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Society of West Africa

Learn the customs of West Africa.
by

Rayyan Latif

on 9 May 2014

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Transcript of Society of West Africa

West Africa
West Africans lived far away from large trading centers like Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. West Africa's main source of survival came from raising crops, chickens, and goats.
OVERVIEW
Customs
Like most African tribes, the West Africans tribes also had dancing and music integrated into their culture. Many legends and myths were sang and danced out as ritual customs and on special ceremonies.
Importance of Agriculture
One year, the summer rains flooded the land and ruined the crop. Many farmers cried and lamented over the crops, and one account has that a man hanged himself with grief. This is basically signifying that the West African Tribes were extremely dedicated to the health of their agriculture, as they wold go so far to even kill themselves; when their crops were flooded, they lost interest in life, leading to that man committing suicide.
Clans in the Area
Cattle-raising nomads grew grains called millet. In dry regions, farmers grew millet and sorghum. These grains were well-suited to dry climate. In wet regions, people grew rice. In dense forests, farmers grew edible roots. As mentioned earlier, agriculture was the heart of West Africa, and many people grew produce suited to their climate. They traded for what they could not produce.
Religion
West Africans believed in many gods. They thought that their physical world was intertwined with a spiritual world. Their religion was meant to bring the two worlds together. They had priests and diviners, people meant to communicate with the spirits and please the gods. The West Africans thought that by worshiping the spirits of their ancestors, the ancestors could influence the gods to give the people on the physical world benefit.
Dancing and Music
Dancing and music was also integrated with religion. The West Africans believed that they could contact the spirits in this manners. The Dogon people believed that the spirit needed a place to stay. They would make a mask resembling the dead person's face, and allow the spirit to live in it. When a dancer wore the mask, he would be able to connect with the spirit as he danced to the beat of drums.
Daily Life
People would live in either villages or cities. Villages and cities were both made up of different clans. Clans were families combined by a common ancestor. Villages were usually run by all the clan heads, forming a village council. Village members were all equal and had to do their share for the village. All the clans worked together to make a successful village or city.
Slavery
If a village or clan had to pay a debt or had offered workers in exchange for goods to another village or clan, they would send off some clan members off as temporary "slaves". When the promised amount had been paid back in full, the clan members would return to their village. If the debt was not paid back, these slave would become permanent. These slaves did not have political rights but were still given their personal rights. A family in the clan they were working for would accept them as a member and the slave's children would grow up as free people of that family. However, the majority of slaves were prisoners of war that had preferred capture over death. Some slaves even became rich and powerful as military leaders, soldiers, or king's advisers. These slaves had power and money but no freedom.
A Famous Proverb
“A man is not truly dead until he is forgotten.”
~Unknown (West African Proverb)
Written Language
None known, making the West Africans not a civilization. (Not listed in S.S. textbook)
Bibliography
Cordova, Jacqueline et al. Across the Centuries: 21st Edition. Houghton Mifflin School, 1999. Print.
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