African culture must always be observed in the plural, given its millenary existence and its vast diversity. It must be remembered that Africa is not a country.
Archeology points to Africa as the most inhabited territory on the planet. This resulted in a profusion of languages with more than a thousand languages, religions, political regimes, material housing conditions and economic activities.
Currently, the African continent occupies one fifth of the Earth, with more than 50 countries and almost 1 billion inhabitants.
Ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism and African cultures
It is a known fact that African history was written and told by European colonists.
The travelers, missionaries and colonial leaders were responsible for the first reports about the culture of the African peoples.
Thus, in addition to being captured to fuel colonial slavery, these peoples were usurped in all their rights, including that of telling their own story.
“Ethnocentrism” and “Eurocentrism” in European sciences during the 19th century are responsible for the conception of African cultures.
Accordingly, they are considered primitive or barbaric manifestations, typical of the early stages of civilization.
Today, with the independence of African countries, there is an effort to recover African cultural traditions, as well as the constitution of a local historiography.
African Dance Performance in Port Elizabeth, South Africa
African cultural manifestations suffered an intense destruction by colonial regimes, which leads modern African nations to clash with Arab nationalism and European imperialism.
In the case of traditional cultures, much has been preserved and spread across the African continent, especially due to migratory flows through Africa.
This allowed for the preservation and combination of various cultural aspects among the peoples of the continent.
Furthermore, it is also worth mentioning that most of these cultures are based on oral traditions, which does not mean the absence of writing.
African peoples can be nomadic and roam the desert or settle in territory to build great empires.
They can also be formed by small tribes or large kingdoms, the political chief and the high priest can be the same person.
Whether ruled by lineage clans or by specific social classes, these peoples will constitute great material and immaterial heritage present to this day.
These goods reflect the history and the environment in which they originated. Therefore, they represent aspects of tropical forests, deserts, mountains, etc.
In religious terms, several cults are present in Africa, with emphasis on Islam and Christianity. In addition to them, traditional religions stand out, often seen as the practice of magic and witchcraft.
Considered by Europeans as animist peoples, a part of Africans revere the spirits of trees, stones, among others, and accept coexistence with unknown forces.
Each African people has its mythological origins to explain its origins. These traditional religions have, as a rule, a pantheon and are devoted to the worship of ancestors and the deities of nature.
The best known form of these religions involves the cult of the Orixás (deities of Yoruba or Nagô origin) and encompass a wide variety of beliefs and rites.
On the other hand, material and spiritual life in African religions, tend to indistinguish between the sacred and the profane. These dimensions are conceived as inseparable and inseparable.
We must consider that a large part of the traditional African artistic production was made so as not to be seen and the material used in its manufacture had a very large symbolic value.
These pieces can be sculpted, cast, painted, braided, woven and used as body adornments, costumes and items for sacred or everyday use.
Generally, African artistic products represent the founding ancestors and feature geometric, anthropomorphic, zoomorphic or anthropo-zoomorphic figures that teach humanity to produce and reproduce.
In turn, the famous African masks have elaborate designs and are used in ceremonies and rituals.
The renowned artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was greatly inspired by these masks, as well as by African iconography, to create an artistic style known as cubism.
Metallurgy was known and used to manufacture weapons, tools and ornaments, being more common in savanna regions. Another very typical type of African artistic production is the ivory sculptures (Yoruba and Bakongo peoples).
Dance and cooking
Tam traditional African dances and music are also well known, marked by batuques and very accentuated body movements, such as rocking.
Finally, African cuisine stands out, seasoned with spices with strong and spicy aromas, with which dishes based on meats, vegetables, and even insects are prepared.
Typical in Africa, coconut milk, palm oil, yams and beans, etc.
Main peoples and cultures of Africa
The main African civilization was undoubtedly the Egyptian, which built the first African empire more than 5,000 years ago.
The ceramics of Nok (Nigeria) point to a highly developed civilization that lived the 5th century BC to the 2nd century A.D.
Further on, in the 13th century, the powerful Kingdom of Kongo appears. Other peoples, such as the Berbers (nomads of the Sahara desert) and the Bantos (region of Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania and Cameroon) also constituted large population groups in Africa.
Finally, Africans began to be colonized by Europeans in the 15th century. When they reached the 19th century, they were completely under the control of European metropolises until the second half of the 20th century.
African cultures in Brazil
African cultures had a great influence on the Brazilian cultural formation and the diversity of origin of Africans enslaved in Brazil directly reflects the variety of peoples existing in Africa.
Most of these populations were of Bantos, Nagôs and Jejes, Hauçás and Malês origin.
There are many cultural aspects that have suffered African influence in the country, however, we can highlight:
candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion based on the cult of orixás, which umbanda appears;
capoeira, a dance-fight practiced by the old slaves created in Brazil;
the cuisine, with various spices and typical dishes, such as vatapá, caruru and acarajé.
In the musical area, African rhythms are in almost all Brazilian styles: maxixe, samba, choro, bossa-nova. In dance, samba is the greatest expression of Afro-descendent culture.