With an estimated three thousand tribes nestled within 54 countries occupied by over 1.4 billion people, the African continent boasts unique cultures and traditions passed down over centuries.
Owing to her custom’s impact on the diverse African culture practised by many across the continent, many of these practises and traditions have over the years gained some level of traction and acceptance, but for some, they have remained alien and inconceivable.
The Bantu tribe in Malawi is home to the Chewa people, a group of locals with a unique burial ceremony for their dead.
Called the Chewa festival for the dead, this ceremony/practice calls for a purification ceremony for the dead. The process calls for the throat to be slit and water poured through until the body is clean. The water is then collected and used to prepare a meal for the community.
This practise is believed to rid the dead of their iniquities.
Banyankole tribe – Uganda; the Potency test
The Banyankole tribe in Uganda tests the potency and virility of a groom before he is permitted to get married. This tribe charges the bride’s aunt to have sex with the groom to confirm his potency. She is also required to ‘test’ the bride’s virginity. Some traditions permit the bride’s aunt to either listen in or watch the couple consummate their marriage to prove their potency.
Aka tribe – Congo and the Breastfeeding dads
A parenting ritual called ‘couvade’ is practised by the Aka Pygamy tribe of Congo. This practise, many have termed shocking, encourages skin-to-skin contact between dad and baby.
Dads are encouraged to cradle their newborns against their bare chests and breastfeed them. The AKA Pygamy tribe believes this will aid in fostering a deeper connection between father and child.
Wodaabe tribe – Niger Republic; Guérewol Beauty Contest
The Cure Salée festival, held at the end of the rainy season in September, is a male beauty contest and courtship ritual practised by Wodaabe men. Styled to perfection with make-up and other fashion accessories, these men compete for the affection of their women.
An ideal contestant is a tall man with perfectly white teeth and eyeballs. To impress these women, the men make different gestures, including rolling their eyes and smiling brightly to reveal their beautiful white dentition.
The Guérewol beauty contest is also judged by young women.
Maasai tribe – Northern Tanzania and Kenya ; Maasai spitting
Spittle holds major significance in Maasai culture. Tribal members show their respect through this medium, which is also regarded as an act of blessing.
The Maasai people believe that one’s spittle represents one’s essence, hence the ritual set up for greeting elders in the community. Young Massai men are required to first spit into the palms of the elders before offering them a handshake. This act is highly revered.