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West African Culture. Powerpoint presentation created by: Sally Horowitz Library Media Specialist Northside Elementary Midway, KY. West African Storytelling.

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West African Culture

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West african culture l.jpg

West African Culture

Powerpoint presentation created by:

Sally Horowitz

Library Media Specialist

Northside Elementary

Midway, KY

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West African Storytelling

  • Africans love a good story and a good storyteller. They are primarily an oral people (their stories are not written down, but told verbally), and are often created to be performed with music and dance.

  • Histories and stories of a people that come to us in a spoken and sung form are part of what is called an oral tradition. Oral tradition means that the stories are told rather than written down.

  • Because people hold the oral tradition in their memory, sometimes the story changes with the telling. Have you ever played telephone?

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African Storytelling

(Click for movie)

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Who is Ananse?

  • Ananse (also spelled Anansi) is one of the most popular characters in West African storytelling.

  • He is a trickster. Trickster tales use animal characters with human features to help us understand human nature.

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Where is West Africa?

  • West Africa is the region of western Africa that includes the countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

  • It is on what is known as the “Bulge of Africa.”

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Regional Overview

(Click for movie)

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African People and Culture

  • There are many different people and tribes in western Africa - with their culture varying from tribe to tribe. We are going to learn about two groups: The Mandinka and the Ashanti people.

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Who are the Mandinka?

  • The Mandinka are an ethnic group that live in West Africa, primarily Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

  • Most Mandinka are farmers.

  • Mandinka have a rich oral history that is passed down through praise singers or griots.

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What is a Griot?

  • A griot is a West African storyteller-musician. A griot doesn’t just tell stories. They typically accompany themselves on a stringed instrument. They still play an important role today—to tell people about the past, to keep their history alive, and to safeguard their traditional culture. They sing the history of a tribe or family at weddings, naming ceremonies, and other social and religious occasions.

    (Click to hear an example of Griot singing)

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Some Griot instruments

  • A kora is made from a calabash, (a fruit like a watermelon) that has been cut in half. The front is made of cowskin. A traditional kora has 21 strings, made of fishing line. The strings are plucked by the thumb and forefinger of each hand.

    Click here for a video:

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  • A balaphone is similar to a xylophone, with 17-21 wooden slats that are played with two mallets.

    Click here for a video:

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African Drums

  • Drums are used for sending messages to the people in town, for ceremonies such as weddings or naming ceremonies, and even for healing sick people.

  • There are many different kinds of drums. Here is an example of a djembe from Mali:

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Who are the Ashanti people?

  • The Ashanti live in central Ghana in western Africa. They are the largest tribe in Ghana.

  • In each village, the Chief and Elders maintain traditional customs and ceremonies and deal with disputes.

  • The Ashanti religion is a mixture of spiritual and supernatural powers. They believe that plants, animals, and trees have souls. Does that remind you of any other culture?

  • The Ashanti are known for their gold and metal crafts, woodcarving, and brightly colored woven cloth called kente.

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An Ashanti ceremony

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Ashanti people

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Why do people tell stories?

  • Every human culture in the world has created stories as a way of making sense of the world.

  • Sharing the human experience - to express or communicate emotion, feelings, ideas, and information.

  • Passing on tradition and culture - (e.g., storytelling, folktales, myths and legends)

  • Recreational drama for entertainment

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What are some popular forms of telling stories in our culture today?

  • Books

  • Movies

  • Television shows

  • Plays

  • Broadway musicals

  • YouTube videos

  • Magazines

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  • Background downloaded from: Backgrounds Etc.http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Ranch/4842/africa.html

  • An introduction by Professor Cora Agatucci to the nature of storytelling in Africa: http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum211/afrstory.htm

  • Map and article on West Africa from Wikipedia free encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Africa

  • African and African-American Folktales. United Learning (1993). Retrieved February 26, 2007, from Unitedstreaming: http://www.unitedstreaming.com

  • Anansi image: http://www.anansi.org/webwalker/intro.html

  • Regional overview of West Africa: World Geography: Africa. Discovery Channel School (2004). Retrieved February 26, 2007, from Unitedstreaming: http://www.unitedstreaming.com

  • Information about the Ashanti and Mandinka people:






  • Gambian Griot School of Music and Dancehttp://home.planet.nl/~verka067/African_griot.html

  • Example of Griot singing: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/griotimages.html

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