African Cultures – Fulani

The Fulani people, also known as the Fula in English, are an African group that are found in Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Chad, Sudan, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. Basically, they occupy the area from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Chad, and even certain areas of Sudan. There are currently approximately 15 million Fulani people living in Africa, the vast majority (about two-thirds, in fact) of whom are living in Nigeria.

The Fulani are part of the Niger-Congo linguistic group and speak the Fulaar dialect of the Fulfulde language. They are particularly proud of their culture, heritage and identity.

The Fulani people are believed to have come from Libya or the southern part of Egypt, from where they gradually moved towards the coastline in the west of Africa. Then, in the 1200’s, the Islam people, their religion and its traditions began to penetrate this culture, which happened at the same time that the Fulani people began to spread towards the central regions of Africa. They became a particularly strong warring nation, powerful in their successful endeavours to settle in various areas of the continent. Then, in the early part of the 19th century, the Islam or Moslem Empire of Sokoto was established, which subjected all of the Hausa kingdoms (of which the Fulani were one). Thereafter, the Europeans started to arrive in Africa, also playing a major role in the decline of the Fulani power. Still, this did not completely eradicate the culture, as the people retained their hold on many of the customs and ideals that defined them. This has meant that, even today, the Fulani people are a unique and fascinating group. They are lighter in complexion than most black African cultures and have straighter hair, which has been surmised to be due to their integration with the Islam folk.

This culture is divided into castes, which consist of (in order of importance) nobility, cattle owners, herdsmen and then craftsmen and cultivators, who are deemed to be the very lowest classes. In fact, the vast majority of those within these last two divisions have descended from black slaves. The Fulani family is under the head of the patriarch, or father. The entire society is based upon the different families’ patriarchs and the land that they own and occupy, as well as the buildings and livestock on that land. The marriages within this culture are polygamous. However, a bride price is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family, so no man will have more wives than he can afford to pay the bride price for. Because of their original ties to Libya and southern Egypt, the Fulani people retain many of the cultural characteristics of the Libyan-Berber people.

The Fulani people are strictly rural or pastoral. Any other jobs that need to be done in their area are left to neighbouring tribes and cultures. They are traditionally nomadic, moving from one area to the next according to their needs and the natural resources available to them. They are also known for their trading, making a life from bartering and selling their goods. Their livestock farming consists mainly of cattle (their most important and valued asset), sheep and goats. Interestingly, the Fulani tend to distance themselves from other agricultural populations around them.

These people are known for their tattoos, which are inked onto men, women and, sometimes, even infants. The Fulani women frequently tattoo their lips, making them black, or dye them with henna. Tattoos are considered to beautify the body, and aesthetic beauty is particularly important in this culture. Young girls and women typically wear strips of colourful cotton woven into the hair just above their foreheads. Their clothing is characteristically colourful, comprising long robes with a little embroidery or embellishment sewn on. Men and women both don these long robes, and the herdsmen and women wear turbans. Jewellery is important for both men and women.

Bravery is a very important concept in the Fulani culture. They have an array of weapons testifying to their warrior courage and lack of fear. When young boys are coming of age, they perform a ritual that requires that they strike one another with spears, laughing as they receive blow after blow to their young bodies. Many boys have died during these ceremonies.

Music and song are an integral part of the Fulani culture. Their instruments include a riti (similar to a violin), hoddu (like a banjo) and drums. Ululation is also a very popular addition to most musical pieces. This is a vocal technique that is high-pitched, adding a tribal sound to the overall piece.

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Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.