Africa's Diverse Culture
Feb 23rd 2023
Photo Courtesy: Xavier Messina
Africa has a vast and diverse culture. These can be explained by the diversity of ethnic groups in the continent and by the influence of Middle Eastern and European peoples who have had contact with Africans throughout history. African culture is the collection of knowledge, beliefs, values, and customs of the people who inhabit the African continent, which has about 1.1 billion people.
With such an immense and distinct population, it is wiser to talk about African cultures in plural. To give you an idea of such cultural diversity, there are about 490 ethnic groups in Africa, many of which live together within the same country.
For instance in Angola alone, there are 42 languages and several ethnic groups, including the Bakongo, Ovimbundu, Ambundu, the Himba People, and the Chokwe People. Angola, like the vast majority of independent countries in Africa, is a multi- and transcultural state. That means it houses on its territory several cultures with different languages, customs, and origins that go beyond the political borders established by the Europeans in the 19th century.
Photo Courtesy: Salvatore Gebbia
A fundamental aspect of traditional African culture is orality. The beliefs, the rituals, the customs, the ancestral wisdom - all of this has always been passed down from generation to generation through oral language. The oral tradition has enabled Africans of many generations to learn everything from agricultural techniques to religious rituals. Despite colonization, traditional African culture persisted. In the religious sphere, the advance of Christianity, especially after colonization, did not manage to erase traditional belief systems.
Photo: Zulu tribe, South Africa
Because Africa is so great in cultural diversity, its people have different particularities and customs, which, obviously, is reflected in the art they produce. The art in Africa preserved the rigor that its traditions demanded in search of an understanding of spirituality and ancestry.
Photo Courtesy: Chris Turapidik
The history of African art originated in the prehistoric period, when mankind had not yet invented writing. The oldest sculptures found date back to 1,500 B.C., and were produced by the Nok culture, in the region where Nigeria is located today.