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West African Society and Culture

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Ms. Carter

on 11 October 2013

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Transcript of West African Society and Culture

West African Society and Culture
Village Life
Men dominated women
Men often took multiple wives
However, compared to other global societies, women had A LOT of freedom.
Ghana: W were government officials
Forest region: W owned land
Arabs were baffled that women were "permitted" to have male friends
Patrilineal - social rank and prosperity is passed through male line from father to son
Matrilineal - passed from mother to daughter
Many W.A. societies had no formal government, only lineage systems
Daily Living
Houses made of earth and mud
Thatched Roofs; in forest, sometimes made of palm
10 Foot walls surround village made of mud and brick
Families had mulitple homes (husband has large, wife has smaller)
Very few personal possession - cots, rugs, stools and wooden chests
Farming and Food
Farming was difficult
Drought was common in the savannah
In the forest, land had to be cleared by hand to grow crops --> very diffcult to do
Millet, rice and Sorghum
Goats and Cattle for cheese and milk
Nuts, peas, watermelon were supplemental
Class Hierarchy
Royalty (Monarch)

Landed Nobles, Warriors, Peasants, and Bureaucrats
Lower Class
Blacksmiths, Butchers, Weavers, Woodcarvers, Oral Historians (Griots)
Present in society since ancient times
West Africans kept war captives as slaves
Was a means of assimilation -- later generations could work there way back into society
Early West African people lived primarily in villages and hamlets
Many Early Africans were farmers

Arab traders embrace Islam first
It was more popular in cities than rural areas
Fostered Arabic literacy -- WHY?
The relgion of merchants and bureaucrats
Don't forget! Islam also gives rules for running governments and business, not just daily life.

Native tribal religions remained strongest in forest regions
Polytheistic (more than one god)
Animistic (animals, objects, forces of nature have special powers)
Strong belief in ancestry as a influence in life
Ceremonies to sustain ancestral spirits and their power over Earth
Class and Slavery
Art is tied to West African religous practice
Excelled in:
Bronze and brass sculpture
Terra-Cotta arts
Woodworking and Wooden Masks
Art and Music
Full transcript