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Tribes of Africa: from the Maasai to the Bushmen

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maasai dance

The tribes of africa They are a synthesis of thousands of years of history. Often they have nothing to do with the modern borders between the states that make up the continent, since these were fixed in the decolonization process. However, these tribes already existed long before the arrival of Europeans.

You should keep in mind that Africa It occupies about twenty percent of the land surface and has fifteen of the world’s population. Therefore, from Morocco until Cape of good hope and of Senegal until Somalia Countless cultures and civilizations have developed over the centuries. So much so that it would be impossible to tell you all about it. Therefore, we are going to do it from the most representative and curious tribes of Africa.

the zulu tribe


a zulu wedding

To be more precise, we should talk about the Zulu ethnicity, since it is made up of about ten million people. He is from the South African province of KwaZulu Natalalthough it has spread to the territories of Zimbabwe, Zambia Yes mozambique.

It is thought to have its origin in a clan founded at the beginning of the 18th century, although already in this century they traded with the Portuguese. Its first great leader was senzagakona, which began the integration of the different clans. However, that would be Dingiswayo whoever created the call Zulu Kingdomalso known as Zululand.

Their importance will be given by the fact that they were able to wage a war against the British in 1879. They were defeated, but they brought the Europeans to the brink of collapse. Instead, they are the ones who lost their independence and never regained it. However, they continue to group together in clans that pay homage to the authority of a king.

On the other hand, the language spoken by the Zulus derives from Bantu and his religion is polytheistic. They pay homage, mainly to gods who embody elements of nature such as earth, sun or rain. Most important, however, is Umvelinqangi, which is represented in thunder and earthquakes. As for their mode of subsistence, they were a warlike people, but now it is rather breeder and farmer. They practice polygamy and have many children. In fact, the more there are, the more important their clan. Finally, their particular way of dancing has become famous, during which they seem to be shaking.

the mursi people

Mursi woman

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A Mursi woman with the characteristic plaque on her lips

Much less numerous than the previous one, since it numbers around nine thousand individuals, this tribe originates from Ethiopia. And, more specifically, the region of Central Omo. Surely you have seen a report about it and you will recognize it because they usually wear clay plates embedded in their lips and ears.

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They speak a complex language called, precisely, morsi and belonging to the Nilo-Saharan languages. As for their social organization, they are grouped into clans and are governed by drawn That is advice from elders. Their religion honors a higher force called tumwi, which can be materialized by many elements. For example, a bird or the rainbow.

On the other hand, that of dishes is not the only curious custom of the Mursi. His men paint their bodies with white chalk and deposit the dungaa festive cane battle in which the victors earn the respect of others and also the right to choose a bride.

Economically, they live on agriculture, mainly from the cultivation of sorghum and maize, although they also collect honey. Likewise, they are breeders, mainly livestock. Since he provides them with food, they respect him very much. To kill cattle, they shoot an arrow where they think it hurts the least. They then drink its blood and bathe in it as they consider it rejuvenating.

Maasai, one of the most popular tribes in Africa


Maasai, one of the most famous tribes in Africa

This city will be familiar to you because it has had a media presence due to its traditions and its semi-nomadic life. You even got to see it in movies like the white maasai. He is from the south of Kenya and north of Tanzania and comprises, approximately, nine hundred thousand individuals in all.

His language is maa or masai, which belongs to the Nilotic group, also spoken by other tribes such as those inhabiting South Sudan. But they are also understood in Swahili and many even speak English. Their towns are called enkang and its town planning consists of circles of straw huts or bomas with fences for their flocks. Because, if they were once warriors and predators, they are now dedicated to agriculture and raising cattle, sheep and goats.

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As for their religious beliefs, each village has a prophet That is laibonresponsible for interpreting the wishes of the divinity, called ngai. He is a kind of rain god, who is asked for crops. In fact, grass is also considered a sacred element by this people.

On the other hand, the Maasai go through a coming of age ceremony. It lasts several days and through it the boy becomes to live in That is Warrior. As for the appearance of men and women, you will be struck by the fact that they wear large objects such as earrings, especially animal horns. However, this city has become quite westernized. And now it is not strange that they receive tourists in their villages. For these, they perform their dances in exchange for money and even sell them their handicrafts.

Tuareg, the nomads of the Sahara


Tuareg in the desert

We arrived on our tour of the tribes of Africa to another of the most famous and legendary. These are the Tuareg people, also called “the blue city of the Sahara” for his clothes. In reality, it is a nomadic tribe that travels in large groups through this desert accompanied by animals that serve as their subsistence.

This is a village Berber of North Africa which is dedicated above all to Trade, although they are also mythical warriors. It is mainly based on Nigerwhere it has more than two and a half million individuals, but it also has significant populations in Algeria, Libya, mali Yes Burkina Faso.

As for his religion, he is the Islam, though unorthodox, but mixed with animist beliefs. And his tongue is Tamashekwhich even has its own writing system: the tifinagh. It is a consonantal alphabet that derives from Libyco-Berber, whose origins date back to the 3rd century BC. Well it’s true that the tifinagh classic was lost and was recreated at the end of the 20th century.

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On the other hand, the basis of Tuareg society is the line (tawshit) or group of relatives with a common ancestor. In turn, each of these belongs to a social category and to a tribe That is ettebel. Similarly, each lineage appoints a man as a representative on the tribal council. And he chooses the leader or amenokal. However, the Tuareg people are hierarchical. With this we want to tell you that there is aristocratic tribes and vassals. In the past, they even had slaves.

Before telling you that the Tuareg are Warriors. In fact, his rebellion is mythical and has given rise to numerous poetic compositions. And also to different confrontations with those who tried to subjugate them. His revolt against the French colonizers in 1916, which lasted several months and was led by mohamed kahocen. But they have also intervened in the most recent conflicts in the region of the sahel.

The Bushmen, more than a tribe of Africa

bushman women

Bushman women with their children

We end our tour of the peoples of Africa by telling you about the Bushmen, who are in fact several tribes included in the group of khoisan. According to the most reliable estimates, there are a total of ninety-five thousand people spread over botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe Yes South African Republic.

In fact, its name comes from Afrikaans, the language of Germanic origin brought to these regions by Europeans, and means “man of the forest”. However, they do not speak this language, but rather a set of languages ​​grouped into kxoe. Its main feature is the use of clicks to communicate. Indeed, it is estimated that seventy percent of their words begin with them and whether they are palatal, alveolar, bilabial or dental.

They are mainly dedicated to hunt and harvesting fruit. Unlike other tribes in Africa, they are almost matriarchal. The woman has great social importance and even becomes the head of her family group. Moreover, these people are considered related to the first humans who inhabited the earth.

However, the Bushmen changed their way of life as the mainland nations subjugated them. In fact, for decades they have been in conflict with the government of botswanasince he wants to expel them from his main territory, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Consequently, they are now more devoted to pasture.

On the other hand, the Bushmen are very fond of music and dance. His main instrument is a sort of bow that he holds in his mouth and which sounds like a sounding board. And, among his dances, the giraffe or the healing dance stand out. KIA. The latter is part of their religious rites. Their gods are related to obtaining food. There is a supreme spirit and other minor ones that influence both this and the occurrence of diseases.

In conclusion, we have shown you some of the main tribes of africa. However, we could tell you about others like the Sudanese DinkaThe hamer from ethiopiaThe namibian himba or the famous Congo pygmies. Don’t you think that the African continent is also very rich from an anthropological point of view?

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