By Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade
Africa Day was celebrated on 25 May, and YouTube and ViacomCBS Networks Africa organized the “Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home”, which was streamed on the MTV Base Africa YouTube channel. The concert gave fans across the globe an opportunity to experience the beauty of music from across the continent while raising funds to support food and health needs for children and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a world of social distancing, quarantine, curfews and lockdowns, the Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home also reminded us of the mellifluous and lively rhythms that African music is known for. Music is just one of the things that reflects Africa’s vibrant culture and fascinating peoples. Here are eleven others.
Over 25% of the world’s languages are spoken only in Africa, which is home to an estimated 2000 languages. With a population of over one billion people, Africa has the highest linguistic diversity in the world. Nigeria alone is known to have over 250 languages. Arabic is the most widespread official language, other widely spoken languages are Berber, Igbo, Swahili, Hausa, Zulu, Portugese, Amharic and Yoruba.
Have you heard of the ‘smoke that thunders’, ‘iSimangaliso- a place of miracle and wonder’, ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, or ‘Kilimanjaro?’ These are just a few of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Africa. Africa has a total of 89 cultural world heritage sites – places that represent the combined works of nature and of man. They reveal Africa’s beauty and diversity. Some other heritage sites to check out are the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Namib Sand Sea in Namibia and Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove in Nigeria.
Africa is still one of the best travel destinations in the world. The continent welcomes visitors to its clear beaches, wondrous vistas and a rich history. From the National Museums of Kenya to the Arab Republic of Egypt- considered to be the cradle of civilization – Africa offers truly memorable experiences. Other popular tourist locations include São Tomé e Principe, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Rwanda, Reunion Island and Morocco.
Around 30% of the earth’s remaining mineral resources are in Africa. These include uranium, platinum, diamonds, cobalt, gold, oil and gas reserves. Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of oil, ahead of Iraq and Kuwait. Nickel and uranium can be found in Burundi, titanium in Gambia, and diamonds in Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is interesting to note that almost half of the gold ever mined on earth has come from a single place – the Witwatersrand, in South Africa.
Early African art
Art has always been synonymous with Africans. The earliest form of African art is rock art. The oldest rock art images – scientifically dated from 27,000 years ago – are in Namibia. The petroglyphs, rock carvings that depict animals like giraffes that no longer exist in the area, are preserved in the Saharan sands in Niger and date back to 6500BC. The earliest known sculptures are the remarkable terracotta pottery heads from the Nok culture of Nigeria and are dated around 500 BC through to 200 AD. Metal sculptures, wood carvings and textiles also make up some of the early African art.
Africa has been home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations and now, it is the home to a very young growing population. The African population is much younger than the rest of the world with over 50% of Africans under the age of 20. This has enabled the continent to record growth in industries that fit this young demography such as fintech, entertainment, transportation, technology, real estate, fashion and food processing.
African fashion has come a long way to where it is now – bold, diverse and original. Notable celebrities like Beyoncé, Jidenna, Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi and Erykah Badu have been spotted wearing African prints as fashion choices. African fashion designers like Nigeria’s Deola Sagoe or South African’s Sindiso Khumalo have been able to build recognizable brands not just in Africa but across the world.
Africa also has its long list of heroes. These are notable personalities that have been identified for their admirable courage, nobility, or exploits. From Nelson Mandela, South African statesman to Kofi Annan, Ghanaian and the first African to be elected as Secretary-General from the ranks of UN staff; Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist; Desmond Tutu, South African cleric and Nobel Peace Prize winner; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian stateswoman; Paul Kagame, Rwandan statesman and Wangari Maathai, Kenyan human rights and environmental conservation advocate, Africa has a wealth of heroes who are celebrated worldwide.
Africa presents diverse culinary options. Preparing iconic dishes from Africa needs a unique set of skills and preparation techniques. From jollof rice from Nigeria, Piri piri chicken from Mozambique, Waakye from Ghana, Cachupa from Cape Verde, Yassa from Senegal to Superkanja from Gambia, African cuisine leaves a lasting impression on your palette. In Nigeria, to really enjoy your meals, you must explore the art of eating with your fingers. This is the norm in most African countries.
The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt date back to 2500BC. Pyramids in Sudan were originally built by the Kush under the ruling of Nubian Kings in the 4th century BC. Africa is known for its architectural wonders. The Corinthia Hotel Khartoum in Sudan, Aksum’s Giant Stelae in Ethiopia, the Reunification Monument in Cameroon, the Walls of Great Zimbabwe, Alice Lane Towers in South Africa and the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali, all showcase Africa’s ingenious creativity.
African tribal ceremonies pay homage to the rituals that mark important occasions in tribal life. The Maasai people of Kenya and Northern Tanzania view spitting as a form of blessing and a sign of respect. The Mursi tribe of Ethiopia is one of the last tribes in Africa where it’s the norm for women to wear large pottery or wooden plates in their lower lips and the courtship dance for young men of the Wodaabe tribe in Niger is an annual ritual competition where the winner is then eligible for marriage.
Africa is arguably considered the cradle of the world’s civilization. It’s rich culture is visible in its languages, food, tourist attractions and most especially, its people. The second largest continent in the world is distinctively unique and offers an unparalleled experience for those willing to visit or know more about its heritage.
Kola-Ogunlade is the Communications & PR Manager, West Africa for Google.