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Traditional African Society

Traditional African Society

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Traditional African Society

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  1. Traditional African Society =

  2. 1000 different languages; 1000+ different tribes

  3. Stateless Societies

  4. Early African Societies

  5. Early Farming Societies Pastoralists in Sahara • During early phase of their history, Africans lived as hunter-gatherers • About 9,000 years ago, some began to grow native crops • In some parts, pastoralism, practice of raising herd animals, arose before farming • First farmers likely pastoralists of Sahara—wetter 8,000 years ago • 5,000 years ago climate changed, Sahara became drier • As land became desert, people migrated to Mediterranean coast, Nile Valley, parts of West Africa Early African Societies Anthropologists think that the first humans lived in East Africa. Over thousands of years, people spread out over the continent, forming distinct cultures and societies. By about 2500 BC many people in these regions practiced herding and mixed farming.

  6. Stateless Societies • Stateless societies cultural groups in which authority is shared by lineages of equal power instead of being exercised by a central government; no one executive ruler • Community rule over individual rule Usually the community that made the decisions consisted of male family heads

  7. Stateless Societies • Function of mobile population, underpopulation, and land as resource • Even when dense population, there was no state • Hunters valued over warriors • Ideal was the large complex household with Big Man surrounded by 10-40 people • Control happened laterally, not hierarchically (secret societies, age-grade societies, ritual experts as mediators)

  8. What are some characteristics of a stateless society? • Society divided into lineages – group traces its collective ancestry to a common ancestor • Authority is balanced among the various lineages – families. • No single group holds a majority of power. • Operate through sharing of ideas and possessions, and cooperation is how they assume that society will operate.

  9. Stateless Societies HOME Lineages share power Elders negotiate conflict No centralized authority Age-set system continued . . .

  10. Characteristics of Traditional Tribal Life

  11. Tribes • a political group that comprises several bands or lineage groups, each with similar language and lifestyle and occupying a distinct territory

  12. Common Traits or Characteristics of Traditional African Tribal Life • The good of the group comes ahead of the good of the individual. • All land is owned by the group. • Strong feeling of loyalty to the group. • Important ceremonies at different parts of a person’s life. • Special age and work associations. • Deep respect for ancestors. • Religion is an important part of everyday life. • Government is in the hands of the chiefs [kings].

  13. An African’s “Search for Identity” 1. Nuclear Family 2. Extended Family 3. Age-Set 4. Clan 5. Lineage (ancestry) TRIBE (communal living)

  14. Social Structures Common Features • Many societies developed village-based cultures • At heart, extended family living in one household • Families with common ancestors formed clans to which all members loyal Age-Sets • In some areas, people took part in type of group called age-sets • Men who had been born within same two, three years formed special bonds • Men in same age-set had duty to help each other Specific Duties • Loyalty to family, age-sets helped village members work together • Men hunted, farmed; women cared for children, farmed, did domestic chores • Even very old, very young had own tasks; elders often taught traditions to younger generations

  15. Structure of African Society

  16. Definitions • Tribe- group of people that share language, customs, traditions, geographic location • Clan- group of related families • Extended family- parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (common in Africa) • Nuclear family- parents and children (not common in Africa )

  17. Kinship and Family Ties

  18. How people are related in traditional African society? Kinship: means a relationship that binds two or more individuals • Blood relative • Marriage

  19. What is kinship? • Sense of being related to another person(s) • Set by rules (sometimes laws) • Often taken for granted as being “natural” rather than cultural • Cultures define “blood” relative differently

  20. Kinship Includes relationships through blood and through marriage. Functions: • Provides continuity between generations. • Defines a group on whom a person can rely for aid.

  21. Farming and herding societies consisted of extended families Kinships created strong bonds and a sense of community Family Ties

  22. Lineage: Lines of Descent

  23. Matrilineal versus Patrilineal

  24. Lineages • •Some societies group people in lineages—those with common ancestor • Members of a lineage have strong loyalties to one another • In some African societies, lineage groups take the place of rulers • These stateless societies balance power among lineages • Stateless societies—no centralized system of power

  25. Lineage • Means line of descent or family tree

  26. Patrilineal trace ancestors through fathers Matrilineal trace ancestors through mothers 20% of African societies are matrilineal today Traditional Societies: Family Descent

  27. Inheritance and Descent

  28. Patriarchal: Male-Dominated societyvery common in African tribes

  29. Patrilineage • Descent is traced through male lineage. • Inheritance moves from father to son, as does succession to office. • Man’s position as father and husband is the most important source of male authority. • Example: Nuer or Sudan.

  30. Found among 44% of all cultures • Kinship is traced through the male line • Males dominate position, power and property • Girls are raised for other families • Found in East and South Asia and Middle East Patrilineal Descent

  31. Matriarchal: female Dominatedsocietyuncommon

  32. Matrilineage • Descent is traced through the female line. • Children belong to the mother’s descent group. • The inclusion of a husband in the household is less important. • Women usually have higher status. • Example: Hopi.

  33. Matrilineal Descent • Found among 15% of all cultures • Kinship is traced through the female line • Women control land and products • Found in the Pacific, Australia, small parts of Mediterranean coast • Declining though capitalism

  34. Status and Roles of Women

  35. Status of Women

  36. Roles of Women • An African woman's roles are as life bearer, nurturer, and source of generations. • For an African woman in a traditional rural community, the chief measure of success in life is her ability to bear many children. • The very existence of the family and clan depends on women's ability to bear children, who will provide security for their parents in old age and who will continue to nourish the spirits of the ancestors through sacrificial offerings. • As a result, much African art is directed toward encouraging the fertility of women. • Many shrines are devoted to spirits that provide the blessings of fertility, and these frequently contain sculpture and other objects devoted to the concept of fertility.

  37. Marriage customs • Many traditional African societies are polygamous • Polygamy: having more than one spouse • Men may only have multiple wives if he can support them Bridewealth- payment a man gives a woman’s family before marriage (land, cattle, cloth, tools) Dowry- payment a woman’s family before marriage (land, cattle, cloth, tools) Some tribes allow divorce, some do not

  38. “No marry’d Women, after they are brought to Bed, lie with their Husbands till three Years are expired, if the Child lives so long, at which Time they wean their Children, and go to Bed to their Husbands. They say that if a Woman lies with her Husband during the Time she has a Child sucking at her Breast, it spoils the Child’s Milk, and makes it liable to a great many Distempers. Nevertheless, I believe, not one Woman in twenty stays till they wean their Children before they lie with a Man; and indeed I have very often seen Women much censur’d, and judged to be false to their Husbands Bed, upon Account only of their suckling Child being ill.”--F. Moore (European trader) on the River Gambia in the 1730s, Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa (London, 1738), pp. 132-3.

  39. Bride Wealth Part of Roles of Women

  40. Bride Wealth • It has been argued that such a system commodifies the bride and thus dehumanizes her, but others also make the argument that the system defines her value to the marriage in a concrete way and that it contributes to the stability of the marriage, because were the marriage to end in divorce the "bride-wealth" must be returned to the groom's family, and if it has already been invested in "bride-wealth" for the bride's own brothers this can be difficult indeed. • The "bride-wealth" creates a bond between the families which forces them to invest in the success of the marriage. • When there is trouble between husband and wife the relatives on both sides intervene to find a solution. • The male-female couple from the Dogon people of Mali represents the ideal of pairing that is necessary for procreation. • The linking of the male arm around the woman's neck emphasizes the bond that is created by marriage.

  41. Age Grade or Set

  42. Traditional Societies: Age-Set System • Age-Set System a cohort of young people within a region who are born during a certain period • Pass through life stages/rites of passage together • At each life stage the age group inherits different responsibilities • Boys and girls are generally separated

  43. Age Set • Group of boys or girls born in the same year • Go through rituals together • Transition into adulthood together • i.e. Manhood initiation • Circumcision ceremony for boys • Scarification- ritual markings for tribe

  44. The Age Grade System

  45. What are some advantages of an age-set system? • Each member can help others to pass through the various stages of life – they can also help each other obtain the specific individual benchmarks of each stage. • Teach discipline, community service, and leadership all together

  46. Problems of Tribalism Today

  47. Problems of Tribalism Today 1.The tribe is more important than the nation. 2.Communication problems. 3.Inter-tribal warfare  civil wars. 4.Tribal favorites for government jobs: Nepotism Breaks down tribal traditions. Urbanization: Tribal intermingling on the job.

  48. Tribalism problem • Tribalism is often a stronger force than nationalism. • Political parties based on tribes • Problem of creating nationalism artificially. Globalization & Diversity: Rowntree, Lewis, Price, Wyckoff