population.
Education: Illiteracy is high among the Zulu, though with the formation of the post-Apartheid government, this is changing. Children attend school starting at age 7 and continue sometimes until they are 24 (though not continuously). Many children take long breaks during their school years. Graduation is considered a very high achievement.
Burial: The Zulus burn all the belongings of the deceased to prevent them from returning to haunt the living.
Money: Prior to colonialization, the Zulu used cattle as currency. Today they use the South African rand.
Dress: Traditional male clothing is usually light, consisting of a two-part apron (similar to a loincloth) used to cover the genitals and buttocks. The front piece is called the umutsha, and is usually made of springbok or other animal hide twisted into different bands. The rear piece, called the ibheshu, is made of a single piece of springbok or cattle hide, and its length is usually used as an indicator of age and social position; longer amabheshu (plural of ibheshu) are worn by older men. Married men will usually also wear a headband, called the umqhele, which is usually also made of springbok hide, or leopard hide by men of higher social status, such as chiefs. Zulu men will also wear cow tails as bracelets and anklets called imishokobezi during ceremonies and rituals, such as weddings or dances.
Industry: Sugar refining is the main industry. Sheep, cattle, dairy, citrus fruits, corn, sorghum, cotton, bananas, and pineapples are also raised. In addition to sugar refining, industries (located mainly in and around Durban) include textile, clothing, chemicals, rubber, fertilizer, paper, vehicle assembly and food-processing plants, tanneries, and oil refineries. There are large aluminum-smelting plants at Richards Bay, on the north coast.
Location: Most Zulu live in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.
Members: An estimated 10-11 million

3. Tell an African folk story bringing out its moral.


How the Monkeys Saved the Fish


This is a traditional Tanzanian folktale.

It was the rainy season, and the river had flooded its banks. The animals were all fleeing for their lives as the river rushed down and carried everything away. Many animals died in the flood, but not the monkeys. Because of their great agility, the monkeys were able to climb the trees and escape the flood waters. As they sat in the trees, they noticed the fish swimming in the current.
The monkeys were very concerned about the fish, saying "Unless we do something, these fish are going to drown!" So the monkeys decided to make their way to the edge of the river where the water was not so deep. "From there, we will be able to save these legless creatures." The monkey's set about their task, grabbing the fish from the river and heaping them in a great pile. When they were finished they saw that the fish were all motionless. "The fish are sleeping now because they are so tired. They struggled against us because they did not know our good intentions." they said to one another. "When they awake, they will be so happy that we saved them."
Before you can help someone, you must understand their situation.

4. Make a collection of at least 15 objects manufactured by African tribes (other than your own).


Unless you live in Africa or are able to visit there, this requirement may end up costing a substantial amount of money. It may also take a prolonged amount of time to complete your collection. If you would like to shop for African objects online, we recommend that you apply the following terms to an Internet search engine:

  • Africa+gifts
  • Africa+crafts
  • Africa+imports
  • African+artisans

If you live in a large city (or near one), you may be able to find a local shop specializing in African imports. You could also check for a museum of African history and check their gift shop. If you know some immigrants from Africa, you may be able to trade with them.