Culture and traditions

Indigenous communities of Africa

The indigenous people of Africa are the historical result of the various waves of immigrants that the continent has received over the centuries, as well as the changes that followed the colonization. In the following we show you a list with the main indigenous communities in Africa.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Pygmy Community

The Pygmy community is formed by a human group of hunter-gatherers that inhabit the African rainforests. Pygmies have a common physical characteristic: their short stature. So much so, that the average height of men is 1.5 m.

The majority of Pygmies inhabit the Congo region, located in central Africa. This community is made up of several tribal villages, among which the Mbuti, who inhabit the Ituri jungle (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Likewise, other communities such as the Aka, Baka, Binga, Gok, Efé and the Twa stand out.

These groups collect fruits, honey and tubers and are used to function through the barter of food and other materials with neighboring towns.

Twa or Batwa people, Pygmy Community, Africa

Some work in these villages, which is why the resulting language is a mixture between the different dialects of this set of towns. They hunt with nets, javelins and arrows several animals, including monkeys, pigs and several species of birds.

For these people, the jungle is owned by Jengi, the spirit of the jungle. In addition, the pygmies stand out for their vocal music compositions, among which the yodel or zip line singing, which consists in the singer making sudden changes in the tone of his vocal record.

The Bushmen

The Bushmen, also known as people Saint, Basarawa or Sho, constitute another indigenous community of Africa composed of hunter-gatherers.

The predominant languages ​​among these human groups belong to the family of so-called joisan languages, characterized by the use of clicks or clicks when talking. In turn, the term Bushman the Afrikaans proceed boschjesman, which literally means forest man.

The Bushmen are more than 95,000 people, which are distributed between Botswana, Namibia, Angola, the Republic of South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Botswana being the country where the largest number is found, with about 40,000 Bushmen.

However, as a whole, most Bushmen inhabit the kalahari desert, which covers an area of ​​more than 500,000 km² and is located in southern Africa, because during the s. XIX this human group maintained one of the largest commercial networks of the pre-colonial era through this desert.

Bushman woman

Among the most remarkable rituals of these groups, weddings or marriages by capture, especially the ceremonial aspects of them. Participants are required to assume from the moment they are knowledgeable about their marriage a behavior of great respect.

On the day of the wedding, a simulation is made in which the woman is captured and forcibly taken from her parents' house to another authorized for the occasion. The bodies of the bride and groom are spread in special oils and aromatic powders. All this ritual is performed with the objective that the marriage begins as something stormy.

The Masáis

The Masáis, Masái or Maasái are an indigenous people that inhabit Africa, specifically southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, especially in the Great Rift Valley. In total, it is estimated that there are about 880,000 inhabitants, who speak language ol maa, an oriental nilotic language.

However, being one of the best known African tribes internationally, many Maasai individuals know how to express themselves correctly in Swahili or even in English, as shown in the following video, where they also teach us the famous dance of the Masai jumps:

Los Masáis are a picturesque town that has survived the colonial era with its own culture intact. An example of it is its traditional animist religion, which revolves around mystical beliefs, although a minority has come to know Christianity.

Many cultural features of contemporary Masas are exactly the same as those of their ancestors, including the unimportance of the passage of time, but their existence is closely linked to the dawn and dusk, as well as the changing seasons.

The majority of Masáis are shepherds who travel great distances through the plains of the savannah in search of green pastures and water for their cattle, composed mainly of wildebeest, giraffes and zebras, among other animals.

Its economy and traditional culture are based, in short, on the livestock care (beef, sheep and goats). They barely live from agriculture, since their constant displacement prevents it, but they do pick up some plants and fruits that they find along the way.

It also highlights the maasai crafts, mainly her clothes, beads and hematite ornaments, among others. They usually dress with a red cloth and geometric details knotted on the shoulders.

Red traditional costume of the Masai tribe

The Suri

The Suri ethnic group, also called Surma, is an indigenous community that inhabits the southwest of Ethiopia, Kaffa Region, and part of the Boma Plain, in Sudan from the south.

They live in small huts made from branches and are one of the most aggressive warrior tribes in the region. Although they are known as Suri, they call themselves Lady or Dhuak.

Who are the suri?

Its economy is based on herds of cows, which are their main wealth, followed by agriculture, which has been greatly affected during the last decades by the civil war in Sudan, which has led them to acquire a poaching system along with the Nyangatom, which is ending With the wildlife of this region.

They are very introverted and possessive in relation to their territory and have no shame in getting to shoot those around.

In spite of the constant attempts of the government to make the Suri adapt to the general ways of life, this ethnic group keeps its traditional ones alive. Especially note the Surma women, who pierce the lower lip and place a small plate as a dilation and, over time, increase the size of it.

This body accessory is very important when the time of marriage arrives, since the larger the dish, the greater the dowry that the family of the bride can ask for that of the groom.

Surma woman with dilation in the lower lip

The Zulus

The Zulu or Amazulu are direct descendants of the Nguni people, which inhabited the banks of the Congo River during the 16th century.

This community later emigrated south of its current location, which is divided between Lesotho, southern Malawi, southern Mozambique and Zululand and northern Natal in South Africa. In total, the Zulu ethnic group is made up of more than ten million inhabitants. They are the neighboring town of the Bushmen.

They speak the Zulu language, which derives directly from the Bantu language family, which are a subfamily of the Niger-Congo languages. The Zulu constituted a kingdom during the 19th century and played a very important role in the history of South Africa during that century.

In 1879 the so-called took place Anglo-Zulu War between the Zulu ethnic group and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which meant the end of the independence of the Zulu as a nation and thus becoming British possession. In this video you can see more about this warrior community:

However, with the arrival of the twentieth century, Zulu citizens became discriminated against and classified as second-class citizens, although, today, they are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, which gives them equal rights.

As for their religious beliefs, the Zulu people believe in the existence of a creator God called Nkulunkulu, which is present in all matters related to people. The Zulu believe in divination as a bridge to the invocation of ancestors, called AmaDlozi in your tongue

The role of fortune teller corresponds to women, who are of great importance in the daily life of this ethnic group. They believe that everything negative, including death, is the result of an evil sorcery performed by the offended spirits of their ancestors.

The Zulus

The Malagasy

The term Malagasy it is the gentilicio that is used to make reference to the inhabitants of Madagascar, an island country belonging to the African continent and located in the Indian Ocean at the height of Mozambique.

Madagascar is the largest island in Africa and the fourth largest in the world with 587,041 km². Therefore, it is not surprising that its population is about 21 million inhabitants, of which 99% is of Malagasy origin.

The Malagasy, in turn, are made up of several ethnic groups of Malay-Afro-Indonesian origin. Thus, the first inhabitants of Madagascar came directly from Indonesia, which is why the current Malagasy have Asian features and differ in them various customs typical of Southeast Asia.

Also, its language, Malagasy, has dialect features of the Malay-Polynesian language family, similar to that spoken on the island of Borneo. Later, several waves of Bantu immigrants arrived from Africa and thus mixed with the previous ones.


From this mixture emerged the current Malagasy, which were divided between the center of the island and the coast. The ethnic groups in central Madagascar have mostly Malaysian traits and, of these, the most representative are, on the one hand, the Merina (3 million inhabitants), and, on the other hand, the Betsileo (about 2 million inhabitants) .

On the other hand, the inhabitants of the coastal zone have African features, such as the Betsimisarak or Tsimihety villages, among others.

The religion professed by the Malagasy is that which creates links between life and death, that is, they believe that the dead and death ally with their ancestors and acquire the rank of divinity.

Therefore, it is the ancestors who guide the destiny of their living descendants. It is customary in the Malagasy village to speak the fair and necessary and not even call each other by their first names so that the spirits do not know who it is and, thus, cannot harm them.

Mursi Community

The Mursi are an ethnic minority of less than 10,000 members inhabited by Debub Omo, Ethiopia, specifically the Jinka steppes and the Omo Park mountains.

Of Nilotic origin, they are a warrior community that speaks in the Mursi language, a language belonging to the Nile-Saharan language family. Together, this ethnic group is considered a warrior tribe, another feature they possess in common with the Suri or Surma.

Within the town the Pulled, a kind of advice formed by the most veteran men who are the decision makers.

They call attention to women, who, like the Suri, perform large dilations on the lower lip, where a plate is placed.

Men on the other hand also decorate their body by painting it with white chalk or also by the technique of scarification or incision, consisting of skin sores, that is, deep cuts are made in the dermis so that the wounds produce a dark-colored crust, which makes the skin look as raised.

Mursi Community

The Mursi maintain the ancestral tradition of Dunga, that is, a festive battle that is celebrated among young people with long reeds to commemorate the victory of a warrior, who, after this rite, obtains the right to choose a wife and be respected for his opponents.

The Herero

The Herero are an indigenous town that inhabits the southwest corner of Angola, Botswana and Namibia. They are neighbors of the Bushmen. They settled in these countries throughout the fifteenth century, when they emigrated from the great lakes of East Africa to the Kunene River.

The Herero are, in turn, divided into several subgroups:

  • Kuvale
  • Tjimba or Ximba
  • Mahereo
  • Zeraua
  • Flag

The economy of the Herero has revolved since time immemorial around the raising of cattle. Therefore, they are considered excellent guides and expert hunters.

As for society, it highlights the importance that the Herero confer on clothing, especially Cuvale women, who usually wear very elaborate turbans made from lambskin. Likewise, Ximba women call attention to the elaborate ceremonial veils they use.

On a religious level, the Herero practice the cow worship and consider it as a sacred animal, which is why it is the center of many ceremonial acts. Another custom of a religious nature is to avoid burying their deceased along with members of other indigenous communities.

The Herero


The Himba inhabit the arid region of Kunene and the Outjo area in Namibia. They are a semi-nomadic people whose economy is based on livestock. In reality, this tribe has many similarities with the Herero, since it is with them that they share their origins as well as the otjiherero language.

The Himba are currently the only indigenous community that still keeps intact the lifestyle it maintained centuries ago. We leave you with an interesting video where you can see how these indigenous groups live:

Within the Himba village there are several tribes at the same time, each of which is ruled by a chief, who, in turn, is the spiritual leader. The polygamy, although a man cannot spend more than two nights with one of his wives without attending to the other.

When an infraction is committed, the chiefs of each tribe meet in order to negotiate what the fine to be imposed will consist of, which will be based on the payment of head of cattle. Also, if a woman is murdered, the punishment is more severe than if it is the murder of a man.

As for their clothing, the Himba go semi-naked. Both men and women use loincloth, but the upper part is exposed. However, they use a wide range of accessories such as necklaces and bracelets.

Women especially call attention for their characteristic hairstyle, since they carry a kind of dreadlocks made from pasta that results from mixing ocher, butter and herbs. This same mixture is used to cover your entire body, which is why the appearance you get is reddish. This skin coating is actually used to protect against the intense sun.

Himba woman

Hadza people

The Hadzas, have plural hadzabe’e, Central Tanzania inhabits, specifically, the surroundings of Lake Eyasi, in the Great Rift Valley south of the Serengeti National Park. They speak their own language, the Hadza language, which is not related to any linguistic family, although it is characterized by the use of many clicks, a characteristic feature of the Johannine languages.

The Hadzas have always based their economy on the hunting and the harvest, although today this lifestyle is changing due to the pressure of environmentalists and the economic regulations of the country.

Men and boys hunt with bows and arrows without the presence of women. They hunt all kinds of animals, from lions, leopards and other felines to jackals, vultures and hyenas, including reptiles such as snakes and lizards.

As for his communal organization, his intrusion into society begins already in childhood. Girls are obliged to help their mothers, brothers and sisters from an early age in tasks such as picking berries or seeds, digging edible roots and extracting the pulp of baobab trees, food that is present in 80% of the daily intake of a Hadza individual.

They also highlight the customs related to marriage and, in general, the freedom that all individuals of this ethnicity possess. Everyone can enter and leave the village whenever they want and then return to join the camp without anyone caring.

The same goes for marriage: if the married couple remains separated for more than two weeks, they are considered to have abandoned the marriage and can then look for a new partner.

Typical housing Hadza Village (Central Tanzania)

Konso Community

The Konso, also known as Komso or Karati, are a population that inhabits the town of the same name located at southwest of ethiopia, on the banks of the Sagan River.

They speak Komso language, which is of Afro-Asian origin and are neighbors of other indigenous towns such as the Oromo, the Gawada and the Borana. Although its origin is unknown, it has been shown that certain family and cultural traditions coincide with those of the Cabalite peoples, so it is estimated that the Konso could be a sub-ethnic group derived from this group.

The villages of the Konso community are characterized by their construction, as they rise high in the hills. They also have several defensive fortifications that usually measure between 3 and 4 m high around which they enable their cultivation fields.

For its part, the Konso people are divided between nine clans called gada. According to this system, marriages must be carried out between people of different clans and each gada has a religious authority called Pokwalla.

Typical houses of the Konso Community (Ethiopia)

The Konso believe in Waq, God of heaven, to whom Pokwalla they must honor through their service as intermediaries between the latter and the members of the clan. If this mediation is done correctly, peace and subsequent prosperity will be achieved for all gada.

In relation to these religious beliefs, the Konso manufacture the Waga, a kind of wooden statuettes of 1 m high that build in memory of those deceased who played an important role in society.

The Tuaregs

The Tuaregs, also known as imuhaghs, they are an original Berber community of the Sahara desert.

In its entirety, the Tuaregs are distributed among five African countries:

  • Algeria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Niger

This community has its own language and writing, this last call tifinagh and characterized by the use of the drinking-libotic alphabet.

Tuareg society stands out for being hierarchical, which means that it distinguishes between nobles and vassals and, in turn, between free or ilellan and slaves íklan.

Thus, the first group includes the aristocracy, priests, pastors and artisans, while the second group corresponds to the servitude, which works in camps at the service of ilellan. Today, it is estimated that about 7% of Niger's population are slaves.

The Tuaregs

As for the religion practiced by the Tuaregs, most of them are Muslims, although they are not usually as strict as the rest. Thus, for example, they are faithful to the fulfillment of daily prayers, but they do not usually carry out fasting during Ramadan.

The Tuaregs believe in the constant presence of the spirits or djinns. The Quran is very present in the life of every individual belonging to this ethnic group, so much so that most men use amulets that contain verses from the Quran to protect themselves.

The men begin to wear the popular veil that characterizes the Tuaregs from the age of 25 and, from that moment, they never take it off. However, the woman is not obliged to wear a veil.

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Finally, we have selected the previous and next article of the block "Cultural diversity"so you can continue reading:

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