The Complex African Culture


The African Complex Culture

Any study of African culture must take into account that Africa 5 minutes ago, 50 years ago, 500 years ago and Africa 5000 years ago is not a static feature. A diverse Africa has influenced, and been influenced. Concepts and cultures of African origin have been exported and re-imported, just as genes, ideas and technologies have exited and reentered African populations.

History and cultures, by both conscious and unconscious forces, distills those characteristics that are deemed relevant and pass them on from generation to generation. The phenomenon of history and culture is the further back you look at it, the more monolithic/compressed it becomes. So over time cultural distinctions between similar communities blur and becomes monolithic: Just like the further you move away from an object the smaller and less distinguishable it becomes.

There is no such thing as African monolithic purity, cultures smash through deserts, cross trade routes, travel through immigration borders, disregarding our notions of geography and race. Throughout history, names, foods, cultures, religions, genetics have jumped between Asia and Africa from the dawn of humanity with blatant disregard for our social constructions.

But as much as culture drifts on the open ocean of human interaction and technological development, pushed on by the winds of globalization. The ethics of culture are pretty much static. And where Africa is concern, the centrality of life-systems and functionality have always been at the root of all African cultures. But today some think that culture is who has the most beads around their head.

Now and in antiquity, from KMT to modern Congo, respect for elders has remained an unbroken cornerstone in African cultural systems. Marriage rites, burial rites, ancestors rites, still honor their original foundation. For 2000 years in Ethiopia the ethics and ethos [3] of Ethiopian culture have not altered, even though rituals attached to those ethics may have come and gone. So we might change dowry from Cows-to-Coins but the function of dowry (Labolla/Mahr) remains the same. And it is also critical to understand African culture is more than symbols, and rituals, languages and aesthetic,

So much so that the entire foundation of many of the rituals and customs are there to transmit these virtues. And it is from culture’s creativity that creates music and dance, poetry and arts.

But these are only some manifestations of culture. What some are left with today is the byproducts of culture, only music or only dance, while having no deep memory of the core cultural system.

Culture African culture
Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was put up African culture
African culture
Culture African culture
Culture African Proverb
Culture African
What is the point of multiculturalism if we all become one? Same ethics, same dress, same attitude, same way of thinking, same hair, clothes, and socialization. Where is the richness in that—If Africa looks like Europe? The beauty of the world is in the differences, which allow for diverse contributions to this world. Culture is the repository of human traditions; long and tested solutions for living in a meaningful way. Culture is the core of our African humanity and holds some of the secrets to life’s purpose; it modulates human behavior, the ethics of the group, etc. There is no authentic autonomous identity outside of the culture that cradles it. And African culture is certainly not National Geographic‘s image of drum beating Africans in grass skirts, or CNN’‘s notion of dancing naked Africans eating bush meat, or even the Kora player playing in a European night club. African culture is far more than a dance, dish or a dress. It does not exist for the pleasure of Western tourist, like a theme show at a Walt Disney exhibit. Too often the notion of African or Black culture is viewed through the touristic culturally-curious lens of Europe. So “culture” per UK’s mission in Africa is tantamount to “jungle culture.” But equally it is also certainly not what “blacks’in urban America do on MTV base.

Today, it is almost impossible to conceive of African culture and not hear some drums beating, and some guys jumping around the stage: It is someone—not Africans—who defined that as the total expression of African culture; Africans continue to internalize

that myth. But in Ethiopia culture is in the coffee ritual, in Mali it may be tea ritual and camel racing, in Afro-South America it can be seen in capoeira; in Haiti it manifest in Vodon, in Trinidad in the Steel Pan, in Barbados in the Cou Cou and flying fish.

Dark skin is just skin with a high percentage of melanin. It does not inform anything distinctive, apart from the social historical reality that people with dark skin get treated bad— but beyond that it does not define someone’s value formation—only culture does that. And in absences of this culture, blackness just absorbs the cultural identity of oppression; contributing to the culture-less deserts of humanity. African culture is the culture of the inventiveness and adaptation of African people, since no continent can sponsor a culture—only people can. (The physical continent, beyond environmental impact, is a negligible agent of African culture)

How then can we protect culture when culture is not defined? How can you defend a territory that has no boundaries? Culture can not float or it would be meaningless at retaining its shape, and therefore incapable of sustaining itself or creating innovation. And we must always bear in mind, culture is only as good as its function to living people. And either Africans take ownership and profit from their diverse cultures (like Jazz, Break dance, herbal remedies, etc) or it will end up in the claim-books of other people.

The majority of African cultures are communal, as oppose to “individualistic and this one difference creates entirely different paradigm and behaviors. (Africa would never produce Nihilism orExistentialist though for example) This communal root spills over to inform notions of “human rites” and ethics. All of these factors are interwoven in the fabric of Africa’s quilt of cultures. Cultural laws are about boundary-maintenance, which fundamentally inform notions of morality that in turn inform legislation and nationhood. And Africa’s cultural fences are the bastion to African self-definition, and if haphazardly torn down and replaced with untested immoral values, what kind of death will that bring to Africa’s unique humanity?

African culture includes but is not limited to: The centrality of spirituality, ethics, the placement of music, aesthetic, family formations, marriage rites, both the tangible and intangibles intellectual paradigms. The agents affecting culture are climate, geography, technology, cross-cultural interaction and unfortunately a history of oppression.

Long ago some wise people realized that certain habits bore bad fruit, while other habits, such as marriage bore success in the group setting. It was also realized that at some stage children became adults when they had been fully institutionalized to the ethics of the group’s culture.

At this stage a ritual demarked this transition to full group membership. These “rites of passage” became critical in nation building. [] It is clearly not only a hallmark of African civilizations, but many other communities such as the Bar Mitzvah (Hebrew: בר מצווה‎) [2] which denotes a Jewish youth being considered responsible for their actions and being included in the adult rituals of the group.


Some think that culture is who has the most colorful beads on their head and can jump around to the sound of a drum. But what is the value of those things if people have no problem stealing, debauch their womenfolk, cannot be trusted with your word, no compassion, no empathy, no manners, and no system of truth and justice. Then you actually have no culture. So the purpose of all of those rituals, is to cultivate a better human being. Unfortunately for most, when they speak of “culture”, it is like an empty bottle, which advertises a product that it no longer holds.

While Africans talk about “our Traditional religions”, “Cultural clothes”, “Cultural days”, Europeans speak about religion, clothes and days. Their culture is so omnipresent it no longer looks like culture, their veneration of ancestors is so common place it no longer looks like veneration. And this is why modernity for Europe is inclusive of their culture, but for Africa seen as incongruous.

Modernity is a technological state and has zero ethical considerations in its construction. Modernity has nothing to do with degrees of civilization, in the humane usage of the term. The most uncivilized inhumane society may have advanced weapons, which they use to destroy nature and other humans. Would it be correct to say that possession of weapons of modern warfare automatically implied civilization? Culture also interacts with modernity at many complex levels, but advancing culture should never mean the retreat of modernity, and vice-a-versa.

Africans were part of modernity, how many Arabs and Asians were also part of creating modernity? Modernity may have been assembled in a White man’s house but by many non-White people. So no one race can claim everything in modernity. Modernity does not imply West or White. It has been and is the product of a global human effort.

What is the point of African culture(s) if not to be applied to every aspect of the African world? Why should the values and traditions which have preserved African humanity be replaced with the cultures or value systems of those practiced by Europe? Because to do so is to concede to a superiority in European values and cultures.

Just when the circumcision rites were being labeled as “irrelevant” the same modern science now discovers the health benefits and lower transmission of STDs among circumcised males. What other revelations lie within the wisdoms found in culture?

African cultures have evolved to harmonize with the African soul, body, and mind All are a child of time. Communities enshrine these cultures by practicing them and promoting them. And contrary to what Mugambi and Masolo suggest, there is no evidence, in any record, which show that a people who forget their culture prosper in any meaningful way.[1] And part of the confusion is between “modernity” and “culture.” Cultural values can exist in the most technologically advanced spaces, without challenge. It is a false dichotomy to think that rites of passage is incompatible with modernity or dowry belongs in a bygone era. In Africa Ptahhotep was credited with authoring The Instruction of Ptahhotep, an early piece of Egyptian “wisdom literature” meant to instruct young men in appropriate behavior in Ancient Egyptian African society. The rites of passage of Ancient Greeks became the first European universities: So institutionalized into the world it is no longer seen as a direct aspect of European culture.

Another almost invisible example is how European Gothic traditions and folklore (witches, vampires and elves) are now transplanted into what is accepted as good Hollywood entertainment.And the same is true for the billion dollar video-game industry. So normalized and obvious that the viewer forgets these are just European cultural folklore in modernity. And the failure to place African cultures in a modern context kills Africa’s ability to extract wisdom, success and development from African cultures.

Racism against Africans is not the only force operating on Africa’s cultural agency. Africans have also allowed things to stagnate. In West Africa, a new-rich African goes to Venice to buy European paintings, skipping a magnificent African arts market 4 sec from his door. And this is true all over Africa; craftsmen from Mozambique have to see pieces worth $400 US for $20 US so they can eat. These same crafts are worth $1000s once they fall into the European dealers markets. No industry can continue to innovate without an economical system of support, that fosters the burgeoning of the arts. So then culture stagnates when the market economies fail to provide the incentives to artist. At a future date, Africa will have no high art, only trite touristic caricatures of a distant craft. [1989 words]

Culture and economics for many nations are so normalized the relationships seem invisible. Zumba a dance craze worth millions which not only brings in fiscal rewards but promotes Latin American music all over the world. A perfect example of a cultural economic phenomena. Where is West Africa in this market with so many rich cultural dances. Where is Reggae in this? And where we see it never are Africans initiators of benefactors economically.

Beyond the over reaching hand of Westernization many cultures put their foot down in the monocultural stream of globalization to take ownership of their spaces. The Japanese practices Japanese culture in the modern workplace.

They did not completely base their work ethos on Europe just because Europe brought technological gifts to Japan in the 19th century (Convention of Kanagawa). So why can’t African attire, for example, be the formal dress code of the governments of Kenya? Is the heavy three-piece suit and tiemore “practical” in the Kenyan heat than African garbs? During the Ethiopian 2000 millennium celebrations Meles Zenawi wore traditional Ethiopian clothing on national TV for the first time, the next day the local clothing economy in Addis rose by more than 30%. The same thing happened after Beyonce was shown on TV with full Ethiopian cultural attire. Verace came to the attention of the world when his designs were worn by celebrities, it created a status around his work. Now imagine if Beyonce or Meles wearing the Ethiopian cultural attire creates an entire boast to Ethiopian designers internationally? (see If African leadership is not loyal to the local markets what does that say about African markets? After Thomas Sankara came to power in Burkina Faso in 1983, he declared locally woven cotton the national fabric and required civil servants to wear it. With a serious trade deficit anything which enhances local markets is a critical issue.

Not to mention the physiological consequences of seeing Africans wearing their cultural attire and reaffirming a distinctive African cultural heritage which makes Africa unique.

And why also can’t African food be served in all hotels in Africa? Why is Africa treated with a false dichotomy of “modernity” or “culture“? Especially when modernity is a byword for Western culturalization. The real reason most Africans do not take the ethics and the aesthetic of these diverse cultures and put them in modernity is due to mental slavery. Many see African cultures are “backward or impractical” but the truth is most Africans globally do not have the confidence to seek meaningful applications and models for African culture.

 One example where this has been challenged and won, is with the lockshairstyle, which is seen across the cultural divide. It has left Jamaica and gone to America, and ultimately been a successful alternative hairstyle in much of Africa because of Reggae music. (a perfect example of how music was used as a form of agency). From a Caribbean fringe culture to a global success story.

But how can Africa alter, change, and utilize what is not understood? It is like going through the cupboard and finding 10 bars of gold and flushing it in the toilet , ignorant of its value. And this is what happened across the globe, burning ancient artifacts, throwing out beautiful art and replacing it with Chinese junk.

Discarding environmentally friendly thatched roofs for galvanize; trading silver for cheap salt. So European architects are busy investigating applications of the African cultural aesthetic in contemporary designs, while African architects are running around trying to be Black versions of Frank Lloyd Wright. Even the Chinese had no value for the Great Wall of China and other historical monuments until Europeans showed an interest. But the minute they realized its value they capitalized on it and have been doing so ever since.

In Africa’s past when people built mosque, churches, halls for kings, etc, they used their own creativity to formulate an architectural aesthetic. Today you can go anywhere in Africa but will struggle to find that continuing tradition of an African architectural aesthetic. If anyone is engaging an African aesthetic it would be European architects designing game lodges, etc. But not Africans!

Without culture the very meaning of an African identity folds and crumbles. Africa is not just a geographical set of marks on a map, it is the repository of traditions and wisdoms which, build African people’s cultural heritage. [2716 words]

Personal Story |

While in OR Tambo airport in South Africa we noticed a pray sign for Muslim travelers—-the airport had burdened itself with a pray room for 2% of its population. (I did not complain being part of that 2%) While starving we could pick between KFC, Nandos, Hawaiian food, American Food, Chinese and Indian. While waiting for the flight all the authors of Europe were represented in the bookstore, maybe less than 1% of the content had any African authorship, less than none had any progressive African history. No Pan-African documentaries or African filmmakers were available in the Look N Listen DVD shop—only Hollywood and Bollywood—No Nollywood. On the long-haul flight to Turkey and then on another flight to St Lucia while booking the ticket there was an option for a Halal, vegetarian, vegan, and Kosher meal (Jews represent a nearly invisible religious demographic). While watching a film on the plane, the language options were Hebrew, Catalan (never heard of it until then), Arabic, etc. While attempting to login to Facebook there were many language options. Under the section Africa and Middle East there was Afrikaans (spoken by not even 0.1% of Africa), Hebrew (another minority language) and Arabic. Do you know what all of this tell us? Cultural agency, and cultural definition driven by pure market economics. [8] Race or discrimination play no direct role in any of these happenings. Because the religion/culture of Islam and Judiasm has a dierty definition and has economic power and therefore agency it can impose itself and be accomodated. Because the economic power of Hebrew speakers or the geo-politics of Jewish filmmakers and Israel as a dominant market, Hebrew is accomodated for .Because Indian food and other cultures have the agency, the cultural definition they can have menus representing their cultures—-the local African cultures/religions cannot. [3019 words]


There is a culture that creates people who want to climb the highest mountains, explore the deepest oceans and see what lies on the dark side of the moon. Then there is a culture which produces people who look at the mountains and put taboos around its peaks, they look at the ocean and have absolute no questions about its mysteries, they look at the moon and are content with its light. When by the chance of inevitability these two culture meet the outcome is clear.

Culture is power, but you first need a powerful culture. So in real world terms, when Ethiopia and Kenya were entering into modernity, Ethiopia already has a highly institutionalized culture, religion, and script; Kenya does not have a native script or an Pan-Kenyan religion. Who will be more displaced by modernity? So in some cases Africans just do not have a powerful enough or sophisticated (taboo but accurate word) culture. And being political correct in a fire does not help one escape the fire. For example Zulu food vs. Indian food. There is no hope of Zulu food conquering Indian food in a globalized world. Ethiopian food vs. Indian food, now with enough investment Ethiopian food does stand head-to-head. Indian food vs. Arabic food, there is no hope of Arabic food winning that war. Western clothing vs. Zulu clothing? Again no hope, since Zulu clothing is still largely underdeveloped for modernity after all these centuries. But now West African clothing vs. European clothing there is a fighting chance.

here must have been something in “the Other’ that carried more appeal to displace whatever some of us had. If have a Tag Huer watch, and someone else came with a Casio do you think I would give up my Tag for the Casio? No. So this displacement is because something was missing or inadequate in modernity. If you do not have a political system to match democracy, or a writing system to match Arabic and Latin, then this is not a black vs White thing but, the war of disparate peoples.

The power of agency determines much of the patterns of cultural dominance in the world. When Ancient Egypt was conquered it converted the invaders to the religion/culture of the ‘conquered.’ In Persia despite being destroyed by the Mongol armies, it was the conquering Mongols who surrendered their culture and gods for Islam. Islam had enough definition to displace the invaders culture and faith and supplant it with an Islamic-Mongol culture. [1]

Culturally the UK has produced no serious food heritage. (unless you call Fish and Chips food). So the arrival of a stronger cultural cuisine of a minority group was able to over power and culturally displace the entire UK culinary tradition. The “superiority” of Indian cuisine not only in taste but also in its institutionalization dominance a country as powerful of Britain. Today Indian food is the “national dish” eaten across the cultural divide. Kebabs are also impacting traditional British culture in this way.

Displacement is not only by external forces. Many cultures are displaced and absorbed by neighboring cultures in Africa. In Ethiopia this is evident with the Amhara. In South Africa with Zulu culture which becomes more monolithic as we come into modernity because of the dilution of sub-cultures as they merge into or are wholly displaced by the mother culture (or dominant culture of one Zulu people). Even in the cities we can see instances of people of Zulu heritage who socialize with Ethiopians become Ethiopianize. It happens more commonly with Somali and even more rapidly with Eritrean people if isolated and socialize with Ethiopians. It happens to Ethiopian Jews in Israel, but not by a direct agent by via music and popular Black culture. [3646]


If we are honest with ourselves then solutions become very clear. If we think hard enough we know already why people do not want to be African, or reject African culture, native faiths, and prefer to be something else; It is not really a mystery. And this thing about Europeans demonizing African culture, well just imagine if they came to Africa and found Africans levitating and flying spacecraft, would they have demonized our culture then, sure they might have tried but it would not have stuck? Nobody successfully demonizes a culture that has more power than theirs. And people, of all races, creeds, and faiths, prefer to be associated with what they perceive to be more “successful.” The perception of backwardness, true or false; the perception of unsophistication, true or false, all factored into why things in Africa were replaced often with other faiths, cultures, customs, etc. And it was no different in Arabia, China, Europe and India. What came in, that was perceived to be better was often adopted, integrated, or substituted. People with a higher degree of agency selectively adsorbed new cultures, technologies, etc, and made them their own. People with weaker agency got imposed and had no ability to successful make these new things their own, often their old ways were demonized and flushed out. That is the way of the world.


New |

While most African cultures can be seen actively on the family level, and the day-to-day way people go about their lives, it seems to cut off when it comes to the corporate level. It does not become institutionalized in education, business, top level trading (stock markets), science, etc. European culture on the other hand is from top to bottom, not missing and inch of surface it interacts with in the lives of not only Europeans, but the entire world. So the cultural power of the Zulu people seems to stop dead after a certain level in society. They have no ritual holidays comparable to Eid and Easter, or the Jewish holidays. There is no ancient legacy institutionalized from which to draw new traditions from. And therefore it does not lend itself, outside of the odd ceremony, to the mainstay of the lives of South Africans. Ethiopian culture on the other hand does extend itself much further in the fabric of everyday Ethiopian society. It does have ancient traditions from which it draws its modern set up.

Only people with strong cultural agency can look at new technologies and see the technologies as distinct from the culture of the techno-bearers. They can then skillful take the technology and leave what threatens their self-identity. The more agency the more this happens; the less agency the less this happens. It is as simple as that. If someone is now in a state of zero agency, such as an enslaved African, then the impact of religion, culture, socialization from the other will produce a greater than 80% conversion into a cultural orphan.


Muslims, Christians and Jews. Romans, Ethiopians, Chinese and Persians. What do they all have in common? They were able to add a sense of prestige to their identity. It was therefore something perceived as successful— a brand—that everyone wanted to be part of. To be Muslim in West Africa in the 12th century was a kind of high life club; associated with the rich merchants. And we still see it today in places like South Africa, and even Ethiopia– a perception of wealth. In Tanzania being Arab usually means being wealthy, people see this and want to absorb into their own lives the secrets that produce this wealth, so they emulate the customs of those with this wealth. They certainly do not emulate the customs of the person who cannot feed himself. or the culture that has them going to the savanna to hunt every time they are hungry. No, they prefer the culture that produces a better way of life, that produces modernity. It is the perception of better (true or false is not being debated, and almost inconsequential) only the mechanism of how it happens. So then the Bible or democracy, and all things foreign, are all secondary factors in the pursuit of what is perceived to be better.

People see an association with speaking French and success. The French have branded their language as a prestige language, something to be desired, like a Patek Philippe watch or a Lexus .

Romantics have often lamented at the devaluing of African culture, they throw blame on Arabs, Europeans, everyone but self. Now get in a time machine and ask yourself honestly; why would Arab demonzing of Ethiopian culture not have worked?(note historically Arabs treated Ethiopians and Somali people different from so-called Bantu people). The Euro and the Arab have scripts, that will not impress the Ethiopian— they have scripts to. The European has St Peters, the Ethiopian has Gonder, the Arab has Mecca, the Indian has the Taj. The Hindu has the Gita, the Ethiopian has their own Bible, the Muslim has the Qur’an, the European has KJV (of the Bible). The contrast between these nations is not disparate. Not enough to create the notion of superiority. And there is not much more to it than that! [4520]


New 11/2013

When the culture of a people fails, or is made to fail by an external oppression, they will absorb and replace what is lost with the culture available—usually the culture of their oppressors. When a people experience a trauma, it causes the natural cultural defenses to weaken and this allows in new cultural components from the strongest source.

Humans, regardless of race, are just human biological blanks, we absorb the culture that we are settled in. Arabs are Arabs because of Arabic culture. A genetic Arab raised in a strong Jamaican culture, with no reference to their Arabic roots, will be Jamaican. This is why community is a fundamental component in the shaping and retaining the cultural character of any community.

Often when a people are displaced they always have a reaction (one which may acquiesce or one which may reject the invading dominant culture). That reaction may often creatively try to recreate an image of its self by amalgamating bits and pieces, by integrating new ideas. Or it might violent reject the new culture, but still try to gather fragments and recreate itself in opposition to the oppressive force. Depending on agency levels, the new “cultures” may Africanized everything they absorb, but if agency is low the new ideas will unAfricanize the African in the process. And this can happen even when their is a conscious and violent reaction to an imposing culture. Because once people have lost a memory of themselves they might inherit (unconsciously) a “new identity” modeled on the oppressors template.


New section

What we have to appreciate is that culture is so dynamic it is impossible, most of the time, to identify a “pure” African (or anything) inside of any specific culture—especially in a world so globalized. People often look at a popular aspect of identity and culture and make the mistake of saying “Oh that is 100% African” or “100% European” . So the West African dress (heavily influenced with coming of Islam), the Masai beads and fabric (trade with Europeans), the Swahili culture, South African Shweshwe fabric (a European cloth adopted by Xhosa people), Ancient Egyptian chariots (from Syria), Native Americans on horses (from Spanish), 1,2,3,4 (numbers from Arabs), on and on. When you go back far enough you will often find it has a multi-cultural or multi-racial genesis. Today we see some of these things as exiting “As African” from eternity— but it is not the case. (And this is true for everywhere, esp Europe) [4938]


Some look at the West as the product of a technologically advanced decadent culture. The decadency being the product of the people’s inherent culture. But suppose it is the “modernity” and “wealth” that produces decadence? That would mean as soon as Africa becomes economically on par with the West we too will lose cultural values, and descend into the same lifestyle of greed and excess, waste and indifference.

We can look at all wonderful nations throughout history and see the descent into decadence with the rise of power. And while the conventional view is to see European culture as the corrupting factor: A culture that degrades family values, etc. It might be a paradigm shift to see that actually it is not European culture per se, but “modernity”. If any culture independently comes into modernity, it would liberalize those communities and you will get the same issues, to varying degrees, that we see in the West. The social diseases of the city would be just as rampant had the Khoisan built lofty buildings and Starbucks cafe out of their traditional culture. So Western culture is just corrupted European culture due to modernity.


We are not the past; we are the future. What sense is it to take what did not/does not work? What sense is it to take blindly what we do not understand? We cannot take a religion from the Khoisan just because their DNA is in our blood, no more than we use stone tools to dispatch meat. Our ancestors did XY and Z is critical for us to know, but it is not a 100% golden template of what we should be doing today.

Every generation, as Fanon said, must, out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it. And while we must draw on the past, we must also filter it to suit our contemporary moment. Taking the best traditions that suit our communities, nations, and individuals. And even that will vary depending region, religion, politics, and culture. Amos Wilson states: “The true nationalist is also not afraid to overthrow tradition when tradition is unproductive. He is not one who just gives obeisance to African tradition out of some blind ignorance. He is one who says: “Even though I revere the African past and I revere the African tradition, that tradition can be built upon. I have a right then to use the legacy of that tradition to confront the realities of my current times and thus modify that tradition and see to the survival of my people.”

Foreign interest destroyed African culture”~ Common Afrocentric rhetoric. This statement goes unchallenged when culture is not defined, when identity is not defined, when religion is not defined. What exactly did it destroy? Did it only destroy or did it also build as well? Did the culture of Persia not depend on external factors, did the culture of Venice not heavily been influenced by Islamic culture? Did Rome exist in cultural isolation, was Ethiopia a stand-alone wonder?

Now with the coming of the CD the record was destroyed. Some good elements of the records were lost: The tactile, the warmth, the intangible connections it created were lost with the coming of the CD. Now we do not as sincere balanced people discuss that “destruction” without also talking about the benefits of the CD over the record. Today the CD has been “destroyed” (using polemic language) by the Mp3. Again we know it was not “destroyed” in an alarmist way but “replaced.” And it was replaced for good reasons. And again, some good things were lost with the exit of the CD, but a lot was also gained.

With every single change in the world there is good and bad. And at every junction people who are self-determined use agency (critical word) to make choices about their world. We accept that as the natural course of human history which can be found the word over. With the coming of the Europeans to America, the native Americans saw the benefits of the horse and adopted it into their culture. They did not do so and destroy their spiritual relationship to the old ways. It did not create an off-axis change. They became a great horse riding nation. With the coming of the Europeans and Arab trade the Masai saw the colorful beads and adopted it into their culture to create a new Masai identity, which we celebrate and photograph. [5685]


African authentic culture is impacted negatively from many sides, and is a complex dilemma. The first and primary agent, which imposes is the dominance of European culture, which first came via slavery, then colonialism and apartheid. It always asserted itself by diminishing the value (socially and institutionally) of African culture. It was in Europe’s interest to create cultural orphans who worshiped all things European, thus making better subjects who had ambitions of approaching whiteness. Taking European names, language and dress ascended things of African origin, and thus secured the notion of African inferiority. Religion compounded this because now the image of divinity was the European cultural ideal. On the Islamic side there was less of an impact because, Islam mainly spread through African agents wielding African culture. Culture was a serious factor because if Islam appeared too alien it would not have gained adherence (David Robinson, Hudwick). This was not only true for Africa but also for Arabia where Islam met with great resistance out of fears of loss of Arabic culture heritage. None the less, at every turn where Arabs, or even Indians, got in a religious position over African people (parts of East Africa and South Africa) they tried to demonize things African (like music and dance) and replace them with notions of their culture. “Being Muslim” where Africans had no agency was the template for becoming more Indian or Arab. Just like being Christian was the template for being more European.

But African culture on the continent also has a unique burden, because what is rarely discussed is the fact that they see the Diaspora as ideals—themselves – but in modernity. So not only is whiteness impacting Africa but Diaspora is having a terrible impact on identity. When children in Ethiopia now see Beyonce in her short skirt they relate to the wealth and status and see themselves through her expressions. No longer do they want to wear their habesha qemis, they do not want neTela (headscarf of very fine material).  Modern means what Beyonce and Rihanna are doing, African culture is something to escape with high velocity. [6037]

In South Africa the new middle class do not admire African culture, they might reject elements of whiteness as they do not see self in copying the habits of European culture, but they are 100% chasing the gansta pimp dress seen on MTV, they are mimicking the hip hop African-American mannerisms and even the accent. For them they are valid in reaffirming both youth and “blackness.” Compounded not only by notions of “cool” but also notions of fiscal and sexual success.

A smaller impact is from cultural ignorance on the part of a Diaspora disconnected from the continent but trying to absorb aspects of Africa for their own self-worth and cultural identity. In doing so generalize and homogenize Africa in the same vein as the Western anthropologist. Using the same Eurocentric tools and perceptions to cherry pick aspects of Africa incongruously. So we see terms like “African spirituality” emerging as a new pseudo denomination. We see the loose generalization of a “tribal Africa” with drums and Umbuntu and libation, divorced from the reality of a diverse Africa. These over simplified echoes and fragments of authentic African spiritual experiences inadvertently are New World skeletons of deeper African symbolism. These trend have no reflective and seems halted in its own desires to promote a romantic image of Africa. But the downside is a loss of the depth of African culture, and therefore a lost of its diversity and intrinsic messages.

Today, native faiths are in direct competition with both Islam and Christianity for adherence. It is a tug of war which is seeing a decline in native beliefs. The advantage both Islam and Christianity has goes beyond mere economic, proselytizing personality, physical or political strength. And due to “political correctness” many shy from discussing a discourse on highly organized religions vs. less organized religions. The greater degree of institutionalize, the better an ideology or culture has at retaining its shape in adverse conditions. It can be argued that this factor of lack of sophistication, which is inherent in Islam and European Christianity, was the reason these native faiths could not become successful in modernity. Islam by contrast has systems of governance, system of hygiene, systems of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and a very high degree of complexity which is sharply defined its cultural-religious identity. That structure is a fundamental factor in not only its identity but its image which has an aesthetic which markets and promotes its belief in a way which would be, in marketing terms, flawless. It has a script, a dress sense, a book of law a book of general public life, notions of time, and a very visible way of identifying its adherence.

Now to make the point of religion and degrees of institutionalization and success or survivability we can look at Ethiopian identity and culture which is far more institutionalized that Zulu culture. It is no wonder that Ethiopians have a cuisine culture and Zulu people do not. It is no surprise that they have a stronger ancient music culture, a religion which has its own script. And all of this is said outside of the issue of political correctness which has good intentions but sometimes obscures objective analysis.

What is true for religion and institutionalization is identically true for culture in general. The more sophisticated a culture is institutionalized, like Jewish culture or Indian culture the stronger its chances on the high seas of globalization, the better it stands against exploitation, the more resistant it is to appropriating foreign influences outside of its own agency. [6624]


Language is the conveyor belt of culture, yet 32% of the endangered languages are African languages. To speak a language is to engage in a culture (Nehusi). The unique relationship between language and thought and the paradigm positions which grow out of it this thought processes are therefore endangered.

Language is not only a means of passing information it is also a culture, to speak a language is to engage in a culture. To speak perfect Arabic is to expose yourself to the culture of Arabs, the same with Amharic and Hebrew; you could never learn Amharic and divorce this from Ethiopian culture.

One of the challenges with African languages is that with the arrival of both modernity and the colonial languages, the natural inventory system within the languages died. New words came from the colonial source, as opposed to the languages own ability to invent new words for this new rapidly changing modern world. (Death of African languages)

Urbanization is the slaughter house of African languages. And it is not only a threat from outside i.e. English. Amharic has, on its own, displaced more languages in Ethiopia than English.

Note | The reason English is rich is because everyone who speaks it (including us) adds to its legacy. It is no longer a language of English people. As just writing English means we contribute to its expansion and diversity. The problem is the more we use it the richer we make it.


Cultures should cultivate, but not all aspects of culture do this. In these instances cultures, like everything else, can be host to inhumanity and racism. Purveyor of intolerance, cruelty, and stagnation.

There is a logical fallacy that crept into aspects of African consciousness. It is the belief that if something is African it is by default better. Now ‘African’ just means ‘of Africa’ aka indigenous (past, present or future). So how does that broad parameter equal better simple because of its authorship and geography? So any and everything done in African we should do by default even when most things clash with each other? This is romance and not serious reality, and it comes from lack of knowledge of the continent and the world. Even Ancient Egypt and every great civilization took what worked over native things. The cross bow in West Africa. The camel in the Sahel. Actually it is this habit of taking and making yours that made Europe a super power.

Hip Hop does influence world culture. For an example of how powerful it is in shaping urban youth culture just go to Japan. The problem is at the end of hip hop, as a generality, is nothing productive for modern African civilizations; it does not even fully own the cultural products it pushes all over the world: So it is a dead-end culture. It does more to arrest development than grow Africans into productive contributors. So yes, it is an example of cultural agency, but a largely negative cultural agency.

Some aspects of African culture are negative, and range from non-productive to lethal. Some have no place in modernity. Some are hindrances to development and while they services those people in specific historical periods are made useless or redundant in modernity. Political correctness sometimes avoids a full disclosure on other people’s culture, while racist attitudes assume that what is standard in the West should be standard for everyone.


Culture and religion share space and are deeply intertwined; sometimes dyadic, sometimes so complex it becomes a single irreducible unit. The purpose of a comparison is only to better facilitate how they interact with each other, but not to suggest a pure dichotomy between the two. Where there is religion there will always be culture—It can be debated if the reverse is true.

Outside of the Abrahamic faiths, and perhaps Vodon, many African religions are inseparable from the ethnic identity and culture. So the religion of the Serer historically part of Serer identity, the religion of the Maasai is part of Maasai cultural and identity. To be Zulu culturally before Christianity more or less meant to take on the spirituality of the Zulu religion. And because religions rarely crossed ethnic or political lines there was no overt need to identify them as distinct “religions” vs. “culture.” And still today part and parcel about being Somali, or Fulani is integrated into “being Muslim.”

Culture has been defined as the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning. It is institutionalized in art, clothing, taboos, rituals, architecture, linguistics, proverbs, films and stories. Culture in its broadest definition is the entire social heritage of humanity. Religion has been defined as a system of beliefs based on humanity’s attempt to explain the universe and natural phenomena, often involving one or more deities or other supernatural forces and also requiring or binding adherents to follow prescribed religious obligations. Two identifying features of religions are they to some extent (a) require faith and (b) seek to organize and influence the thoughts and actions of their adherents. (Webster)

Religion, like culture itself, consists of systematic patterns of beliefs, values, and behavior, acquired by people as a member of their society. These patterns are systematic because their manifestations are regular in occurrence and expression: they are shared by member of a group. Both religion and culture (if treated as discrete phenomenon) have traditions which services the group, whose meanings or relevance might be unknown to the user. Perhaps one difference is in religion the source and rational is a divine instruction for a particular action, while in “pure” culture it is informed by societal norms. So “do not eat pork” is an instruction from a divine origin in religion. In culture “do not eat pork” maybe a tradition established by ancestors and a social habit whose origin is long gone but still a factor shaping dietary habits. Religions will always create cultures, and culture becomes religion by attaching divinity to the behavior, habits, and attitudes.


African spirituality cannot exist as an authentic African paradigm as a standalone construction; it does not float in free space without roots in a specific African culture. The sense of a spiritual connection does not (in Africa) stand outside of an organized religious belief. When people say they are just “spiritual” they are saying they have a belief in divinity, but have no culture; no rituals, no communal responsibility, no structure — how is that being African? It is African elements without the discipline or loyalty to social or cultural structures. For example in Palo, participation in a community of Paleros is critical to growing spiritually and within the religious hierarchy. But some try to take piecemeal elements; ancestors, burning oils, and other cherry picked aspects of African religions and amass them into a heap called African spirituality, as distinct from the religions these elements come from. Despite the good intentions of many of these neo-spritualist, this paradigm is an out crop of the trivializing and misunderstanding of things African; part of the legacy of Eurocentrism. It is a de facto new religion, without a name.spirituality in Africa always has a culture, and every time you have a culture you have a religion. The rituals of Voodoo, Orisha, Serer, etc are all highly organized, and without exception, function in communal setting. They all have degrees of a priest class, ceremony, immolation, libation, religious holidays, creation stories, saints, divine systems of punishment and reward.

African spirituality is the essences of the divine connection African people (pan African) have as a diverse group, it is just as varied from Ethiopia to South Africa, as it is varied from Sudan to India. There is no essentialistic quality or genetic relationship that binds all African religion or spiritual appreciation into one empirically definable block. The term “African” in the context here is the theater of study, with no suggestion of a monolith or exclusivity, bound by some phantom forces to the skin color of Africans or the geography of Africa. That religious or spiritual experience is locked to culture, and culture is locked to identity, and where one varies so to does the other. [8008]



Greeks, Romans, Aksum ites, and Egyptians: Four different cultures. When they went about the business of getting a level of the surface from which to construct their empires they all used the same technique. Now, maybe on the Greek spirit level was a painting of Zeus, maybe on the Roman Spirit level was a painting of Caesar, while on the Egyptian one was a picture of Maat, on the Aksumite Spirit level, on account of their Christian faith, was the Ethiopian Cross. All these spirit levels functioned to measure the level of the surface. Maybe in Ancient Egypt they used the sun, maybe in Switzerland they use A Tag Heuer with Swiss Movement™, the objective is the same– Get to work on Time!

Culture serves to empower the ideology the essentialist quality of a people, its application in the practical world shapes the aesthetic, but not always the function or the objectives of a society. This is another factor that must be considered when understanding the role of culture and technology. How do people integrate technologies and ways of doing things into the fabric of their cultural identity.


Africa has 3000 distinct ethnic groups, 2000 languages. Home to the most genetically diverse people on Earth. So diverse that two Africans are more genetically different from each other than a Chinese and a European are from each other. Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.2 million km², it covers six percent of the Earth’s total surface area and 20.4 percent of the total land area. With approximately 58 countries. It occupies a wide dynamic latitude has; deserts, forest, snow, temperate climate, tropics, sub-tropics, lakes, the longest river, lowest point on Earth, mountain ranges. Now we have to ponder over these figures when we have these vulgar sweeping generalizations, which fit all of this diversity into one and two monolithic boxes. There are generalizations, which do define Africa, but none that are exclusive.

At any given instance a plethora of cultural forces are operating within one individual/community. We can generalize and say their is a master culture which is usually informed by their ethnicity and nationality.

But within say an African culture there could be a South African national culture which has peculiarities. There might then be a Xhosa culture which is distinguished against the cultures of the Fulani of West Africa. And then again their maybe a Location(township) culture produced via oppressive apartheid which is unique to South Africa. Within Ethiopia the Oromo people have a unique Oromo identity which sitting inside of Christianity and Islam, as well as elements of Westernization (mislabeled as modernity).

There might then be a KwaMashu township culture which is unique to KwaMashu in South Africa or Kalagi in Gambia. And then superimposed on this might be a Christian culture and then a general globalized culture: This is why it is called a culture complex. How these various cultures interact and conflict and resolve each other make up the unique culture of a specific group. These are all factors in culture which are condensed in any study. But “Being Ethiopian” like “Being Hawiye (Somali Clan)” switches priority at any given moment. Even with subtle distinctions between being Habesha vs. being Ethiopian National. All of these aspects of identity have unique cultural attachments.

Where does Muslim culture stop and Somali or Fulani culture begin? How can you tearEthiopian Christianity out of Ethiopia? Taking Islam out of West Africa is like trying to take the green out of grass. In any instant someone could be more Muslim than Somali and then 2 seconds later be more Somali than Muslim (if we tried to split it apart). All of us live in a 21st century world which has a serious impact on globalized socialization. In other words without even knowing it we behave as people in a global cultural village with globalized interactions.

When you see the Masai culture, and the culture of say Afro-Brazilians, or African Caribbean people, do not let the fact that Masai are in Africa mean it is older or more authentic. Some of these “popular African cultures” are not ancient cultures and peoples. Some of them are just as subjected to the same Western forces, displacement, and diffusion as those in the New World. No Masai or Samburu wore beads before Europeans showed up. So culture is complex, not static and under constant influence.


African culture is not a child-culture of a bygone era in post colonial studies. It does not exist on the fringes of modernity, kept alive only for some National Geographic notion of tribalism. African culture, like the cultures all over the world is confronted by similar issues of redundancy and stagnation. Ultimately cultures cultivate and in both a tangible and intangible way solidify diverse groups of people and therefore by its’ very nature is a process of civilization. Civilization and religion would never exist outside of human culture, laws which govern societies are just a further institutionalization of cultural laws. But all laws, regardless of if they are religious or legal have some sort of origin in human culture. Thou shall not kill members of your own group – is a cultural law.


How do we measure the weight of our cultural presence in a globalized society? How does Africa’s unique cultural capital fear in face of globalized cultures? We can look at the global accommodation given to our individual cultures. What impact does Africa and African people generally have on the wider world? What value does Africa represent as a separate body?

The value assigned to Chinese culture and Islamic culture can be seen everywhere by the international accommodation these cultures are given. Despite Ethiopia (ኢትዮጵያ) being thecultural gem of Africa, with 70 million people, its dominances beyond its borders (Ethiopia and her Diaspora) is extremely limited. A look at Internet technology shows accommodation for all scripts, DVD subtitles come in many languages including non-Latin scripts from Hebrew to Simplified Chinese, Arabic and even Hindi. But rarely any Amharic, beyond Ethiopian Airlines and the NHS in the UK. The commercial value of African languages is linked to the volume or market value of African speakers purchasing DVDs, accessing in-flight services, etc. If you book a flight on-line, you can select Kosher (despite Jewish people being a serious minority at 13 million: less than the population of Lagos), Moslem meals {sic}, etc. These cultures have globally accommodation due to their cultural and economic dominance. The economic “value” of Jews is reflective in the cultural accommodation they are given globally. The economic “value” of Muslims means that all over the world you find accommodation for the Islamic diet, not to mention that 1/5 are Muslim.

There is a direct relationship between the economic success of cultures and their physical presence in global societies. It can be used to measure the impact or the global footprint cultures make. The indirect de-emphasis on accommodating Africans is by no means a racist plot, but moreover a measure of the outward extent of African presents in the real world. If Africa tomorrow became an economic giant, these markets would naturally re-orientate and accommodate African culture. DVD manufactures would include Hausa in the list of languages to capture the Hausa market. Just like Chinese restaurants in the UK realized serving Halal (حلال‎ ) food increased their market share. If African dress is demanded by all African elites, as opposed to the fitted Western suits of Italian designers, overnight markets will shift to accommodate this trend. New economic opportunities will globally emerge for makers of these garments and the entire African industry will be stimulated. So there is a strong relationship between cultural agency and market forces and then ultimately the cultural footprint of Africa in a globalized world. The reason for the low position of African cultural dominance however is another issue. The legacy of colonialism and slavery has left Africa in an endless rut. While the Asian sub-continent crawls forward Africa is caught in a desperate loop. The only exception is South Africa as a nation, but looking at the race dynamics reaffirm the dilemma of African people. The condition in South Africa is nothing more than a Southern most European colony. South Africa is geopolitically globally because of its European population and their economy. Thus all over the world Afrikaans, despite being a minority language is more accommodated for than Zulu. Therefore South Africa internationally is not culturally shaped by the majority African population. Agency in South Africa is also not the designs of African politicians who manage this Southern European plantation. The cultural footprint of South Africa is expressed almost exclusively via White European cultural agents. And again in Kenya we see the “Kenyan culture” that the world celebrates is not the product of African agents, but the product of European agents and their “lens” on what is and what is not Kenyan culture. The beautiful mask and ornaments sold in airports are filtered aspects of Kenyan culture and Africans are generally absent from that process. Culture is America’s biggest export. Via the mechanism of media it has becomes not only the culture of America but also the world. It is maintained, promoted and protected by the Media, the merchant, the missionary and the military. (4M’s). The stronger the American culture the stronger American products and services. The sushi food culture of Japan is now an aspect of globalization which makes a cultural deposit for Japan, enhancing Japan economically and socially. But the contemporary version, internationally known as “sushi“, was created by Hanaya Yohei (華屋与兵衛; 19th C). The sushi invented by Hanaya was an early form of fast food and had all the components which made it compatible as ambassador of Japanese culture. Every bite into Sushi is creating wealth back somewhere in Japan. And this understanding is something most of Africa has failed to do with its cuisines. (except Ethiopia) With all the “Black” celebrities out there and governments why is branding African culture cuisine by internationalizing not being done? So that every time someone eats jerk chicken it creates 10 jobs back in Jamaica. The Halal cultures of Muslim people is also another example of culture and power tied to economy. Airplanes, restaurants all over the world to accommodate Muslims adopt Halal standards for food. In South Africa, despite having a Muslim minority, the majority of the poultry products are Halal. This is the power of culture to impose itself in the market place. So culture is more than a fringe accessory it is tied heavily to national development. [9770] CULTURE’s PURPOSE & PROCESS Every society develops a culture through a plurality of shared norms, customs, values, traditions, social roles, symbols and languages. Socialization is thus ‘the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained” ( Socialization and Society ).

The agents of socialization are 1. Family 2. Religion 3. Peer Group 4. Education 5. Economic 6. Legal systems 7. Penal systems 8. Mass media and News media Organizations. Karenga identifies six areas of cultural activity: History, Religion, Social organization, Economic organization, Political organization, and Creative Production. [2]

Culture is therefore a complete process, that is not limited to “the people”, it is at a legal level, a family level, an a political level. When you land in Israel you see a complete set of systems working in tandem which promote an Israeli national culture. When you land in the USA you see American culture, it is not a coincidence those things which shout “This is America”. As mentioned before, it might be called Western, but it is someone’s culture. French culture, Italian culture, etc are promoted at a state level. So in Africa the political process has an inescapable responsibility to African culture.

t is a global religious concept that humanity was designed to govern self. to make moral choices in the face of challenges, to protect the weak, care for the old and the sick and balance all these things against lust and greed and all the other challenges of life. To eat but not to deplete, to enjoy life but not to exploit life. To pursue happiness but not by denying other joy.

To protect communal traditions while rooting out harmful practices and also to find ways to create a viable future for the broadest possible human demographic.

Culture is the most pertinent response to these challenges. Culture instructs our lives with values and habits which service our humanity. Many aspects of African culture have a role in our continuation. When you see a huge taboo sign, that is because long time ago, African ancestors realized, to walk down that road is to entertain failure. It became institutionalized in culture. Cultures like religion uses “do’s” and “dont’s” to frame structures which maintain the societies from which they come. Marriage, eating, death, all have no-no areas to in principle protect those community characteristics which are passed down the generations.

What we must always considering in studying Africa is the multiplicity of identities and the dynamic nature of human culture. Cultures smash through borders, languages, notions of ethnicity, religion and political parties. So African identity is not one hard thing but a multitude of self-imposed conditions which ideologically run fluidly across indigenous Africa; it is not a scientific observation but a cultural-political one.  Human cultures share a common theme. Family is central; the collection of cultural features is politically and sociologically threaded together for common interest where Africa is concerned.

So what is the real issue the West has with the Hijab? The Hijab is a cultural political symbol of the face of the rise of Islam. Every year more the streets of Europe see more women wearing this “alien” dress. The traditional imposition of White supremacy is being beaten back by an pigmented culture. Now the Muslim is again in Europe, but not with weapons of war, but weapons of culture. We can now see White skinned British girls walking down Oxford street in hijab which spits in the face of “Europeanization.” And the new cuisine, language are all carried on the wings multiculturalism, the same multiculturalism that keeps the West powerful via fresh labor, skills, and money. So every attempt is being made to have the cake and eat it to, keep the perks of diversity while attempt to Europeanize them as they did with the African-Caribbean community. The irony is that the strength of “the other” in Europe is because of their cultural identity. Once that is gone the social function that multiculturalism serves will vanish and become social delinquency. [10423]


Humans are all the same, if you cut us we bleed, if you oppress us we rebel. Makes no difference if it is from the chains of slavery or the ovens of Nazi Germany. And all people in bad situation have degrees of culpability and self-harm. The one factor that influences that degree is culture and the identity that comes out of that culture. The more institutionalize that culture and identity the harder it will be to enslave a people or maintain them in a state of unconscious oppression.

Post Nazi-Germany Jews actually create a stronger Jewish identity creating in the wake of their Holocaust new cultural/religious structures which reinforced Jewishness. In the case of the African-American the cultures which came across the Atlantic during the African Holocaust held out for centuries but under the pressure and ferocity of the Maafa collapsed into a state where the cultural structures failed as means of retaining identity. It can be argued that if the Jews were also exposed to the peculiar conditions of the Maafa a similar pattern of destruction would have been visited on them culturally. The only saving factor was as a group they had a highly Institutionalize culture and the short duration of the Jewish Holocaust. Culturally Africans in America were from far too diverse ethnic groups to retain an cultural identity–the solution or response was they made a new one.

Critical mass theory applied to identity: if you do not have enough matter (identity) in oppression your system collapses under pressure. If you have enough critical matter even oppression will have the opposite desired effect by creating a super nova of locating revolution within the structures of cultural identity. Testimony to this is the Western assault on Muslim peoples globally. Since the crusades this assault has done nothing be reform different responses from Muslim communities, it has never quelled Islam’s potency as a cultural-ideological contender for world power.


What we chose to see as a united culture is purely subjective and politically motivated. That does not mean there is not an underlying texture or aesthetic found in African cultures North, South, East and West. But again all the arguments used to support why Akan and Khoisan share some deep relationship could equally be used to explain the cultural relationship between semitic people’s of the world (Ethiopia, Arabia, etc).

Genetically African people are very diverse, so much so that an Ethiopian and a Zulu have more genetic variation between them than say a Chinese and an Indian, or an Persian and a German. Why would we assume culture would be the same? What force is working within the African continent to unify cultures, considering its complex barriers (Sahara, Ethiopian mountains, deserts of Southern Africa, Lakes, Jungles)? Why would ‘Africaness’ arrive at a desert in Mauritania and stop, yet continue to express itself from Senegal down to South Africa?

When we put a challenge to it we start to realize it is a figment of our imagination not really an anthropological reality. If language carries culture then already it is proving Africa is not acultural monolith. If religion carries culture then already Islam’s distribution in Africa proves the monolithic notion has in flaws.[10963]


(This section introduces an argument for commonality)

Words have limits. Just try using only words to describe the smell of the perfume in an Ethiopian church. These limits of words to express what is African culture do not mean it is not there. So words can not express what makes something African from Ethiopia to Ghana. But the complete cultural package is recognized at some higher level by the viewer, as African.

African culture today is varied and diverse yet a common thread latches these diverse cultures into one African family. Diversity does not mean all of these cultures do not come under a central Pan-African umbrella because there is a perceived widespread psychological and cultural themes and patterns that there are unique to African people. This view of seeing a universality in Africa is admittedly a political one because of a common history and a common need for Pan-African unity.

African culture is far greater than the sum of the individual parts. Regardless of ingredients, cultural identity is expressed through its core aesthetic. If one likens African culture to jazz, which contains drums, piano, and trumpet? These ingredients are not unique to jazz as Scandinavian music may have in the same ingredients but jazz is instantly recognizable and radically different from Scandinavian music. African culture may have in non-exclusive and global ingredients such as reverence for; ancestors, marriage traditions, spirituality, dance but how these various ingredients interact in both a tangible and intangible way constitutes the cultural uniqueness.

Senghor (1966), in comparing Africans and Europeans, argues that there is a unique African world view focused on what he describes as “being” and “life forces.” He writes The African has always and everywhere presented a concept of the world which is diametrically opposed to the traditional philosophy of Europe. The latter is essentially static, objective, dichotomous; it is, in fact, dualistic, in that it makes an absolute distinction between body and soul, matter and spirit. It is founded on separation and opposition, on analysis and conflict. The African, on the other hand, conceives the world, beyond the diversity of its forms, as a fundamentally mobile yet unique reality that seeks synthesis….This reality is being, in the ontological sense of the word, and it is life force. For the African, matter in the sense the Europeans understand it, is only a system of signs which translates the single reality of the universe: being, which is spirit, which is life force. Thus, the whole universe appears as an infinitely small, and at the same time infinitely large, network of life forces…”



The moral foundation of African culture across the African world is communal based. So fundamental is this in informing African ethics that everything; dance, music, marriage is impacted upon. Music is communal, harvesting crops is communal, even eating is communal: Every ritual and rite is tied into bonding and reaffirming communal bonds. So when people say Gay marriage is un-African, despite their inability to articulate it beyond “un-African,” they are speaking to the moral communal foundation of African societies which always place the community above the individual. Rights also cannot supersede those “rights” ordained in nature; those things which are incompatible with peoplehood are therefore generally incompatible with African values. And in this communal setting, marriage is a coming together of communities, via two individuals, with the promise of peoplehood. Polygyny then comes into logic by satisfying not a lustful role, but a social one.

The shifting dynamics of culture does not mean an alteration in the fundamental principles of that culture. And here we must distinguish between the practices of a people and their cultural ideal–The superego of culture. [1] The rise of sexual immorality in African communities is a reality, this does not mean these immoralities are an aspect of African culture. Because these trends are not desirable and are not encouraged; they go against the superego of the cultural ideal. Culture informs feelings of inadequacy when strayed from. Hence people remark, “this is not my culture, I don’t want to do it”, this is the notion of “cultural shame,” which retains the boundaries by ostracizing people who go against its moral core. Sometimes a community knows a transgression is occurring but looks the other way, if it is conducted outside of the communal space. Prostitution is rife on some streets in Addis Ababa, everyone knows why those girls are standing by the roadside. But it is never spoken about–the society ignores them. There is a coexistence of two extremes and a fine line of tolerance.

Outside of these exceptions Ethiopian society is highly conservative. Two people kissing on national television would set the nation off. So certain areas have unwritten rules of “exceptions” it is a kind of “slack” that keeps the balance. But if that balance starts to contaminate the larger moral pool, then it is ruthlessly crushed. To the outsider it might seem like double standards but it is the run-off, or ‘acceptable negative’ a society accommodates. And this is perhaps where African cultures differ from their Western counterpart, because in the West vulgarity and antisocial behavior is an identity in itself, something to be proud off. Even an Ethiopian prostitute would shake her head in disgust at the goings-on and pride of a Western porn star. And what we have to understand is how shame is dealt with even in the act of transgression. So an African woman, from a conservative society, engages in sex outside of marriage there is a coyness even when in the act. A respectability even in a perceived indignity. A shyness and a denial of enjoyment, so as not to complete feel as if they have lost their moral anchor. In African societies even the most liberal know to keep their liberal habits outside of the gaze of the community. Everyone knows in Ethiopia certain women go into bars and drink and solicit men. But they all know once you hit the public streets you still must fit into the cultural ideal of modest behavior.

African culture would take on an entire dynamic if we isolated township culture in South Africa is being archetypal of African culture. These cultures are direct products of apartheid and poverty. And we must distinguish between the cultural habits associated with poor education and impoverishment.(such as alcoholism and sexual promiscuity)

Across Africa, now and then, sexual relationships have been imposed upon by certain cultural taboos. For example, in Ethiopia, and most of modern-Africa, overt display of affection are culturally frowned on. While in Europe it is not uncommon to see two people tongue kissing in public. All kinds of sexuality related habits are governed by the majority culture of a specific location across the globe. It would be fair to say that modesty is the overriding theme in African sexuality in the public space.

The culture core of Africa from KMT to Aksum to now has retained a unique allegiance to life and those systems which produce life. That fundamental relationship to harmony with nature is unaltered, even with the coming of Christianity. The centrality of music and dance and family is unaltered. The minutia details and rituals may have altered but the communities still revere their ancestors and celebrate new life and marriage.


Cultural imperialism is the domination of one culture over another other by a deliberate policy or by economic or technological superiority. Africa is undoubtedly the victim of cultural imperialism and its mechanisms today are none other than globalization. The agents of this imperialism are mass media and unfair trade. The consequences of this imperialism are under-development, lost of identity and language and destruction of markets (e.g. where traditional African clothes are replaced with Western ones).

Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude. (Alexander, Victoria D. (2003). “The Cultural Diamond – The Production of Culture”. ) This form of imperialism first entered Africa with colonialism, both Arab and European. It is also perpetuated via religion, education, language, and socialization. It is not however exclusively a Africa v non-African issue. Continental Africans see African-Americans as their mirror in modernity. As the imposition of African-American identity in style, music and mannerisms is imposed on African communities. Nor is cultural imperialism in Africa confined to this era. The history of Africa, as with everywhere else in the world, marked with degrees of cultural imperialism. And in Ancient Ethiopia and Ancient Egypt we see examples of this.

You will notice with all the “integration” going around Jews and Muslims do not do much of it in the West. Sure you might work next to Abdul in the office but when he goes home he is living on a middle class Pakistani Barking (East London) address, he is eating Curry from his Uncle’s restaurant, he will get married in Pakistan, on Friday he goes to the Mosque in his Kamiz. He speak Urdu to his family, he is not integrated where he loses himself. The same is not true for the new generation of African Caribbean people in the UK, who with the exception of one and two words in patois, is a cultural orphan of English culture.

XMAS And European Agency: Xmas has been normalized as a Cultural product of the European environment.. Xmas has sledges, it has in reindeer, snow, Christmas trees (European evergreen conifers), people (all over the world in tropic Africa to monsoon India) singing “May all your Xmas be White”. So a holiday celebrating the birth of a Jewish man from a warm Mediterranean climate has been 100% Europeanized in line with their culture. And this is not the end, they have then exported that cultural interpretation to everyone else and made it the standard. This is the power of European agency. Had it been our agency, we would have Acacia trees and no conifers, we would have no mistletoe, we would have Antelope instead of reindeer, as symbols of the Holiday.


When studying Africa from the eyes of Whiteness. Many assumptions are made. Europeans have a tradition of treating African culture the same way Zoologist study animals in the wild. [4] For example because the Arab trade favored women, it is said that some ethnic groups disfigured their faces (Mursi lip adornment) in an attempt to dissuade enslavers who sought beautiful women.

This is however a baseless Eurocentric anthropological fringe theory which is typical of ignorance of African culture. Lip stretching, like neck stretching in Asia or foot binding are culturally localized types of beauty, which are not rooted in European sensibilities and hence not subjected to Eurocentric logic. In absence of slavery similar body ornaments are worn by both sexes of the Suyá people, a Brazilian group. Europeans see what is perceived as “ugly” and assume their perceptions are universal and hence seek reasons (from their own culture) why someone would practice certain rituals. [4]

Since the 1960s, the predominant approach to social and cultural research among social scientists has been that of isolationist, clearly defined society, population, sector, geographically defined area. This approach has been championed as a progressive replacement to the former tradition of Eurocentric broad sweeping generalizations at higher levels of social organization such as the ethnic group, society, nation or geographical regions. [5] [12847] [1]


[1] The African Culture Complex:


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