Sub-Saharan Africa Global Village Lecture

Sub-Saharan Africa Global Village Intro Lecture

The Sub-Saharan Global Village is an example of how evolution works in cultural, social, and historical realms,  as well as biological spheres.  The African global village has evolved amidst endless tribal unrest and ethnic confrontations.  Indigenous populations have endured forced acculturation and cultural upheavals over a span of centuries.  The most noted ones are the slave economies originating in the early  seventh century by Arab traders infiltrating from the North, and the European colonizations following a several centuries later.

Africa’s first global village has contributed greatly to many of the other global villages, as we shall see.  Since we are all descendants of these ancient villagers, we should take note of the many aspects of cultural heritage, which they have contributed to the world.  Art from the African global village is unique and easily recognized, from sculptures, masks, rock art, ear studs, anklets, to creative body painting.

Wooden Mask

Cave Painting

Cave Art

Wood Sculptures

Seen here are a few examples of the artistic legacy left to us from the early African global villagers.  Foods that are becoming common among other global villages, due to their amazing health and life-giving properties are also an inheritance we often forget.  Such well-known foods as watermelon, yams, black-eyed peas, okra, and sesame were first domesticated by our ancient African ancestors in small plots around their villages.  Little-known grains, indigenous to Africa are sorghum, and teff, which are now in grocery stores and farmers’ markets around the world.  Teff, has a long history dating back to about 4,000 years ago.  It was a staple of ancient Abyssinia, now Ethiopia.  Little used in America, it is a wonderful breakfast cereal.

A topic that needs a complete book to discuss is the slave trade, which became a major part of the economic system of Africa, and not just Sub-Saharan.  The entire continent, with both dominant culture regions are all connected to slavery.  Most people associate the slave issue with the United States more commonly than any other country, but slavery was not and is not a new subject.  Slavery is associated with many ancient civilizations, including Native American, Arabic, all of the Medieval world, Mesoamerican cultures, and virtually every continent in today’s world as well.

Slavery was practiced among many African cultures within the African continent long before it became an economic commodity and added value to colonial plantations.  To name only a few of the ethnic groups and locations that engaged in slavery in Africa were the Bantu, the Duala, the Bakongo, the Cokwe of Angola, the Lozi of Zambia, the Swahilis, and the Sena of Mozambique.  In other words it was practiced across the continent from East to West and North to South.  This was the internal slavery network; but the external also began in pre-colonial Africa.  Slaves were traded across the Sahara, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Arabic and Indian ocean worlds.

As most students have seen portrayed in books and movies, ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome used African slaves, as well as slaves from their own populations.  Colonialism, after the age of exploration in the early 15th century, African slave labor was sought for the many plantations producing sugar cane, coffee, tea, cotton, and spices.


Even the slave trade, as inhumane as it was, gave to the world cultural legacies that remain a part of many Global Villages.  Slaves, wherever their destination, carried with them seeds, songs, and stories that were replanted and nourished to grow in other lands.  Female slaves became cooks and caretakers and wet nurses to  children.  In the Southern United States, plantation cooks’ legacies are today’s “soul food.”

Soul foods evolved using various cooking techniques available such as frying, steaming, baking, and boiling. The “big house” cooks combined foods they were familiar with and foods that were long-held staples in southern cooking. Some basic soul foods that are on Southern U. S. menus are: black-eyed peas, chiterlings (pig intestines cooked and eaten with vinegar and hot sauce), country-fried steak and chicken, cracklins (pork rinds), smoked ham hocks, and hog-head cheese. Nothing was ever wasted by the plantation cooks, so hog-head cheese is made from pig snouts, lips, ears and souse, which is combined and cooked with vegetables.

The following video demonstrates how to make “authentic” hog-head cheese.  It is not a professional video, but the cook is very thorough and fun to watch.  It takes him about three days to complete, and it is a recipe handed down from his grandmother.  Enjoy this video and realize that soul food is comfort food and very delicious.  However, the plantation cooks from yesterday did not have it as easy as the cook in this video.  You may have to copy and paste the following link into your browser.

The songs and rhythms brought from the Sub-Saharan African global village have infiltrated almost every music genre. The rhythms demonstrated in the following video,  illustrate just how much cultural influence the music styles from this Global Village have had throughout the world.  Entertainment with music and dance is such a vital part of all cultures; and those rhythms of music and dance from south of the Sahara Desert ring true in African-American music.  Such genres as calypso from the Caribbean and salsa, samba, and rumba are, all part of Africa, are influential throughout the Latin American Global Village.  African music also includes musical instruments such as different kinds of drums, bells, harps, flutes, rattles, and sticks.  The blues and jazz styles of music also exhibit African influence as you can imagine. You may need to copy and paste the video link below into your browser.

What you have just read is about migrations of influences that have come out of Africa, where one culture brings to another cultural things that become incorporated within their new culture.  Diffusion, however, works both ways.  Newcomers into an area adapt to their new surroundings and their new culture by incorporating the new cultural patterns into their own long-held patterns from their homelands.  Africans, however have been influenced by multiple migrations of peoples within their own country.  Africa is a vast continent where internal migrations have been a way of life over long periods of time.  Many groups have been conquered and have also been the conquerors.  Such internal conquests over centuries has led to complexity of cultural patterns from religion to agriculture to weapons of war.

The most prominent and historic movement of peoples south of the Sahara Desert have been the Bantu-speaking peoples who have moved into nearly every region in the Sub-Saharan territories.  There are Bantu speakers in East, Central, and South Africa. These speakers brought with them other aspects of their varied cultures besides language.  Each time a group of people settle into a new area, their cultural patterns change accordingly.  They introduce new cultural ideas and patterns.  This is the way that Ethnic Groups the world over become more and more complex.   Historians are not always able to determine exactly why people begin to move in different directions, but some causes may be  climate change, better pastures, or more access to water.  Migrations may be because of tribal conflicts, natural disasters, civil wars, other groups moving in and becoming dominant, ethnic cleansing, leaving rural areas for city life and/or better ways of making a living, or youthful desires for change.  Whatever the reasons, Africans have been on the move, both inside and outside of their homelands for most of their cultural history.

In Lesson One of this series of Global Villages, you studied the Ethnic Group definition, but perhaps are still not sure exactly what an Ethnic Group is.  Every cultural area begins with a small group of people.  Some move into an area and some move out, as relative to migrations noted above.  Each time a group is influenced by another group, cultural patterns become connected and people become interdependent on each other.  When a group occupies a region for a long period of time, perhaps over centuries or even longer, they develop unique cultural ties  that bind them together as you learned.  This is an Ethnic Group.  There are literally hundreds of ethnic groups in the Sub-Saharan Africa culture region.  Follow this link to ethnic groups to see how they are dispersed throughout this global village. You may need to copy and paste the following link into your browser.  This link gives you lists of groups in different sections of the continent.

This is the list from which you may choose three ethnic groups you want to research further for the writing assignment, which is optional.  Feedback will be given on this assignment.

The groups listed may be small and tribal, or large enough to be called a nation; or they may have historic ties to an ancient kingdom or a great empire of the past as you viewed in the video about the Nubians.

These villagers have left their mark upon humanity in so many ways, flowing in all directions, not only over the vast distances of their own long-ago homelands, but into all the other global villages across the world. We often forget how amazing ancient cultures were, and how hard they must have worked to  pave our way into today.

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