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Africa - A Look at the Dark Continent
Transcript of Africa - A Look at the Dark Continent
The African continent has gripped the imagination of people for centuries and occupies a prominent spot on the developing countries platform. As one of the last cultures to receive western and eastern influence, it remains today the most culturally diverse areas on the planet.
The African savannah
Children of the Maasai people
Africa can be divided into Saharan African (where the majority of the Sahara Desert is located) and sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan African is further divided like this:
The Sahara Desert
Occupying a space of 3,600,000 square miles (nearly
as large as the United States), the Sahara Desert covers most of North Africa and is the world's largest "hot" desert. Antarctica and the Arctic are technically deserts, too, based on the eight inches or so of rain they get per year.
Hopefully, this guy knows where he's going. Daytime temperatures can be as high as 136 degrees Fahrenheit.
Who Lives There?
Believe it or not, an estimated 1.2 million
people known as the Tuareg live as nomads,
caravan-leaders, and livestock farmers in the Sahara
Desert. They descended from the Berbers, an ethnic group from North Africa.
A Tuareg man
The Sahara has oases scattered across the region. Travel across the desert wouldn't be possible without them.
Where It All Began
Most biologists agree that human life began on the African continent, with humans and chimpanzees sharing a common ancestor about 5 million years ago. Eventually, the homo genus emerged; homo sapiens are the last of the homo genus to survive.
Artistic rendering of what a homo erectus
male may have looked like. Unlike apes, the human
brain evolved dramatically, especially in the temporal lobes and pre-frontal cortex, allowing for the development of language and decision making skills. Also, the shift from walking on knuckles to an upright position had an enormous benefit for homo erectus, as it provided him the visual advantage of scanning the horizon and freed his hands up to wield a tool or weapon.
The Mirror Test
Humans are among the few species on Earth
that can recognize themselves in the mirror (all the great apes, bottlenose dolphins, orcas, and elephants can, too). This self-awareness along with the increased power of the human brain gives homo sapiens an enormous advantage over other species...but it has a downside, as well. For example, a dog isn't aware he's going to die some day.
A human can recognize herself in a mirror around 18 months.
Cats cannot...or they just don't care.
Homo erectus was the first human ancestor to leave the African continent and began settling elsewhere in the world.
Throughout the world, the rise of civilization (defined as urban areas) followed the development of agricultural technologies that allowed populations to concentrate on non-subsistence activities (building roads, government, religion). In general, these ideas of civilization began in Mesopotamia and southwest Asia and spread throughout the world. However, the unforgiving Sahara Desert meant that most of Africa was later coming to these crucial developments in human history as we've discussed thus far.
The Nubian civilization emerged around 2000 BC but soon fell to Egypt. They regained independence in 1000 BC and even briefly conquered Egypt. In 300 AD, they fell to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has the distinction of not only being
one of the great superpowers in the third century, alongside Rome, Persia, China, and India, it's also one of two African countries not to fall to colonization (Liberia being the other). Today, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a leader for change in Africa. It, along with Jamaica, is also the home of the
Though mostly Christian and Muslim, a good number of Ethiopians maintain traditional African values and dress.
The Scramble for Africa
Rastas believe that Tafari Makonnen (later Emperor of Ethiopia with the official name Haile Selassie, ruling from 1930-1974) is the returned messiah of the Bible and God incarnate. Though he died in 1975 under mysterious circumstances, many Rastas maintain he is still alive and will one day lead his people back to Africa, which they believe to be the true Zion, just as they are original nation favored by God rather than Israel.
Haile Selassie I
Zion vs. Babylon
Many Rastas view Western culture as corrupt and refer to it as Babylon, which they believe has been in rebellion since the building of the Tower of Bable. One goal of the Rasta movement is to repatriate Africa; that is, bring everyone of African descent back to the continent which is their rightful home.
Influence of Reggae
People world-wide are familiar with the Rastafari movement thanks, in part, to the popularity of reggae, a style of music that began in the 1960s in a ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica. Reggae music is notable for its criticism of society and promotion of Rastafarian ideas. It's most popular artist is arguably Bob Marley.
Use of Cannabis
Rastas view the smoking of cannabis as a spiritual
practice; other drugs and alcohol destroy the mind, while cannabis opens it to a greater reality. Ironically, cannabis is still illegal in Jamaica. In 1998, then US Attorney General Janet Reno ruled that Rastas in America were not permitted to smoke cannabis for religious reasons due to anti-drug laws.
There is no law preventing this poster from being on 99% of college dorm rooms.
Prince Henry the Navigator first explored the west coast of Sub-Saharan Africa for Portugal in the 1400s. Soon, the Dutch, French, and British followed Portugal's lead and established trading routes around the Horn of Africa to the Far East. The sudden European presence affected age-old African social patterns and traditional powers.
Well before the arrival of European explorer, Arabs were already profiting from the business of buying and selling humans, but slavery became even more lucrative under European involvement. Slaves were vital in establishing colonies in South and North America and the Caribbean and providing incredible wealth that came as a result of their labor. Slavery lasted until the 1800s, and its horrific effects are still felt throughout the world today.
Moving to Africa's Interior
European powers were initially content with the profits from slavery, as well as the gold and ivory taken from Africa's coastline. In the early 1800s, men
began exploring Africa's interior, the most famous of which is medical missionary David Livingstone, who remained in Africa without contact for five years until a reporter encountered him and uttered the now-famous line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
"Dr. Livingstone? Who?!? Hah, I'm just kidding, I'm totally Dr. Livingstone."
Shortly after Livingstone's exploration, Europe raced to the interior. Governments, private companies, missionaries, scientists...all of them wanted a piece of Africa. The British, French, and Belgian leaders competed for control. The world powers at the time had a conference in 1885, the result of which was the decision that any nation had the right to claim any African territory it could occupy and develop. African, with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, fell under colonial rule from 1900 until 1945.
In the 1950s, African nations began to assert
their desire for independence. Colonial rule had wiped out many African tribes and replaced many traditional African patterns and values with European ones. Eventually, Africa successfully emerged from their colonial rulers, but the continent remains divided, especially in South Africa which still bears the scars of the apartheid movement.
South Africa and Apartheid
After World War II, apartheid ("aparthood') emerged as a national policy of racial segregation. It became law in 1948 to classify South African inhabitants into racial groups. Whites were the only ones who really mattered, and non-white political representation was abolished in 1970. Education, beaches, and neighborhoods were completely segregated.
Leaders like Nelson Mandela spoke out against apartheid and were imprisoned as a result (Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison and would eventually become president of South Africa).
Apartheid was officially ended in 1994, but there is still division in South Africa. Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013. The world mourned and celebrated his life for days after his passing.
Religion in Africa
Given Africa's encounters with Muslims and Europeans, it's not surprising that the majority of Africans are Christian or Muslim, as shown on this map:
Even though Christianity and Islam had a great impact on the African nation, there are still native beliefs and traditions that have been handed down and are still practiced today. Given that Africa has thousands of tribes and peoples (an estimated 10 million), it's difficult to identify common beliefs. In general, though, native Africans ascribed to the following notions:
- chief gods vary from tribe to tribe and are thought of as supreme being and creator of the universe. Some tribes view the chief god as kind and personal, while others believe the chief god is distant and uncaring.
Other gods, ancestors and spirits
- these lesser divinities are extremely important to many tribes, especially the spirits of ancestors who watch over their descendants and provide protection.
The importance of tribe, family, and rites of passage
- African tribes are of central importance, as is the family. Africans also celebrate elaborate rites of passage. Marriage ceremonies are important, too, and polygamy is permitted in most tribes.
A 2009 South African Zulu weeding showing Milton Mbhele marrying four women at the same time.
The African Diaspora
Through slavery and migration, many Africans have left the continent and formed a large diaspora (some estimate at least 14% of the world's population). Many call for those descended from Africa to return to and reclaim the homeland. Learn more at: http://www.seadiaspora.com/
The Pan-Africa flag
What?! You got a problem?!!?
Of enslaved Africans, most were destined for Brazil and the Caribbean, while only 5 percent went to North America
In 1807, Great Britain and the United States outlawed the transatlantic slave trade, treating any slave ship intercepted on the high seas as a pirate vessel. Slavery itself was still practiced in Great Britain until 1833 and in America until the end of the Civil War.
Medicine and Guns
The discovery of quinine, a drug that could both prevent and cure malaria, allowed Europeans to enter Africa's interior in far greater numbers than before. European explorers also improved their weaponry, developing cartridge-firing rifles, which proved to be far more reliable than flintlocks and enabled soldiers to fire more rapidly and with greater accuracy.
Stand and Fight!
The African people didn't just stand by and allow the Europeans to take over. One African leader named Samori Ture led his people against the French from 1882 to 1898 in West Africa, winning numerous battles before eventually being overcome by French forces and dying in captivity.
The Ethiopian's defeat of the Italians at the battle of Adowa in 1896 guaranteed their independence. Ethiopia is the only African nation to win the overall war against their colonizer.
The most successful forms of Christianity came to be known as “independent churches.” For example, the Aladura Churches, which are prevalent in coastal West Africa, and the Zion churches, which are prevalent throughout Southern Africa.
Both Aladura and Zion denominations emphasize possession by the Holy Spirit, the power of God to heal the sick, and the ability of belief to protect church members from witchcraft.
Colonial powers saw Islam as potential barrier to making Africans more European; they sought to repress it and, by doing so, made the conversion to Islam a means of resisting colonial cultural imperialism.
Most African literature is based on the protesting of corrupt government officials and governments themselves.
Nigerian Chinua Achebe wrote novels that deal with the colonial rule or trace the journeys of a series of characters as they cope with changing economic, political, and cultural situations. His novel Things Fall Apart won global recognition. Achebe died in March 2013 at age 82.
Africa is home to a great variety of musical traditions, encompassing a diversity of rhythmic and melodic styles.
Music in Africa is as varied as its geography. As such, the music of North Africa is different from Sub-Saharan music. Drums feature prominently in Sub-Saharan music (particularly in Zulu music).
A group of Tuareg musicians known as Tinariwen have had success across the globe. Check them out below.
Snoop Dog? No, Silly, Snoop Lion....
Myths of Africa
As we continue studying different cultures, we'll also
look at the myths of the cultures. It's important to recognize that myth isn't the opposite of truth; myths are extremely important stories that bind people together and often contain truth. It doesn't matter if the events and people are factual.
“I don't have to have faith, I have experience.”
- Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth
There are many African myths, largely preserved orally in over 1,000 languages. It's virtually impossible to gather African gods and spirits into a pantheon, so we'll just look at one creation story from the San Bushmen.
/Kaggen, the Creator
/Kaggen is the creator god of the San Bushmen, the indigenous people of the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. The San people go back at least 30,000 years, making them one of the oldest cultures in the world. The "click" in their language is represented by the forward slash /.
/Kaggen is a
, able to shape-shift
into various animal forms. In his creation story, /Kaggen created an eland (a kind of antelope). Another god killed the eland. In his grief, /Kaggen pierced the creature's gall-bladder and from that came night. /Kaggen threw his shoe into the sky and that became the moon.
/Kaggen often appears as a mantis.
Gods Find Ways to Survive
Between the 16th and 19th century, more than 12 million people from Africa arrived in the Caribbean and North America as slaves. They carried their traditions and beliefs with them, though they underwent some changes. Santeria formed in Cuba and voodoo emerged in North America and Haiti. Many followers of voodoo pretended to be Christian.
What it do?
African culture is incredibly diverse. From literature to music, food, and art, Africa continues to influence the world.