Swahili is the most spoken language in Africa, with over 140 million speakers. Also known as Kiswahili, the language is a Bantu language believed to have originated from other languages, specifically languages not native to Africa such as Arabic and Portuguese, following historical East African interactions with speakers of those languages.
It is the lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of eastern and south-eastern Africa, including Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Currently, Swahili is a national language of four countries, namely Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and the DRC. Shikomor, an official language in Comoros and spoken in Mayotte (Shimaore), is also related to Swahili.
Here are 6 interesting facts on Swahili.
- Different dialects of Swahili
Swahili, like many African languages, has dialects but interestingly some Swahili some dialects are so varied that other Swahili speakers cannot discern even though they may be in the same country.
Swahili operates on its own time
In most cultures, the clock, also the day, starts at midnight but not in Swahili. Their day starts at 6 or 7 am and this has been explained as a consequence of the equatorial placement of the countries that speak the language.
Basically, the time is measured from sunrise to sunset. This geographic phenomenon happens at the same time in all countries where Swahili is spoken in Africa.
Interestingly, Ethiopians often use the Swahili clock although it is not a Swahili-speaking country.
It’s easy to learn
Thinking about learning an African language? Give Swahili a try. It’s the easiest African language for English speakers to learn, as it’s one of the few Sub-Saharan African languages without lexical tone, similar to English.
- It’s easy to read
Besides speaking, Swahili is also easier to read as Swahili words are pronounced the same way they are written
It’s been around for centuries
The earliest piece of written Swahili documents dates to 1711. They were letters written in the Kilwa region. These letters were written to the Portuguese people of Mozambique and other local allies. To date, the remains of the documents are preserved in the Historical Archive of Goa in India.
- Full of idioms and proverbs
Swahili is famous for its idioms and proverbs that take the form of Mathali. Methali is a play on words, puns and lyrical rhyming and a very dominant feature of the Swahili language. Local rappers and musicians often employ methali in their music.
Example: Wapiganapo tembo wawili ziumiazo nyasi
Literal translation: When two elephants fight it’s the grass that gets hurt
Meaning: When the rich and powerful contend with each other it is the weak and powerless who pay the price.
In partnership with Kugali Entertainment, Disney is launching a comic book series Iwájú in 2022
Founded by Fikayo Adeola, Hamid Ibrahim and Tolu Olowofoyeku, Kugali focuses on telling stories inspired by African Culture using comic books, art and Augmented reality. These are stories that respect the history, embrace the present and imagine a future of Africa, for a new sci-fi series.
If you go to Senegal you will certainly come across the sport known as Laamb. This is the traditional form of wrestling originally performed by the Serer people and is now a national sport in Senegal & parts of the Gambia.
Its roots come from the wrestling tradition of the Serer people and was used as a preparation ritual for war among the warrior class. Today the sport is practiced by both men & women from all tribes in Senegal and enjoys patronage from both domestic and international sponsors.
A contest between two men dressed in loincloths and decked in talismans. The winner is whoever puts his opponent on the ground, whether on his back, rear, stomach, or a combination of hands and knees. It is an old sport, fought in the sand, steeped in deep, village traditions. But in the last decade, this pastime has evolved into an outsized spectacle, widely televised; its champions have become wealthy celebrities with a greater claim on people’s hearts than any president or businessman. Professional wrestler can earn hundreds to thousands of dollars in endorsements, according to the local news media.
During the ceremony, the wrestler, accompanied by drummers and singers, dances around the arena; around his arms, legs, and waist are various kinds of amulets the purpose of which is to give him luck and also protect him against the charms of his opponent.
Today, the combination of legend, money and mysticism has made laamb a cradle for heroes and the ambition of every boy in Senegal.it used to be practised in the countryside at the end of the harvest, amongst the Serer and Diola ethnic groups. Wrestlers face up to each other, and the winner is the one who causes his adversary to fall to the ground first. This jousting battle used to be a means of measuring the strength of men, to determine the champion of each village.
It was practiced to rejoice, perpetuate cultural folklore, and to designate the strongest man of the village who will become the champion wrestler until the next year.
During French colonization of Senegal, these fights continued to take place in the bush, without the occupiers really knowing much about them. However it was a Frenchman who organized the first official fights in the 1920’s in his cinema El Malik in the capital, Dakar. The wrestlers were paid thanks to ticket sales. It was around this time that a form of the sport began in which wrestlers could also hit their opponents (wrestling with strikes).
After independence, this form of the sport slowly became professional and took hold in towns and cities.
Why Laamb is really fascinating is that it is further evidence of a growing trend on the continent where we are beginning to look within ourselves, embrace some of our unique cultures and find ways to grow them locally and then internationally. It is Africans refusing the rhetoric that arts and culture on the continent never existed before colonialism, that the most interesting thing about our countries is colonial history and post-colonial struggles and that the only good things to be found in our countries are those we got from the West. There is a cultural revolution taking over the continent – one that has started with music and literature and is spreading into even more aspects of our cultural heritage. We need to realize that even across the different African countries, people hunger to know more about other African countries. My education system taught me little other than we had some kingdoms, then we enslaved each other, then Arabs and the West came and took slavery to another level, then colonialism happened, we put up a good fight (The Battle of Adowa, Mau Mau rebellion, and so many other not so successful rebellions including using some magical potions that were to ward off bullets (Maji Maji rebellion). After that the colonial powers left us to our own defenses and we made a mess out of everything – descending into war, famine, disease etc. The West then came back to save us in various forms and anything good or interesting taking place on the continent right now is because of the benevolence of the West.
We as Africans need to change this rhetoric – and what better way to do that than owning and embracing our unique cultures, discovering them and monetising them (Laamb attracts numerous corporate sponsors, but has still managed to remain authentic.)
Laamb in Senegal is a must see
#AfricanCreativeSeries: Affen Oluwasegun Ojo is a Nigerian-based contemporary artist more popularly known as Ojayartworksng. His works have become very popular on social media where he has a large following who appreciate his unique black portraits of African women.
Can you tell us more about your background and when you first started painting?
I’m a Native of bayesla state, Nigeria, I was brought up in Lagos, I started painting at a very young age, I discovered my talent of painting while I was in primary school, then I was later enrolled in roadside local art shop where I got to know about the basics of art.
How did you came to pursue a creative path?
Well, it all started when I discovered that I could draw, it all started by me recreating comic characters and a couple of pictures, then I was able to grow into it, I knew art was a part of me and something I loved doing then I decided take it as career path and create a niche for myself.
Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve created?
My favorite piece has to be The Bantu Knots Piece, the piece has an interesting history, it is a piece that speaks about the African culture especially the women, Many people aren’t aware of the history behind the popular bantu knots hairstyle. The hairstyle features lovely small, coiled buns sprinkled throughout the hair. The style has been worn traditionally for centuries by countless women of African descent.
What are the central themes of your work?
The central theme of my works is majorly the Black culture, which relates to African culture – This is one thing my paintings talk about from the colours used to the fabric used too, which is the Ankara fabric that signifies the African culture.
If you could sit down and have a meal with one artist/designer/musician in the world, who would it be and why?
It has to be Benny Bing because he is my favourite artist and he’s someone that really inspires me a lot, so an opportunity to meet with him is something I’d really cherish because he is one person whose works has contributed to my growth.
Tell us a bit about where you were born and where you are living now. Are all these places important to your identity and to your artwork?
Well like I said earlier, I was born and brought up in Lagos, Nigeria which like they say is the business capital of the country. It is the state with the highest combined ratio of all the tribes in Nigeria and one of the most populated city in Africa, and I still stay in Lagos. The environment and culture of the people made me carve out my niche as an artist that focuses on the Black culture.
Africa is a new economic frontier where young people are shaping Africa’s future. What do they want to see, hear and read that will inspire them to embrace African arts and culture?
For me, contemporary art can play a major role in this age, because based on the experiences it is something most people can relate to, also we can see that this new generation of youths in Africa are working on new ideas to transform the economic landscape of the continent, this same group are increasingly focusing on the creative aspect of the economy, also how culture develops at the local level. For example, we see a lot of entrepreneurs that want to see local cultural scene prosper and how it connects with their brands and personal interests.
It can be argued that Africa’s time is now. How do we prepare to take full advantage of the opportunities that are constantly unfolding in front of us? More importantly how does the African contemporary art establishment position itself to emerge as a ‘global player’ whose voice can be heard and respected?
From my perspective as an independent artist, I’ve seen that there are couple of obstacles to overcome as contemporary art transcends to a global stage, Firstly, there is not yet a fully established infrastructure for the art market, most of the independent artists like me have to simultaneously produce work also work as their own agents. So, there is a need for a stronger institutional base for contemporary art in Africa, one of the key elements to making this possible is working together. This idea brings up a strong and thriving art community that has a voice of its own rather than it being dictated to.
When you are not painting, What other interests do you have?
Apart from painting, traveling is one other that really interests me, I’ll really love to tour the world to also learn about other culture and the people there, who knows – I might get inspired by a few sightings.
Decades ago Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and there are years that answer.” Certainly, 2020 is a year that answers, responding to questions that have been posed for centuries. Heightened racial violence and xenophobia remind us of why it it imperative to continue resisting, teaching, writing and working cooperatively to restructure our world into one rooted in equity and balance. We must be uncompromising about reaching this end goal because we have learned the hard way that reform is merely a bandaid. Here are seven book recommendations to help you to maintain your strength and momentum as we embark upon revolutionary times
Fete Gede, also known as the Festival of the Dead, is a key celebration in Haitian culture. It’s a national holiday centered around Voodoo culture. Haitians across the country join each other in song and dance to celebrate lwa or spirits of Voodoo.
What’s Fet Gede?
Fet Gede (also knows as Fèt Gede or Fète Gede) is like its Haitian celebrators: joyful, resilient, and unordinary. This celebration offers time not only to celebrate death but to face it. Let’s take at the origin of Fet Gede and why it’s important.
Fete Gede isn’t just a celebration of spirits; it’s also an ode to Haiti’s endurance. Fet Gede originates from the long-standing history of slavery in Haiti.
Before 1804, Haitians were enslaved under French rule. Haiti, or Saint-Domingue as it was known back then, was a violent place for slaves. They lived in dirty conditions and were often mistreated.
Voodoo was an outlet for slaves to stay emotionally healthy and remember their homeland. The practice of Voodoo stems from West Africa and started as far as 6,000 years ago. It‘s an ancient religion that centers around ancestral beliefs. Enslaved Africans often masked Voodoo rituals under the disguise of Catholic traditions.
In fact, Haitians believe Voodoo is the reason for their freedom. It served as an inspiration for Enslaved Africans to rebel against the French. In a now-famous ceremony called Bois Caïman or Alligator Woods, thousands of Enslaved Africans came together in a Voodoo ritual against the French.
During the ceremony, EnslavedAfricans leaders were possessed by the lwa spirits. Everyone danced, sang, and prayed that the white men would be defeated. Ultimately the ceremony was successful, as
Haiti is one of the few colonies that won its independence thanks to its slave rebellion.
Voodoo left a significant impression on the Haitian culture. It’s not a surprise that Fet Gede continues to be the most important religious holiday on the national calendar. It brings the community together to bring the dead alive again.
As mentioned before, all followers of Voodoo in Haiti celebrate Fet Gede. In Voodoo, it is considered to be an honor to communicate with spirits. The spirits follow and guide followers throughout life.
The significance of spirits is especially crucial for Haitian funerals, and like funerals, Voodoo priests and priestess perform special rituals to summon the spirits.
During Fet Gede, Houngan (priests) or Manbo (priestesses) perform rituals as well. Spirits “mount” or possess followers. There are hundreds of spirits or lwa in Voodoo.
However, Fet Gede is a celebration of the Guédé (Ghede or Gede) family—spirits of the dead.
Haitians celebrate the Gede spirits during the entire month of November. Many cultures consider the early days of November to be the most sacred. Then, the spirits of loved ones can return earthside and advise their family and friends. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic celebration in November to remember the dead, just like Fet Gede.
Fet Gede falls on the same day each year, as people take to the streets on November 2nd to connect with the dead.
Music and dance
Both music and dancing are important expressions of devotion in Voodoo. For the gede to fully possess worshipers, the houn’torguiers or Voodoo drummers play intense music. The fast-paced music and dancing allow the worshipper to lose control of their body. Participants may scream and flail or even faint.
The possessed person can bless the people around him or her. They can connect with the dead, share their stories, or even reveal how they died. Without Voodoo rhythmic dance and beats, the ritual is impossible.
Felabration, the annual festival of music and arts commemorating the life and times of Africa’s foremost musical icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
This year’s edition themed, ‘Fight to Finish, Fight to Win’ is scheduled to hold virtually from 15 to 17 October.
Due to the COVID-19 realities, the organizers decided to go ahead with the event, adapting to the “new norm.” Felabration 2020 will be running for three days, (not for a week as in the past) on different internet platforms that include, Zoom, Facebook, Youtube, Hip Tv and others.
This year’s musical guests include Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Made Kuti, Niniola, Wande Coal, Joeboy, Antibalas, WurlD and more, who are all on deck to get the crowds moving.
Organised by the Felabration Organising Committee, the week-long musical event is on it’s 22nd trip around the sun, as it was first organised and celebrated by Kuti’s eldest daughter, Yeni, in 1998. And since 2005, the annual event has transformed into seven days of connecting through concerts, carnival parades, lectures, film screenings, art exhibitions, seminars and workshops, all in varying spaces across Lagos. While the festival originated in Fela Kuti’s home country, it quickly became a global celebration as the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and many other countries joined in in later years.
Over two decades after his passing, Kuti’s influences are still clear as day through the growth of the music festival. And his political messages still ring in the ears of those closest to him and his art, “My father’s political views were expressed in his music”, his daughter Yeni says, “You can’t divorce the two. You cannot honour Fela without recognising his social and political activism at the same time.” And the emphasis on ‘Symposium’ this year highlights the importance of African conversations with speakers like Her Excellency Arikana Chihombori Quao, Dr. Vincent Magombe, Dele Farotimi and Kweku Mandelalending their voices towards the conversation around “Colomentality”.
You can Join the Felabration Symposium here
As the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide surpasses 1 million, Rio de Janeiro has delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century.
According to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, Brazil has the second-worst death toll worldwide, with more than 140,000 deaths and more than 4.7 million confirmed cases.
Carnival organizers concluded the global event could not go on because of Brazil’s vulnerability to the coronavirus. The traditional parades attract more than 7 million people over the course of five days.
Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, said the continued spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay, and, for many, a huge portion of locals’ livelihood.
“Carnival is a party upon which many humble workers depend. The samba schools are community institutions, and the parades are just one detail of all that,” Luiz Antonio Simas, a historian who specializes in Rio’s Carnival, told the Associated Press. “An entire cultural and productive chain was disrupted by COVID.”
Organizers have not announced a new date for the delayed event but Rio’s tourism agency said that it’s uncertain to know when large public events can resume without a coronavirus vaccine.
The festival was scheduled from Feb.12th through Feb. 17th, 2021, which is known to attract 2 million people per day to parties on the Brazilian city streets known as blocos.
The last year Rio’s Carnival was suspended was 1912, following the foreign relations minister’s death at the time.
Trinidad Also Cancels Famed Carnival Festival
Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley announced the cancellation of the island’s carnival festival as well.
The event held before Ash Wednesday attracts thousands of visitors every year, and generated more than $3 million last year, as reported in the Associated Press.
The announcement came one week after Rio de Janeiro announced the city’s famed carnival celebration would be canceled.
Diversity is what makes South Africa one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With 11 official languages, each culture embraces the essence of what it means to be an African through food, music, dance and fashion..
Heritage Day was originally known as Shaka Day, in commemoration of King Shaka Zulu. In 1996, during an address marking Heritage Day, former President Nelson Mandela said:
“When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”
Heritage Day is celebrated on the 24th of September and it recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of South Africa. South Africans celebrate the day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.
This Heritage Month, we take a look at some of the traditional clothing worn by South Africans.
For Xhosa women, the most common traditional wear is umbhaco. It is a long skirt and apron made from printed or embroidered fabrics. The Xhosa attire includes beaded necklaces, called ithumbu.
Worn by married women as a sign of respect to one’s husband and his family, isicholo is a flared disk-shaped hat. This hat is accompanied by a thick, cowhide skirt which has been softened with animal fat and charcoal, called isidwaba.
Men wear a front apron, known as an isinene, and a rear apron, ibheshu, to cover the genitals and buttocks
This culture is big on colours and beads. Worn by married women, idzila is an accessory placed around the neck, arms, and legs. Their colourful blanket, umbalo, is also for married women. And then there is the signature beaded headband known as amacubi.
The main item of clothing for men is an iporiyana. Decorated with beads, it hangs on the neck. They also wear animal skin called karos to keep warm.
The Vavenda wear munwenda, a multi-coloured striped cloth that comes in two pieces – a top and a bottom. It is paired with beads such as lutomola tsie, mapala, tshithivho vivho, zwifudzi, magidipho, and makunda. They also have musisi, a skirt-like garment made from the munwenda material.
The most iconic clothing item in the Xitsonga culture is xibelani. It is a knee-length skirt typically worn by Xitsonga women. It is made from a bolt of cloth, a fabric called salempur, about 18m long. They also have a top called a yele that they wear with a tightly fitting T-shirt.
The Swati culture is complex as their clothing style varies according to age and gender. Some items are reserved for specific ceremonies, such as the incwala or the umhlanga (reed dance).
However, married women wear skin aprons and skin skirts. They also have another apron they wear under the armpits; after the birth of their first child they put the same apron over one shoulder and style their hair in a bun. Married men wear loin skins.
Tswana women wear an apron called a khiba, with a skirt called a mosese. Men wear a kaross, a blanket made from animal skin, to cover up.
They wear a traditional Basotho dress called the seshoeshoe. However, a statement piece is the Basotho blanket, worn by both men and women over the shoulders.
VISIT HERITAGE SITES IN SOUTH AFRICA
Did you know South Africa is home to nine world heritage sites and many more national heritage sites? A heritage site is categorised as a place with cultural and historical importance. The World Heritage Sites are:
- Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa in Sterkfontein
- Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in Limpopo
- Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape in Northern Cape
- Robben Island in Western Cape
- Cape Floral Region Protected Areas in the Western and Eastern Cape
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal
- Vredefort Dome in the Free State
- uKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho
- Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in Mpumalanga
South Africa’s nine World Heritage Sites offer a diversity and abundance of cultural and natural values that encapsulate the value systems of the country.
Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa.