Africa is a continent that prides itself of a multiplicity of ethnic tribes as well as diverse cultures that accompany each tribe. These cultures have held root despite the influence of westernization, and are still passed down from generation to generation and have become what is known as customs and practices.
Some of these practices are so dumbfounding, that it will take you a while to comprehend how and why they are still practiced. Irrespective of this, they still are the most interesting African cultural practices we have on the continent.
Most Interesting African Cultural Practices
- The Chewa community’s festival for the dead
- Bull jumping feat in Ethiopia
- Lip stretching of girls from the Surma community
- Kidnapping of your bride in Sudan
- Wife stealing night dance of the Wodaabe of Nigeria
- The potency test of the Banyankole of Uganda
- Determining one’s measure of wealth through number of cows by the Pokot of Kenya
- Spitting one’s greeting by the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania
- Beating the suitor by the Fulani of West Africa
1.The Chewa Community’s Festival for the Dead
This is a Bantu tribe found in Malawi. When a tribe member has died, it is customary for the deceased’s body to be washed during the burial ceremony. After the corpse has been washed, it is taken to a shrine where a cleansing ritual that entails slitting of the deceased’s throat and pouring of water into the inside of the dead person through the orifices.
After that, the water that had been poured inside the corpse’s body is squeezed out until no more is left. The mouth dropping part of the practice is that the water squeezed out of the corpse is collected and used to prepare a meal for the community.
2.Bull Jumping Feat in Ethiopia
Being a male child in Africa requires you to undergo various tests, rituals, and rites of passage to prove your manhood to the community. Bull jumping is very captivating to watch and it forms part of cultural events in Africa that are a must see.
It entails a series of events whereby, the young man strips naked, runs and is supposed to land on the Bulls’ back. When this is done, he is now supposed to run across the backs of several bulls that are usually arranged in a straight line by the elders by holding them by the horns and tail. Despite its precarious nature, this practice is quite captivating to watch.
3.Lip Stretching of Girls From the Surma Community
On reaching their teenage years, girls of the Surma community of South Sudan begin the process of lip stretching. This is done by having some of her lower jaw teeth knocked out so as to create space for a lip plate which is then fixed in.
The girls’ mothers are tasked with this gruesome task. It is not quite clear why this practice is done. But rumor has it that, the girl with the biggest lip plate gets the highest bride price paid for her.
4.Kidnapping of Your Bride in Sudan
The Luka tribe of Sudan have an interesting way of wooing their brides to be. When a suitor has chosen the woman he intends to marry, he usually kidnaps her. Strange practice it is, but it is still, considered as one of the best African cultural practices we have in Africa. The thrill it brings makes one feel like they are on set, shooting a movie during the 80’s.
After kidnapping his bride, the elderly members of his family go and ask the bride’s father for her hand in marriage. If the bride’s father agrees, he does so by beating up the suitor as a sign of acceptance of their marriage.
5.Wife Stealing Night Dance of the Wodaabe of Nigeria
This practice forms part of the best traditional events in Africa, as it is done during the festive season. Members of the community go out dancing in the night. However, the dancing is not considered complete until one bizarre action of stealing women from their tribe takes place.
Men are allowed to steal women from their tribe, irrespective of whether the woman is married or not. The man is at liberty to keep her legitimately unless the woman does not consent to it or her husband catches the other man in the process of trying to steal her.
6.The Potency Test of the Banyankole of Uganda
Marriage is considered quite a big deal in Uganda. And as a result, the aunt plays a major role in advising her nieces as they pass through various stages such as puberty and later on marriage.
However, things take an interesting twist where the aunt is also required to have sex with the groom. This is meant to test the groom’s potency before the bride and groom are given a chance to consummate their union. She also has to test the bride’s virginity before allowing her to get married.
7.Determining one’s Measure of Wealth Through Number of Cows by the Pokot of Kenya
The Pokot people are mostly pastoralists or farmers. However, cattle herding carries the day as their main source of livelihood. This is because of the notion and age-old custom that to them, wealth is determined by the number of cows a person owns.
The cows are also used for barter trade and they are also used to determine bridewealth to be paid in terms of a number of cows. Polygamy is only allowed if the man has enough cows in his herds to offer in exchange as bride price.
What beats logic about this practice is that the cattle are hardly ever slaughtered. This is because they consider them to be of more value alive than dead. As they provide milk and butter which form part of the tribe’s daily meals. This practice can be said to be one of the best African cultural practices there are because many tribes in Africa are pastoralists and they can relate to the importance of cattle.
8.Spitting one’s greeting by the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania
The practice of spitting their greetings has been done since time immemorial. The spitting is considered to be a kind of blessing upon the one being greeted. Maasai warriors also spit in their hands before exchanging pleasantries such as shaking of hands, with elders as a sign of respect and to bless them too.
Newborn babies are also not an exception to the rule as they are also spat on too. This is meant to bless them and ward off bad omen away from them by saying that the baby is bad. By doing this, they believe that evil spirits will not haunt the baby.
9.Beating the Suitor by the Fulani of West Africa
The practice of beating the suitor is not an everyday occurrence. But when it happens, a traditional practice called sharo is done. Sharo takes place when two men intend to marry the same woman by mere coincidence or pure malice. To sort this conflict of interest, the young men have to beat each other up.
The man who triumphs by taking in the beating without grimacing in pain wins the bride. Irrespective of its precarious nature, it is one of the cultural events in Africa that has stood the test of time and continues to hold root to date.
Africa is a free spirit, unique and mystical. It is characterized by a people of diverse culture and ethnic diversity, who are willing to preserve their culture to its fullest despite the enormous pressure and beckoning from the rest of the world to go modern.
As seen in the aforementioned scenarios, it has proved difficult to let go of these practices as our societies are essentially pegged on them. And despite the fact that some of them are quite gruesome, precarious, gross and mindboggling, they still continue to be the most interesting African cultural practices that give each community its identity.