WEST AFRICAN HISTORY
Who are ouest africans
As Africa's peoples established themselves and diversified to local conditions, they developed distinctive cultures, oral traditions and oral art forms. Africa's hundreds of different ethnic groups are often defined by the language they speak, according to contemporary (especially Western) scholarly practice. Spoken African languages Indigenous to the continent are variously estimated to number from 700 to 3000.
The major ethnic groups in West Africa are the Mandeng, Fulah, Yoruba, Haoussa, Ashanti and Cameron. From these derived several separate groups with cultural differences and minor linguistic variations. The group Yoruba for example, encompasses twenty-five separate groups each one culturally different from the next. The Berber and Touareg is the group found in the Sahara desert, the language and culture has a strong Arabic influence. There are numerous spoken languages in every West African country. However, the native languages of capital cities dominate the dialogue spoken by the majority. The official languages spoken are from the former Colonial master, French being spoken in more countries, followed by English and Portuguese.
In the recent years some countries have started to develop and promote the writing of their main dialect, in order to accelerate their developing program. This way modern science and technology will reach the rural area were illiteracy is quite high.
Indigenous Beliefs :
Cosmogony and mythology play an important role in West African society. They set up the framework of the social, political and even economic structure of society. This is obvious in the two major ancient societies Mande and Yoruba. They conduct their practice in accordance with their cosmogony; creation myth is in a sense, the basis for their ritual, social structure as well as the political activity. These ancient beliefs can alter themselves to fit any circumstances, which explain why they did survive at the advent of Islam and Christianity.
In Africa Islam has taken many unique forms as the product of many different conversion experiences. In West Africa, much of this conversion began during the 9 th century through interaction with Islamicized Berber traders, who controlled trans-Saharan trade routes.
The integration between Islam and Indigenous African practices shows an intricate relationship between creativity and societal change, for the introduction of Islamic visual practices brought with it new ways of indigenous African to express not only their beliefs but also diverse range of patrons and audiences.
Most early European missionaries and anthropologists "had little understanding and much less appreciation of the principles that characterize and inform African life.
Culture consists of the abstract values, beliefs and perception of the world, “that shape peoples behaviours and are reflected in those behaviours”. Shared by members of a society, cultures are learned, largely through the medium of languages, rather than inherited biologically, and the parts of a culture function as an integrated whole'. ‘People maintain cultures to deal with problems or matters that concern them'. To survive, a culture must satisfy the basic needs of those who live by its rules, provide for its own continuity and orderly existence …' ‘Strike a balance between the self interests of individuals and the needs of the society as a whole', and ‘have the capacity to change in order to adapt to new circumstances or to altered perceptions of existing circumstances' ( Prof. Malaika Mutere ).
Most West Africans are primarily oral people, although ancient writing existed elsewhere in Africa (Egypt) in contrast to written literature African “orature” is orally composed and transmitted, and often created to be verbally and communally performed as integral part of dance and music. Oral arts and traditions of African cultures are rich and varied, developing with the begging of African cultures, and continuing to flourish today. African oral arts often combine religious, artistic as well as social function: e.g., to convey wisdom, teach ethics as social codes of conduct; teach religious beliefs and communal values; celebrate cultural heroes and revered ancestors, and explain the origin, history and development of states, clans and other important social organizations. Mutere's call African oral arts “arts for life sake” (Dr Mutere's African culture and Asthetics).
SECULAR PERIOD OF WEST AFRICA
Let's face it -- think of Africa, and the
first images that come
In the early days West African society was ruled by local political organization however, large kingdoms would later develop:
Ca.1500 ( periode apres naissance de Jesus = chritien era )
Benin at height of its power. Benin city (Edo) was founded around the 12th century. A second Benin dynasty began in the 16th century. During the triangular trade between Africa, Europe, and the New World played a major role in the 16 th – 18 th century. The power of the Benin Empire ended in the late 19th century when British troops destroyed Benin's capital city.
Fall of Songhai Empire: Attracted by its wealth, the armies of al-Mansur of Morocco overran the Songhai capital of Gao. Following the collapse of Songhai, a number of small kingdoms strove to dominate the western Sudan, instigating continual strife and economic decline. During the break-up of the Songhai Empire, an intense period of slave activity occurred in West Africa at the hands of Arab Islamic missionaries and European traders.
To the east of Songhai, between the Niger River and Lake Chad, the Hausa city-states and the Kanem-Bornu Empire had been established since the 10th century. After the fall of Songhai, the trans-Saharan trade moved eastward, where centers of flourishing commerce and urban life developed. Islam appears to have been introduced into the Hausa states from 11 th to 14th centuries.
Asante (or Ashante) Empire of Akan peoples is unified under Osei Tutu on the "Gold Coast"; dominates with control of gold-producing zones and supplying slaves in exchange for firearms (to 1820s).
Ghana Empire of Soninke peoples (in what is now SE Mauritania) at height of power. The earliest of the 3 great West African states (emerging ca. 300 CE), Ghana equipped its armies with iron weapons and became master of the trade in salt and gold, controlling routes extending from present-day Morocco in the north, Lake Chad and Nubia/Egypt in the eat, and the coastal forests of western Africa in the south. By the early 11th century, Muslim advisers were at the court of Ghana.
Rise of the Mali Empire of the Mande (or Mandinka) peoples in West Africa.. The Mali Empire was strategically located near gold mines and the agriculturally rich interior floodplain of the Niger River. This region had been under the domination of the Ghana Empire until the middle of the 11th century. As Ghana declined, several short-lived kingdoms vied for influence over the western Sudan region.
The Slave Trade: 18 th Century
Between the years 1650 and 1900, historians estimate that at least 28 million Africans were forcibly removed from central and western Africa as slaves (but the numbers involved are controversial). A human catastrophe for Africa", one of the more underreported events in the annals of human history. The Black Holocaust makes reference to the millions of African lives, which have been lost during the centuries to slavery, colonization and oppression. The Black Holocaust makes reference to the horrors endured by millions of men, women, and children throughout the African Diaspora. In sheer numbers, depth and brutality, it is a testimony to the worst elements of human behaviour and the strongest elements of survival."
The forced and brutal dispersal of millions of Africans into foreign lands created the Black Diaspora. African slaves and their descendants carried skills and communitarian values, rich cultural traditions, resiliency, and resistance ethos that transformed and enriched the cultures they entered around the world. Thus, as African peoples are globally dispersed, they carried their traditions of cultural creativity and oral arts with them, such as "common musical rhythms, exploration of multicolour…and diverse textures, play on repetition, and call-and-response modes of verbal activity" (Asante and Abarry 111). African folktales, often featuring the tortoise, hare, and spider, are widespread on the African continent and were carried from Africa to the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States.
European Colonialism in Africa
1871 – 1912
The map of Africa as we know it today is a design on European Colonialism. "Civilizing mission" based on white supremacy was used by Europeans to justify their presence in Africa. They were arbitrarily, cutting across traditionally established boundaries, homelands, and ethnic groupings of African peoples and cultures. Following a "divide and rule" theory, Europeans promote traditional inter-ethnic hostilities. "The European onslaught of Africa that began in the mid 1400s progressed to various conquests over the continent, and culminated over 400 years later with the partitioning of Africa. Armed with guns, fortified by ships, driven by the industry of capitalist economies in search of cheap raw materials, and unified by a Christian and racist ideology against the African 'heathen,' aggressive European colonial interests followed their earlier merchant and missionary inroads into Africa"—
The three Colonial powers that finally established themselves in Africa were in order of importance the French, the English and the Portuguese.
West African COUNTRIES TODAY
In the late 50's and early 60's West African countries as known today acquired their independence. Table 1, is an illustration of their profile.
West African Immigration
History as mentioned above gave no predisposition for African countries in the current economic competition of the world. Independence was given in partition that led to the creation of small states. Furthermore, Africa was not part of the Marshall plan for the rebuilding process after the World War 2 even though they actively participated and North Africa was the place where major battles occurred. Another important constrain of African economic performance was the deterioration in the term of the international trade. Raw materials the biggest asset of Africa's economy are purchased at a very low price by the developed countries who on the other hand sell their manufactured goods at astronomical prices. The payment of the foreign debt and the high interest leave the young states with little mean for the execution of their economic program. (Infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, ect.) This situation combined with ten years of draught that have stricken West Africa in the 70's–80's and the demographic explosion created a high rate of unemployment that have led to an immigration of survival.
Humanitarian reasons for migration did occur in the recent years following the conflict that took place in certain countries e.g., Liberia, Sierra Leone, ect.
The Colonial metropole was the main destination for migration. Natives from French speaking countries (Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Mauritania, ect.) migrated to France, while English speaking countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, ect) moved to Great Britain, and the Scandinavian countries. Natives from Portuguese speaking countries Guinea Bissau, Cap Verde mainly migrated to Portugal.
USA, Canada, Germany, Italy and Australia are relatively recent destinations for West African migrants (the migration started around late 70's to early 80's).
Among the Africans in Australia, natives from the western sub region are a minority; in comparison the Central and Eastern African countries enjoy larger communities because of higher refugee intake and subsequent family reunion. In addition, African's from the south sub region have are more significantly present due to their closer ties with Australia as members of the commonwealth. Within West African communities Nigerians and Ghana's who have diplomatic ties with Australia compose most of the population, compared to the other West African francophone countries that hardly exceed 50 people individually in overall Australia.
Mr. Yero Ba,