West Africa as we all know can also be called the west of Africa or the westernmost part of Africa as a result of its location. Some people also refer to it as the bulge of Africa. It is made of seventeen countries which includes Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and the Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
The above listed countries have their various amazing cultures, values and believes though only few would be discussed below. Culture as we all know is the people’s ways of doing things and as such West African culture cannot be under emphasized when it comes to its influence on the people and beyond.
Given to this, the traditional West Africa Art forms includes Folktales, the Griot, Proverbs, Music and Visual arts of which would be broken down respectively.
Starting from folktales, folktales is significant especially in West Africa where the importance of culture can never be neglected. Through folktales, children get to be exposed to the history of their land and they also learn to respect their elders. Folktales teaches values, morals and passes on believes from one generation to another. It is believed that most folktales told were brought by slaves in West Africa in about 1500s. An example of this folktales are the usual stories of tortoise which is always portrayed as a cunny and tricky animal in order to pass some morals to the listener.
The next in the list is Griot. A Griot in the history of West Africa culture is a talented and skillful poet’s musician who goes as far as telling stories using music and at the same time, dancing to the tune of the rhythm in order to be able to drive home an impression. Its significance cannot also be underemphasized in the history of West Africa culture because he goes a long way to preserve the oral tradition of a people by telling stories and playing sounds which could last for hours. A good Griot was always known to possess the ability of reciting events which occurred in the past and also the names of great men who had lived in the past. By so doing, the Groit play a good role in keeping history alive. One of the instrument a Griot uses is called the kora, it is made from a calabash (A fruit like water melon) which had been cut into halves. The front is made of cow skin. A local coral has 21 strings made of fishing lines and are plucked by the thumb and forefinger of each hand.
The third art form is Proverbs and music. Proverbs had managed to survive the test of time in West Africa culture. It is usually said or recited by elderly people in the society because of their level of advancement and experiences so far. Proverbs are wise and precise statements said to convey a message. In West Africa, it is believed that anybody good with such gift is specially ordained by the gods and ancestors. It is also believed that Proverbs are brought into West Africa by slaves. At the other hand, music is also a significant part of West Africa culture as it aids in the transmission of culture from one generation to another. It involves the use of feelings, ideas and values. Such music’s are specially played at special occasions or festivals with the presence of drummers. Drum playing is very significant in the history of West Africa culture. These drums are normally made from logs of woods after which it is covered with animal skin to help aid the production of pleasing and melodious rhythms which the audience gladly dance to.
Visual arts is also an important part of West Africa culture. The region is known in their production of beautiful and unique textiles which always goes a long way in passing an impression. History has it that mask, sculptures and baskets were also created first in West Africa.
Since we have known this, let’s also proceed to know the two major tribes in west Africa that are known for their unique culture and the countries they could be found. In West Africa, there are a lot of tribes and people you can find. Their various cultures varies according to their tribes, two of which is the mandinka tribe and the Ashanti tribe.
Starting from the Mandinkas, these are the people that lives in West Africa and can be mainly found in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. They are popularly known as farmers and they possess rich oral tradition which is passed from generation to generation. In Mandinka tribe, one can find good storytellers and Griots all of whose contributions are felt from generations to generations. They also indulge in drum beating for healing of the sick and on special occasions.
Following the Mandinka tribe, comes the Ashanti tribe. These people are found in central Ghana in West Africa. The group is the largest tribe in Ghana. Ashanti group are known to have a powerful religion with both spiritual and supernatural powers. They believe that plants, animals and trees have souls. This Ashanti tribe are also known for their gold and metal crafts, wood carving and their beautiful colored woven cloth called kente.
Also, Nok civilization is also evident in the history of West Africa culture. Nigeria is a country associated with Non civilization which is one of the most popular sub-Sahara civilizations in Africa history since 1500Bc. It produced one of the first iron smelting and terracotta architecture in the sub-Sahara region though it suddenly disappeared around 200 AD.
In conclusion, West Africa culture had survived the test of time and has gone a long way in influencing various cultures of the world. This can be seen in the case of America.
According to research, America’s applique and quilting was influenced by the West Africa textiles. This explains how influential West Africa culture was and still is. Also, the West Africa people are really another contributing factor, as they are always so mindful of preserving their various cultures which goes a long way in brightening up the stay of fun driven tourists and visitors who decides to have a look at them.