Although some of the cultural and traditional practices have been either abolished completely or seen some level of evolution due to their harmful impact on humanity, there are still some that are still in existence. As Africans commemorate Africa Day today, it is only nice that some of those unique cultures and traditions are remembered too.
Africa Day: Some cultural & traditional practices that make the continent unique
Africa is a blessed continent with diverse and valuable cultures and traditions as well as other resources that distinguish it from other continents of the world.
Although there are numerous such unique cultures and traditions, this article focuses on only four.
Ovahimba and Ovazimba Tribes of Namibia
The Ovahimba and Ovazimba tribes in the Kunene and Omusati regions in Northern Namibia. In those parts of Africa, when a man receives a male visitor, he allows his wife to spend the night in the same room with the visitor.
It is said that the woman has the option to decline to have sex with the visitor while they sleep in the same room, but has no say in the decision to spend the night in the same room with him.
In other parts of the African continent and across the globe, every man wants to keep his marriage sacred and would never want to share his wife with any other man. It is considered an abomination for a married woman to have sex with another man.
However, in the above-stated tribes, wives are made to have sex with other men with the full consent of their husbands, except that the woman can choose to not do it although she can’t refuse to spend the night with the visitor.
With a population of over 50,000, the main occupation of the Ovahimba and Ovazimba tribes is cattle rearing, and the number of cattle one has determines their wealth.
The men are mostly polygamous and are always busy hunting while their wives engage in milking the cattle and discharging other household chores including caring for the children.
They have a red colour on their skin called the otjize paste, which is a combination of butterfat, omuzumba scrub and ochre. Reports say the red colour is meant to protect their skin from the sun and insect bites.
The Mursi Tribe of South Sudan
From Namibia, we move to South Sudan where there is a Surma tribe called Mursi. The language spoken by the people is also called Mursi.
When a Mursi girl becomes a teenager, she begins the process of lip stretching. The girl has her bottom teeth removed to make space for a lip plate, which is increased in size annually.
The plates are inserted into the lip causing it to stretch, and it is said that the larger the clay plate, the more the woman is worth before she gets married.
It is said that the clay plates were originally used to prevent capture by slave traders. The practice was first carried out to allegedly make them look ugly when Arab merchants continually raided their villages in search of slaves.
However, that explanation has been rejected as studies reveal that the plates are a symbol or expression of social status among the Mursi people.
The supposed historical link between lip plates and the activities of slave traders is an idea that goes back to colonial times.
The Sambia Tribe of Papua New Guinea
If you thought you had seen or heard it all, then wait till you read about the people of Papua New Guinea where there is the Sambia Tribe.
The Sambia people (also known as the Simbari Anga) are a tribe who inhabit the environs of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
The Sambia people speak Simbari a Trans-New Guinea language belonging to the Anganbranch.
What is unique about this group of people is a cultural practice described as "ritualized homosexuality" and semen ingestion with pubescent boys.
They have a rite of passage which involves the initiation of boys at an early age to transform them into warriors.
As early as between ages 6 and 9, boys are removed from their mothers forcibly amidst threats of death if they are unwilling to leave their mothers or a mother is probably unwilling to be detached from her son due to emotional attachment.
The children are stabbed in their nostrils with sticks to make them bleed profusely. This particular painful act is said to be a symbol of strength and the boy’s ability to sustain pain since the primary objective is to groom them into warriors.
Having removed the boys from their mothers, they are then hit with stinging nettles before being dressed in ritual clothing and forced to suck on ritual flutes.
They are then taken to a cult house and older boys dance in front of them making sexual gestures. Once it gets darker, the younger boys are taken to the dancing ground where they are expected to perform fellatio (a form of blowjob) on the older boys and drink the semen that is ejected during the homosexual process. The belief is that "without this 'male milk' they will fail to mature properly to become strong men."
The process of affirming one’s manhood is not just a one-off thing. Reports say it can last from 10 to 15 years until the young men father a child.
Upon reaching adulthood, the young men marry and engage in heterosexual behaviour in which their brides are required to fellate (perform a blowjob on) them and later perform sexual intercourse.
The reason why the boys are removed from their mothers is to deny them contact with their mothers. It is such an important practice to the Sambia people that they even perform a ritual called "bloodletting" on the boys who have just been isolated from their mothers to get rid of their mother's perceived contaminated blood from their bodies.
Men are taught at a young age that women have the ability to manipulate and weaken men hence the need for men to distance themselves from women.
It is so serious that men go through rites of passage to learn how to safely have sexual intercourse with women without getting trapped and emasculated.
Sex between a Sambia man and a woman is solely meant for procreation, so if it doesn’t result in pregnancy, it is considered a waste of semen.
The women are also separated from the men when they go through their menstrual cycle, a period within which they stay in a designated place called a "menarche hut" because of the belief that the women's powers to manipulate and weaken men are strengthened during this time.
The good, however, is that modernisation has caused a substantial alteration to this conservative cultural practice, and men and women can now hold hands and engage in heterosexual activity.
The Dove Community in Ghana
Here in Ghana, there is a community called Dove, where women are not allowed to give birth to avoid blood-staining the land.
The community is located along the Accra-Aflao Road between Ada and Sogakope in the central Tongu district of the Volta Region. The main occupation of the residents is peasant farming.
Dove, just like most Ghanaian communities certainly has a host of superstitions that have been around for a long time. Aside from the very light ones shared by most communities across the country, Dove has three main taboos that the people have been living with since time immemorial.
The first of these taboos is that the people of Dove don’t rear animals in the community. But this does not mean they don’t consume animal products. One is allowed to buy, transport the animals to the community and kill them without suffering any consequence, whether the blood stains the ground or not. The caveat, however, is that if the animal will not be killed on the same day it gets into the community, then it must be a male animal.
This taboo which has been kept by the people of Dove is vibrantly obvious once you step foot into the town. There is no animal in sight aside from birds flying over the town.
The third taboo - the most difficult is that women are forbidden to give birth in the community. When they get pregnant and the time is due to give birth, they are rushed out of the community with alacrity, to avoid their blood staining the Dove land. Pregnant women in labour are transported in their excruciating pain to other communities so as not to commit sacrilege.
After going through all the struggles to finally give birth successfully, the women are also forbidden to return to the community until their babies’ umbilical cords fall off.
Ironically, these women are free to menstruate in the town without having to be rushed out. Those are not considered blood stains on the land.
Elders of the community say their forefather who founded the land was a hunter called Akiti. When Akiti migrated from Notsie in Togo, he moved to Kpordoave now known as Mafi Dugame. He then proceeded by crossing a river called Kebe and settled at the land known today as Dove.
According to them, as soon as Torgbui Akiti stepped his feet in the land, he heard a voice from above, telling him that the land is a peaceful one, and he could only live in it if and only if he would abide by the aforementioned taboos.
They, including their children and grandchildren, are comfortable and are not ready to take out anything from it or abolish it.
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