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Abusua  

Kwadwo Osei-Nyame

Abusua is an expression used by the Akan people of Ghana to denote the notion of clan or family. Within Akan society and culture, abusua basically refers to the concept of family or the social organization that links all the individual members of an ancestral lineage together. It is a commonly perpetuated view among the Akan people that abusua originates through maternal ancestral lineage. Consequently, one often encounters the argument that members of an Akan abusua are descended from a common maternal ancestress and linked by blood ties. While this is true to some extent, it also presumes that one can only properly belong to an abusua or family grouping that is constituted through the female matriclan. The practical manifestation of the abusua and the relationships that inhere therein, are, however, such that it becomes evident that abusua are also constituted through patrilineages or patriclans More noteworthy where the ...

Article

Adinkra  

Oluwatoyin Adepoju

Adinkra are visual forms that first achieved prominence among the Akan linguistic group whose members are now part of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Its origin is uncertain but evidence suggests that it developed within the former Asante and Gyaman nations. Adinkra often involve designs that integrate striking aesthetic power, evocative mathematical structures, and philosophical conceptions ranging from the ethical to the cosmological, expressed in relation to proverbs and stories. The earliest known use of Adinkra integrates the world of the living, the departed, and the Supreme Being in designs on funeral garments. The designs evoke the understanding which each kra—the eternal essence of the person as understood in Akan thought—takes with it to the beyond, an awareness which also recalls the message the kra carried when it bade goodbye to its creator on leaving for the earth.

The earliest widely known use of Adinkra suggests the closing of ...

Article

1.Changing perceptions from the late 15th to the early 20th centuries

2.Modernism and 20th‐century exhibitions

Article

Lupenga Mphande

Artistic forms of expression are deeply ingrained in the black cultural experience and in the lives of African peoples providing a forum for participation in the community and for exploring the mysteries of humanity The artistic forms exert a huge impact on Africa s cultural realities institutions the system of values and her vision for the future in a global context The oral art forms are the best examples of the African imaginative expression and their deployment in performance has become a rallying point for a call to an African renaissance and rejuvenation throughout the continent Although African societies have developed writing traditions Africans are primarily an oral people and it is that tradition that has dominated their cultural norms The term orature which means the artistic use of language in oral performance refers to something that is passed on through the spoken word and because it is based on ...

Article

African peoples have created hundreds of distinct religions that, despite centuries of contact with Islam and Christianity, remain important both in Africa itself and to followers in the Americas and in Europe. Approximately half of Africa's current population identify themselves as Muslim. A smaller number identify themselves as Christian or as followers of indigenous African religions, and small groups (under one million each) identify themselves as Jewish or Hindu. This essay focuses on those religions created by African peoples south of the Sahara. While there is considerable diversity in African religions, this essay will emphasize their commonalities.

Article

Anani Dzidzienyo

Afro-Latin America encompasses a broad geographical, cultural, and linguistic area of Latin America—from Brazil in South America to the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, and Mexico in Central America. There is no agreement among scholars or other observers about which countries may be correctly designated as Afro-Latin American. A generally accepted yardstick emphasizes the presence of people of African descent from the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the present. How many Afro-Latin Americans there are today is a difficult question to answer. Throughout Latin America, definitions of race, color, and origin are extremely varied. In Brazil, for example, the four official racial categories are black, brown (or pardo), yellow, and white. Yet census takers in 1980 counted some 140 terms ...

Article

Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán was born and received his primary and secondary schooling in Veracruz, where there was a strong African influence, before studying medicine in Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos undertook pioneering studies of Indians in Mexico, whose culture and history had largely been viewed with disdain until then. The studies resurrected a degree of interest in and dignity for Indian heritage. Although Vasconcelos argued that much of indigenous culture should be subsumed in a larger Mexican culture, Aguirre Beltrán believed that indigenous cultures were worthy of study for their own sake. After graduating from the University of Mexico with a medical degree, Aguirre Beltrán returned to Veracruz, where he held a post in public health that further sparked his interest in Indian ethnicity and history. In 1940 he published two studies on the ethnohistory of colonial and precolonial Indians in ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

A member of the Igbo ethnic group, Elechi Amadi was born in a small southeastern Nigerian village near Port Harcourt. In 1959 he graduated with a degree in physics and mathematics from the University College of Ibadan, a prestigious college attended by other well-known Nigerian writers, such as Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Christopher Okigbo, and Wole Soyinka. After working as a land surveyor, Amadi taught science for three years at missionary schools in Ahoada and Oba. In 1963 he joined the Nigerian Army; he taught the Ikwerri dialect of Igbo at a military school in Zaria.

His first book, The Concubine, blended acute psychological detail and precise observation to tell the story of a young village woman's battle with spiritual forces. The book's publication in 1966 coincided with the proclamation of an independent state—Biafra—in Igbo-dominated southeastern Nigeria Amadi s allegiance to the Federal ...

Article

During the period of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Asante captives from the African Gold Coast brought the narrative form to the Caribbean These original tales were interspersed with song and depicted a wily spider character who used his wits and cunning to survive Today Anancy stories include many ...

Article

Edmund Abaka

The ancestors are those who have departed and joined those who had departed earlier for the world of the dead. They constitute the linchpin of African traditional religion. It is to the ancestors that the living look for succour in times of trouble, favor in the event of adversity and difficulties, and blessings whenever a new enterprise is to be undertaken. The ancestors are venerated, not worshipped, for the help that they provide to the living. Specific festivals such as the Adae of the Akan of Ghana are designed to propitiate the ancestors.

In African traditional religion the Supreme Being ranks first among all powers The Supreme Being is given various names in various societies Second in the hierarchy are the deities or the lesser gods who are considered messengers or vice regents of the Supreme Being They represent various manifestations of the Supreme Being and do his bidding Although ...

Article

Paul Hanson

More than an anthropology of Africa or an anthropology by Africans, African anthropology represents a dynamic, contested, and, above all, generative site. Upon this site, European, American, and African social relations have been produced and rehearsed, colonial and postcolonial governmentalites molded, and the contours of the African postcolony drawn. Although African anthropology is characterized by marked changes over the past century, a definite coherence can be read from the growth of its institutions and the problems defining the core of its knowledges. Considering the breadth of the topic and the limited space for development, this entry will focus on the field of African sociocultural anthropology.

The Early Years of Anthropology and the Thematics of Conversion. In The Invention of Africa, V. Y. Mudimbe questions the often taken for granted divide between missionary interpretations of Africa and the interpretations of Africa held by early anthropologists He insists that the ...

Article

For information on

African art in general: See Art and Architecture, African; Commodification of African Art: An Interpretation. Motion pictures and filmmakers: See Alassane, Mousstapha; Cinema, African; Cissé, Souleymane; Faye, Safi; Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes; Gerima, Haile; Hondo Abid Mohamed Medoun Med ...

Article

Funso Afolayan

The word àṣộ (or àshe.) among the Yoruba-speaking people of West Africa and of the African Diaspora in the Americas and other places, means “power,” “authority,” “command,” “energy,” or “life force.” The concept of àṣộ is an affective, foundational, albeit enigmatic, principle that informs religious, social, political, artistic, and philosophical discourses among the Yoruba. Àṣẹ is believed to originate from Olodumare, the Supreme Being of the Yoruba. As the bestower of life and virtue, Olodumare is the very embodiment of àṣộ. As a vital energy, àṣộ sustains all things, whether animate or inanimate, deities, spirits, ancestors, humans, animals, plants, rivers, mountains, rocks, caves, and many more. Intangible and intractable voiced words, eye flashes, a wink, a wave of the hand, and other visual and voiced expressions, such as songs, praises, incantations, chants, curses, and everyday conversations, become powerful and potent as a result of their infusion with àṣộ ...

Article

Adeyemi Bukola Oyeniyi

Nigerian historian and educational administrator, was born to Samuel Akindeji Fajembola, an Ibadan man, and Mosebolatan Fajembola, an Ijesa woman, on 28 January 1933 in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria. Samuel Akindeji Fajembola was a manager with John Holt & Co., a merchant company, based in Liverpool, England; Mosebolatan Fajembola was one of the first female professional teachers to be trained in southwestern Nigeria. Awe had her early education at Holy Trinity School, Omofe, Ilesa; Saint James’s School, Oke-Bola, Ibadan; C.M.S Girls’ School, Lagos; and Saint Anne’s School, Ibadan, between 1941 and 1951. Between 1952 and 1954, she attended the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge, England, and received an MA from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1958. Between 1958 and 1960 she did postgraduate work for a doctoral degree at Somerville College the oldest of the University of Oxford s female colleges She was ...

Article

Debra L. Klein

master bata drummer and broker of Yoruba culture, was born on 6 August 1949 in the town of Erin-Osun in present-day Osun State, Nigeria. Ayankunle was born into a large extended family of traditional bata (double-headed, conically shaped drum ensemble) and dundun (double-headed, hourglass-shaped drum ensemble with tension straps) drummers. His father was Ige Ayansina and his mother was Awero Ayansina. Yoruba drumming lineages train their children in the art and profession of bata and dundun drumming. These families celebrate and worship orisa Ayanagalu (the spirit of the drum). Children born into an Ayan (drum family) lineage are given names beginning with the Ayan prefix, such as Ayankunle.

Passed down from generation to generation bata is a five hundred year old drumming singing and masquerade tradition from southwestern Nigeria The fifteenth century reign of Sango marks the earliest documented use of bata drum ensembles in royal contexts One of the ...

Article

Christopher Wise

Malian diplomat, ethnographer, devout Muslim, and defender of traditional African culture, was born in 1901 in Bandiagara, Mali, capital of the Toucouleur Empire of the Macina Fulani, which was founded by the Tidjaniya jihadist al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. At the time of Bâ’s birth, the French had been in control of Bandiagara for nearly a decade. His father, Hampâté, a Fulani militant from Fakala, died two years after Bâ was born. His mother, Kadidja Pâté, was the daughter of Pâté Poullou, a close personal companion of al-Hajj ʿUmar Tal. After her husband’s death, Kadidja remarried Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam, a Toucouleur Fulani and Louta chief, who became Bâ’s adoptive father. At an early age, Bâ became intimate with Tierno Bokar Tall, the renowned “sage of Bandiagara,” who was his lifelong teacher, spiritual guide, and personal mentor. In 1912 Bâ was enrolled in the French colonialist School of the Hostages remaining ...

Article

Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean leader of anticolonial revolt against Italy and warlords from northern Ethiopia, and popular hero, was born in the town of Segeneity. The exact date of his birth is unknown: he was born between 1839 and 1850 into a rich peasant family. Bahta Hagos’s parents, Hagos Andu and Weizero Wonau, were agro-pastoralists who owned farmlands around Segeneity and in the eastern escarpments. As a young man, he became renowned for his physical strength as well as for his skills as a cattle herder. Like a majority of the people in Eritrea in colonial times, Bahta Hagos was converted from Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity to Roman Catholicism in the 1870s.

Bahta Hagos rose to prominence after he killed fitewrari Embaye, the son of Araya Selassie Demsu—the Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV’s uncle and the governor of the Agame area in Tigray. After Embaye arrived at Segeneity in October 1875 he ordered that ...

Article

Olusola O. Isola

Nigerian musician and composer, was born on 17 May 1935 in Jos, Plateau State, in the northeast of Nigeria. He is of the Yoruba ethnic group and was born into a family of music teachers and composers. His father, Theophilus Abiodun Bankole, was a prominent organist and choirmaster at Saint Luke’s Anglican Church, Jos. His mother was a music tutor at Queen’s School, Ede (now in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria), one of the elite female secondary schools in Nigeria. She was also an active musician. Bankole’s maternal grandfather, Akinje George, was the organist and choirmaster at the First Baptist Church, Lagos.

In 1941 when Bankole was six years old his father noticed that he had music talent and sent him to live with his grandfather who gave him initial lessons in piano and harmonium As a boy soprano in the choir at Cathedral Church of Christ in Lagos Bankole showed ...

Article

Peter Hudson

While Louise Bennett was not the first writer to use Jamaican dialect, the facility with which she reproduces it in her writing and performances has marked her as a pioneer. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bennett was the daughter of baker Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who died when she was seven years old, and dressmaker Kerene Robinson. Bennett, known as Miss Lou, studied social work and Jamaican folklore at Friends' College, Highgate, Jamaica. In 1945 she received a British Council Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

Bennett began writing in dialect in the late 1930s, inspired by the language she heard spoken by Jamaicans on the streets of Kingston. Soon after she began writing, she staged public performances of her poems. In 1942 her first collection of poetry, Dialect Verses, was published. Starting in 1943 Bennett contributed a weekly column to ...

Article

Gordon Root

Ignacio Villa, known by his stage name, Bola de Nieve, was born and grew up in a poor neighborhood in Guanabacoa, Cuba. His parents introduced him to Afro-Cuban music when he was a child, and he was exposed to European classical music in his formal studies. His classical training began when he studied privately with Gerado Guanche. Later Villa enrolled in the Conservatorio de José Mateu, where he studied mandolin and flute as well as piano.

At home Villa absorbed many elements of traditional Afro-Cuban music through his contact with Rumba and other rhythms and dances. It has been suggested that his parents participated in African-based religions and that young Ignacio had been educated in the music and practices of Afro-Cuban religion as well.

As a boy Villa helped support his family by performing in house for neighborhood audiences His professional career began in the 1920s ...