Much like the Americas before 1450, Africa was largely tribal or clan-based.
Tribal Africa refers to the many different indigenous cultures and communities that exist across the African continent. These communities have a wide variety of cultural practices, beliefs, and languages, and many of them have a long history that predates the arrival of Europeans on the continent. Many tribal African communities have a strong connection to their traditional ways of life and often base their cultural practices and beliefs on their traditional spiritual and religious practices. Some examples of tribal African cultures include the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, the Himba in Namibia, the San in Botswana, and the Baka in Cameroon.
Many African cultures are based on a clan or tribe structure, where people are organized into groups based on their family or kinship ties. These clans or tribes often have a shared history, language, and cultural practices, and they may have a traditional system of governance and social organization. In many African cultures, the clan or tribe is an important part of an individual's identity, and people often have a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to their clan or tribe. In some African cultures, the clan or tribe may be involved in decision-making processes and may play a role in resolving conflicts within the community.
Islam is a monotheistic religion founded in the 7th century by the prophet Muhammad. It is based on the belief in one God (Allah) and the teachings of Muhammad as recorded in the Qur'an. Muslims follow the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the core religious obligations that must be followed in order to live a good and faithful life. These pillars are:
- Shahada: the declaration of faith that there is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet.
- Salat: the ritual prayer performed five times a day.
- Zakat: the annual payment of a percentage of one's wealth to charity.
- Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan.
- Hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca that must be made at least once in a lifetime.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1.8 billion followers. It is the dominant religion in the Middle East and North Africa, and has a significant presence in many other parts of the world.
The trans-Saharan trade network was a trade route that connected the Mediterranean region with sub-Saharan Africa. The trade network spanned the Sahara Desert and facilitated the exchange of a wide variety of goods, including salt, gold, ivory, and slaves. The trade network was established in ancient times and played a significant role in the economies of both Africa and the Mediterranean region. The trans-Saharan trade network was a key factor in the spread of Islam in Africa and the development of African kingdoms and empires. The trade network declined in importance in the 19th century with the arrival of European colonizers in Africa and the development of alternative trade routes.
The Indian Ocean trade network was a network of trade routes that connected the East African coast with the Western Indian Ocean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. The trade network was centered around the Indian Ocean and was an important part of the global trade system during the pre-modern period. The Indian Ocean trade network facilitated the exchange of a wide variety of goods, including spices, textiles, gold, and other luxury items. The trade network also played a role in the spread of religions, such as Islam, and in the exchange of ideas and cultural practices. The Indian Ocean trade network was an important factor in the economic and cultural development of the regions it connected.
Around 1,000 CE and later, many empires did emerge. These kingdoms brought unity, continuity, and complexity to the regions they controlled.
Post-classical Africa refers to the period of African history that followed the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. During this period, Africa experienced significant changes in its political, economic, and cultural systems. The post-classical period saw the rise and fall of several African empires, such as the Kingdom of Ghana, the Mali Empire, and the Songhai Empire. The post-classical period was also marked by the spread of Islam throughout Africa and the development of a number of important trade networks, such as the trans-Saharan trade network and the Indian Ocean trade network. The post-classical period in Africa ended with the arrival of Europeans on the continent and the start of the colonial period.
|Ghana was an ancient kingdom located in what is now southeastern Mauritania and western Mali. It was one of the first of the great West African empires, and it flourished between the 4th and 13th centuries. Ghana was known for its powerful army and its wealth, which was largely derived from the kingdom's control of the trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt. The capital of Ghana was located at Koumbi Saleh, and the kingdom was ruled by a king who held power over a number of vassal states. Ghana was eventually conquered by the Kingdom of Mali, which absorbed much of its territory and its cultural traditions. 300 CE - 1000 CE, Western African Trade gold for salt with North African Berbers (nomads) who were the middle men with Europe. No state religion. Not as unified as empires that come later.
|The Mali Empire was a West African empire that flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was located in what is now Mali, and it controlled a vast territory that included parts of modern-day Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, and Niger. The Mali Empire was founded by Sundiata Keita, who established the empire's capital at the city of Niani. The Mali Empire was known for its wealth, which was derived from the empire's control of the trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other goods. The Mali Empire was also known for its scholarship and its cultural achievements, including the establishment of a number of important centers of learning. The Mali Empire declined in the 15th century and was eventually replaced by the Songhai Empire. 1200 CE - 1400 CE, replaced Ghana, Islam unites Mali and those it conquers. Mansa Musa is a famous and powerful king who built mosques and famous libraries in Timbuktu (capital). Mansa Musa travels the Trans-Saharan Trade Network on his hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in Arabia, exposing those along the way to Mali’s wealth and power.
|The Songhai Empire was a West African empire that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was located in what is now Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, and it controlled a vast territory that included parts of modern-day Senegal, Mauritania, and Ghana. The Songhai Empire was founded by Sonni Ali, who established the empire's capital at the city of Gao. The Songhai Empire was known for its wealth, which was derived from the empire's control of the trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other goods. The Songhai Empire was also known for its cultural achievements, including the establishment of a number of important centers of learning. The Songhai Empire declined in the late 16th century and was eventually conquered by Moroccan invaders. 1400-1500, replaced Mali, Conquered Mali and then collapsed because of slave trade.
|The Swahili coast refers to the coastal region of East Africa that stretches from modern-day Somalia in the north to Mozambique in the south. The Swahili coast was an important center of trade and cultural exchange for many centuries, and it was a crossroads for trade routes that connected the East African coast with the interior of the continent, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean region. The Swahili coast was home to a number of city-states, each with its own ruler, and these city-states formed a loose confederation known as the Swahili culture. The Swahili culture was a blend of African, Arab, and Persian influences, and it is known for its vibrant arts, literature, and architecture. This region is along the eastern coast of Africa allowing its use of both the Trans-Saharan Trade Network and the Indian Ocean Trade Network. Its city-states were united in trade and variations of the Bantu language. Its largest city-state, Great Zimbabwe, was protected by a large wall demonstrating the unity of its people.
|Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the oldest independent country in Africa, and it has a long and rich history dating back to ancient times. Ethiopia is a federal parliamentary republic, and it is the second-most populous country in Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west, and Sudan to the northwest. Ethiopia has a diverse population and is home to more than 80 different ethnic groups. The official language of Ethiopia is Amharic, and the country has a long tradition of Orthodox Christian faith. This eastern kingdom was a lone Christian kingdom in a region converting to Islam.
Mansa Musa. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
These African societies have many shared characteristics. Family and communal activities were the centerpieces of the clan or village. Music and dancing were a common way of both entertainment but also veneration of the dead. Most Sub-Saharan societies did not have a written language rather passed on their history, literature, and culture through oral tradition. Griots were storytellers who would make kings famous for generations.