Africa as a continent is one of the most culturally diverse in the world. From North Africa to Sub-Saharan Africa, there are no fewer than 3000 tribes that have their own distinctive languages and cultural practices. For this reason, you might be very cognizant of some African cultural practices in particular places and yet oblivious of other cultural practices in others.
We will try our hand at listing five African cultural practices from varying tribes that seem unique enough not to be widely known and you can see how much of an African culture nut you really are.
African Cultural Practices:
The Pokot Tribe:
The Pokot people live in the western Pokot and Baringo districts of Kenya and in eastern Karmoja in Uganda. They are mostly cattle herders or farmers with only about a quarter of them being cultivators, mostly growing corn. Despite the presence of cultivators, wealth in this tribe is determined by the number of cows one owns.
The cows are used for barter and exchange and subsequently determine bride wealth. In essence, men are permitted to take more than one wife provided he has enough cows to present their families in exchange for their hand in marriage. The cattle are hardly ever slaughtered as they are viewed as more valuable alive, providing milk, butter and cheese, important parts of the diet of the Pokot.
The Gio Tribe:
The Gio tribe can be found in Ivory Coast. Here, all the wives a man marries have their own house and their children live with them until they are old enough to move out. They are never allowed to live with their fathers.
The Surma Tribe:
When a girl is a teenager in the Surma tribe of Southern Sudan, they have to begin the process of lip stretching. Her bottom teeth is knocked out to make space for a lip plate, which is then put in.
The Latuka Tribe:
In the Latuka tribe of Sudan, when a man wants to marry a woman, he goes ahead and kidnaps her. Elders from his family then go to the woman’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. If the family agrees, the woman’s father beats the man as a sign of acceptance of the union but if he disagrees, the man may go ahead to marry the girl anyway.
The Maasai Tribe:
The Maasai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania spit their greetings. The spitting is believed to be a kind of blessing.
The Maasai warriors will also spit in their hands before shaking the hand of an elder and they spit on newborns and call them bad, believing that if they praise a baby, it will be cursed.
The Suku Tribe
In the Suku tribe, Southwestern Congo carries out an eventful ceremony in the forest when an elder dies. During the ceremony, gifts and offerings are made available in huge numbers but women and foreigners are not allowed to be in attendance.
In South Africa, there is a ceremony known as Khweta ceremony in which a young man proves his manhood. He does this by being sent to spend a good number of days or weeks in a circumcision lodge. During this time which is usually in winter, the boy will be put into extremely meticulous tests that are often precarious like circumcision and dancing until he is nearly down with fatigue. This is practised in several tribes in the country.
In South Africa, there is this tradition known as Lobola which has existed since the birth of the region. The practice involves negotiation of bride price which is compulsorily done through writing. This means it can never be done in person or on the phone and the families can’t even speak until a deal is struck by both families.
In Song Tribe located in Northern Angola, male children are made to go live with their maternal uncles when they clock 5 or 6. This is done owing to the belief that chiefs inherit their position through matrilineal lines.
In Himba located in Northern Namibia, people cover their skin with a blend of butter fat and ochre – a natural colouring agent containing iron oxide. This practice is to shield themselves from the sun. This is probably why Himba people usually seem to have red skin.
Chewa tribe in Malawi often performs some form of ritual when a person dies and it involves rigorous cleansing of the dead. This is carried out by transporting the corpse of the family member to the woods, cutting the throat and forcing water through the body to cleanse it. They ensure this is done thoroughly by squeezing the stomach of the dead person consistently until the water that comes out of the anus runs clean.
Ethiopia’s Hamer tribe is another African tribe with weird tradition. Here, young boys prove their manhood by first running, then jumping and accurately landing on a bull’s back before proceeding to run across different bulls’ backs. Without this process, a boy would not be regarded as a man.