'I want to go to Africa'

By: Jessica-Debby N. Ndjadila

‘I want to go to Africa.’ a common phrase that everyone has heard once or twice in their lifetime. This expressionary phrase has slowly transgressed into a worldwide cliché. Everyone seems keen on visiting Africa these days. Be it African Americans, Afro-Asians, Afro-Europeans-in fact; forget about the whole Afro-diaspora around the world. Everyone wants to have a piece of Africa engraved in their hearts. A continent with an area of about 30.370.000 km2in size, plus 54 different countries- choosing which country to visit may be slightly confusing. It is this same confusion that has led to the Western world, generalizing the whole African continent as if it were one country.

A lady from the Hamar tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

For those who have heard or even watched Beyoncé’s viral and visionary film titled ‘Black Is King’ may be fully aware of the mixed feelings received by people in Africa, regarding the depiction of African cultures in the album. Many Africans online, publicly critiqued the album as merely showing a stereotypical generalization of African cultures within t

he continent. Though a large percentage of Africans enjoyed the album, they still felt that it was a ‘mere generalization’.

Truth be told, you will not witness exactly what Beyoncé showcased in the album, upon visiting Africa. Africa is a continent filled with so many cultures, tribes and indigenous languages- not even a full encyclopedia would give a full coverage on it. However, a simplified breakdown of the most popular populations or tribes in each part of Africa would somewhat follow in this manner:

  • Starting with Southern Africa, the first people you will hear about, are the San, who are known for their slim and short physique. They often still live a very semi-nomadic hunting lifestyle within the countries of Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. They usually wear a small piece of fabric made from animal hides and always carry bows and poisoned arrows as weapons to catch prey.

  • Diving into East Africa be prepared to meet the Maasai people. They are mostly found within the countries of Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai people are known for their colorful and very bright clothing called the ‘Shuka’. It is believed that their colorful clothing has the ability to scare off lions from afar.

  • We obviously can’t forget about the heart of Africa. I ‘m talking about the Hutu tribe of Central Africa, found in Burundi. The Hutu tribe is known for their exorbitant importance placed on owning countless cattle.

  • Looking into Western Africa, the Igbo people of Nigeria and some parts of Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are known for their variety of delicious soups. These mouthwatering and tantalizing soups are made from vegetables, seeds and fruits all carefully mixed to produce akwu, ofe owerri and other delicacies.

But what about other populations, tribes, clans or even sub-clans that I failed to mention? Many, because there are more than 3.000 different ethnic groups on the continent. And yes, I failed to give a full coverage of Africa’s diversity as well. Even though it is my own continent. Do you see how it is impossible to exactly pinpoint a continent full of so many diverse cultures, languages and ethnicities? As I emphasized earlier on, one cannot simply provide a full coverage of the African Continent in an article or within a 15-minute spectrum.

Generalizations of Africa tend to do more harm than good. Through generalization, an assumption is easily made and all African cultures are discussed in broad brushstrokes, which leads to a lack of knowledge about the continent. So even though you can’t name all of them, please remember that we have distinctive cultural practices, languages and beliefs. This is what makes up the heart of Africa which in turn unites us as all Africans.

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