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Fascinating African Traditions

By Beatrice Porbeni 29 October 2017   |   9:00 am

Africa is known for its rich culture, heritage, and love for customary traditions. Some African tribal traditions are quite mysterious and tend to fascinate people within and outside the continent. For many years, these tribal communities have lived without many modern comforts and their traditions may live on for decades to come. Here are some captivating traditions from several tribes in Africa

The Khweta Ceremony

Making of a man. Umkhwetha, a Xhosa initiate into manhood. Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Southern African tribes such as the Zulus and Xhosas are known to have practiced their “manhood” ceremony for years. The ceremony involves a young boy leaving his family home to prove his manhood. When the boys are of age, they are sent to spend several days or weeks in a lodge during winter, where they are often put through rigorous and often time, dangerous rituals such as continuous dancing until exhaustion, and non-medical circumcision.

Kidnap your bride

In Sudan, the Latuka tribe, has a custom where a man kidnaps the woman he wants to marry. Elderly members of his family go and ask the girl’s father for her hand in marriage, and if her dad agrees, he beats the suitor as a sign of his acceptance of the marriage. However, if the father refuses, the man might forcefully marry the woman.

The spitting blessings

The spitting blessing is an unusual tradition, practiced by the members of the Maasai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania. They spit on the newborn babies as a way of blessing the baby. They believe that if they praise a baby, it will be cursed. Maasai warriors will also spit on their hands before shaking the hand of elders in the village.

Measuring wealth with cows

cows in their stall

The Kenyan Pokot tribe measures its wealth by how many cows a family has. The people of Pokot are either “corn people” or “cow people”, essentially what they cultivate on their land, but almost all Pokot people measure their wealth by cows because the number of women a man can marry is predominantly determined by the number of cows he has.

Beating the suitor

The Sharo tradition is practiced by the Fulani tribe, particularly those in West Africa. Sharo occurs when two young men want to marry the same woman. To compete for her hand in marriage, they must beat one another up. The men must quash the signs of pain during their fight. The winner is the man who takes the beating without showing signs of pain and his reward is the woman as his wife.

Women can’t grieve elders

The Suku tribe, In Southwestern Congo, pay homage to their elders and ancestors when they die, by holding a ceremony in the clearing of a forest. In the event, gifts and offerings are presented, but according to the tradition, outsiders and all the women are banned from attending the event.

Bull jumping

Jumping bull

The Ethiopian Hamers’ have practiced bull jumping tradition for many years; it allows the involvement and participation of the whole community. During the ceremony, young boys are expected to run, jump and land on the back of a bull before then try to run past the backs of numerous bulls. The young men do this several times, and usually naked in order to prove their manhood. While the women of the tribe dance, blow brass horns and scream as the men perform.

In this article:
African TraditionsCultures

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