African Culture and Spirituality
The vast continent of Africa is so rich and diverse in its culture with it not only changing from one country to another but within an individual country many different cultures can be found.
The Cultural/Language Groups
African Spirituality: Understanding Its Forms, Meanings, and Expressions
October 25, 2017 By Rebecca Davis
African spirituality is a way of life. Its beliefs cannot be separated from a person’s external factors. Instead, the two go hand and hand and influence a person’s everyday behavior. This principal of behavior is also known as holistic spirituality. In fact, African spirituality takes everything into consideration. To learn more of the basics on what is African spirituality, read on.
African Spirituality: A Mini Guide
- African Spirituality Basics
Religion is simply codified culture and spirituality of a people. Religion is an expression of a people’s culture with divinity(ies) Religion is simply codified culture and spirituality of a people. Religion is an expression of a people’s culture with divinity(ies) or gods created by their ancestors. A people are only as strong as the spirituality their ancestors developed and practiced When they reject that spirituality and adopt the spirituality of their enemies, they become lost. They can never understand the new culture or fully acknowledged the new gods. Conversely, the adopted gods cannot fully embrace them.
African spirituality is not religion. It does not have rules and laws, and structured practices for its adherents. It does not a structure and hierarchy of its paid/salaried spiritual leaders so that it must collect monies from adherents to pay its ‘clergy’. In fact, there is no clergy class to maintain. African spirituality recognizes does not encourage exclusivity in practice accept polytheism and are tolerant of acceptance of other gods. It is open to all. In fact, this spirituality recognizes that all beliefs must encompass and incorporate each phase of life and all other beliefs. That is why this belief is not separate from a person’s culture, environment, and society.
African spirituality recognizes a Supreme Being as Creator, other intermediate deities and their ancestors.
Worship involves acknowledging their presence by pouring them libation periodically.
There are physical intermediaries between humans and the gods. These perform rites and rituals to appease the gods or inquire of the gods on behalf of humans. They can be approached in case of sickness, war, marriage, childbirth as well as other issues in affairs of humans.
Sometimes, these spiritual mediators also are medical herbalist who can prescribe certain herbs to cure some maladies.
This spirituality views sicknesses as a holistic imbalance. However, it not only considers factors inside the body. Instead, it goes beyond that and considers how sicknesses can be linked to external factors. This includes a person’s social life.
One’s family relations can also provoke sickness in this spirituality’s beliefs. However, it is important to note that these relations not only include the present timeline. Those wishing to heal themselves must also consider their ancestors.
- Diversity in African Spirituality
With more than 2,000 cultural groups, there are a diverse spiritual practice among Africans even though the basic foundation is a belief in a creator, intermediate deities, ones ancestors and the culture and traditions developed over a time.
- Structureless Spirituality
Unlike other beliefs, African spirituality isn’t bound by a formal text. Rather, it’s an oral tradition learned from one’s parents and elders of the community. It does not require a series of codes to be memorized, African spirituality relies on the dictates of ones conscience that has been trained by ones traditions and culture.
Ultimately, African spirituality is noteworthy and especially relevant because of its openness. Its flexibility is one of the advantages that allows it to survive several generations. In addition, it is inclusive, allows for diversity, and keeps a holistic perspective.
Much of Africa’s cultural activity centers on the family and the ethnic group. Art, music, and oral literature serve to reinforce existing religious and social patterns. The Westernized minority, influenced by European culture and Christianity, first rejected African traditional culture, but with the rise of African nationalism, a cultural revival is occurring. The governments of most African nations foster national dance and music groups, museums, and to a lesser degree, artists and writers.
Africa was the birthplace of the human species between 8 million and 5 million years ago. Today, most of its inhabitants are of indigenous origin. People across the continent are remarkably diverse by just about any measure: They speak a vast number of different languages, practice hundreds of distinct religions, live in a variety of types of dwellings, and engage in a wide range of economic activities.
Over the centuries, peoples from other parts of the world have migrated to Africa and settled there. Historically, Arabs have been the most numerous immigrants. Starting in the 7th century, they crossed into North Africa from the Middle East, bringing the religion of Islam with them. A later movement of Arabs into East and Central Africa occurred in the 19th century.
Europeans first settled in Africa in the mid-17th century near the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern end of the continent. More Europeans immigrated during the subsequent colonial period, particularly to present-day South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Algeria. South Asians also arrived during colonial times. Their descendants, often referred to as Indians, are found largely in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.
World-renowned archaeologist Professor Phillip Tobias once said that “Humanity was a gift from Africa to the World”. Many scholars believe Africa to be the birthplace of mankind and with the substantial archaeological findings in their favour the world tends to agree.
South Africa is home to some three million years of prehistory and history, inherited from the ancient cultures which made the mountains and plains their home. This rich inheritance places the country among the few regions in the world where these footsteps towards the development of culture can be followed. If you are interested in the origins of mankind a trip to South Africa is highly recommended. There are a multitude of sites where remarkable discoveries have been made throughout the years and they are now open to members of the public. The tours of these sites allow enthusiasts a glimpse into their own origins.
Until 1924 the world had focussed its attention on Asia in their quest for the origins of mankind. Professor Raymond Dart revolutionised this way of thinking when he discovered the skull of a six year old child in a block of rock sent to him from the town of Taung in South Africa’s North West province. The skull displayed both ape-like and human-like anatomical features and was named Australopithecus africanus. The skull is regarded amongst the 20 most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century. Once the skull had been discovered scientists turned their attention to South Africa and a huge number of archaeological sites were found. The Taung Heritage Site is now one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations, a monument has been built to commemorate the discovery and an old mine tunnel has been reopened for visitors to explore. The Blue Pools are another feature that attract visitors to the Heritage Site. Discovered after a dynamite explosion in a mountain!
in which lime was being mined the pools are surrounded by caves and streams and are a popular site for hiking, abseiling, picnicking and barbequing.
Another remarkable find was made in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom, who discovered a perfectly preserved adult Australopithecus africanus cranium, belonging to the 2, 5-million-year-old “Mrs Ples”, at Sterkfontein. Several hundred discoveries followed, some dating back 3, 5 million years and the Sterkfontein site earned its name – The Cradle of Humankind. Some of the cradles findings include 500 skull, jaw, teeth and skeletal fossils of early hominids, thousands of other animal fossils, over 300 fragments of fossils wood, and over 9,000 stone tools. The Cradle of Humankind [http://www.africanoutposts.co.za/index.q] is a World Heritage Site and certain areas are open to the public. There are also various exhibitions, guided tours and lectures from reputed archaeologists. The Cradle restaurant is the perfect day of exploration and enlightenment. This beautiful restaurant built from stone, steel and glass opens up on three sides with a magnificent view of the African! landscape.
South Africa’s Limpopo province is a land of myths and legends – the area has a rich cultural history and there are many archaeological sites. The Makapans Cave and nearby archaeological and fossil sites are situated on the farm Makapansgat, 19 km north of Mokopane. It was here in 1948 that the fossil remains of Australopithecus africanus, a 3, 5 million-year-old ape-man, were found by Raymond Dart. The Makapans Valley, a National Heritage site and currently in line for World Heritage Status, contains an extensive and complete record of hominid occupation. The Makapan caves are full of fossils and archaeological remains and you can take a tour of the caves and area.
Long before Bartholomew Dias rounded the Cape in 1488 the art of working gold was being mastered by Bantu-speaking people living near the Limpopo River. Recently gold objects and other exciting finds have been made here. Also near the Limpopo River, Thulamela in the Kruger National Park was home to a large stone-walled settlement. A large section of the ancient stone walling has been restored to its former glory and the National Parks Board is working on plans to make this bewitching site a tourism destination in the northern part of the Kruger National Park. Not only can you marvel at the sites archaeological finds but you can also enjoy spending time in one of the worlds most acclaimed game reserves.
In more recent years South Africa has once again captured the world’s attention with the discoveries of human remains at the Klasies River Caves along the Eastern Cape coast. Human remains with anatomically modern features have been found, dating well over 100,000 years old. If these dates are correct, then it is in Southern Africa that the world’s oldest remains of our own species, Homo sapiens, have been found – some 60 000 years before their arrival in Europe and Asia.
Apart from all of the human remains discovered in South Africa throughout the years the treasure trove of art. South Africa has the greatest collection of Stone Age paintings and engravings in the world. The San have left us a priceless and unique artistic legacy.
Robert Ardry wrote that, “Humanity evolved beneath the canopy of African skies on the immense card table of the African Savannah”. Exploring this evolution is a magnificent way to gain insight into the origin of mankind. Not only will you be enlightened on your tour of South Africa’s archaeological treasures you will also get to experience this beautiful countries modern day treasures.
Africa’s Many Challenges
Today, Africa faces many challenges. Most of its people remain poor. Droughts are frequent in many areas, leading to terrible starvation. Wars within and between countries have killed millions of people and forced millions of others to leave their homes and live elsewhere as refugees.
Despite these troubles, Africa remains a magnificent place. Perhaps no other part of Earth is as varied in its geography, wildlife, and people.