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HISTORY & CULTURE

Are Tattoos Part of African Culture?

25 May 2021

Have you ever wondered how tattoos are viewed in different parts of the continent? Do you think tattoos are not African and a culture borrowed from the west? Well, in Middle East Africa the oldest tattoo was found in Egypt on an Egyptian mummy, Amunet dating near 2000 BCE. In North Africa, their tattoos looked like doodles or graffiti on the face. To these people, it was a gift from Allah. While in Sub-Saharan Africa they used a technique called skin scarification to make tattoos. The artist uses a sharp blade to create dot-like shapes. Today in Africa, a technique of scar formation called cicatrization is used locally. In this technique, the artist cuts the skin deep and rubs ash or soot into the tear.
In today's world, tattoos are as expressive as a piercing or haircut. Many Gen Z’s and Millennials are aware of the refined tattoo techniques and trend but only a few know about the African tattoo practice. In many African cultures, tattoos are a symbol of purity, a religious ritual, a standard of beauty, and social acceptance. Tattoos were a way of defense against spirits, fight against diseases. It was also used as an identity within groups and tribes or a reflection of character traits like bravery, and social status. Tattoo culture in Africa holds plenty of surprises. For the curious, young minds, here is how tattoos are viewed in different parts of the continent;   Middle East Africa: Africa holds a rich past of tattoos. They started with very simple designs. It was as precise as a pair of straight lines on the arms, legs, and belly button area. The oldest tattoo was found in Egypt on an Egyptian mummy, Amunet dating near 2000 BCE. Amunet was a priestess for the Goddess, Hathor and her tattoo were a dot-and-dash on her navel area. It was said that the Egyptian tattoos symbolized fertility and idol worship.   North Africa: In these parts of Africa, Islam forbade tattoos and called it self-harm. It was only the nomadic tribes like the Berber women who still wore tattoos and their designs were complex facials. They looked like doodles or graffiti on the face. For the people who accepted this art, it was a gift from Allah. Overall, there are myth histories of tattoos in North Africa. For some indigenes in the modern-day, it is an outlet for rebellion.   Sub-Saharan Africa: The tattooing technique in Sub-Sahra is called skin scarification. Remember Black Panther? Yes, that style of body art.  The artist uses a sharp blade to create dot-like patterns to form a particular shape. Although this method is prone to infections, it was believed to ward off evil. Today in Africa, a technique of scar formation is called cicatrization. The artist cuts the skin deep and then rubs ash or soot into the tear causing the wound to bulge up. Apart from this unique style, normal tattoos are still very much a trend. If you visit your hometown today, you’ll still see ancient tattoo styles that your grandma or Pa can testify to!

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Haunted Places in South Africa

Haunted Places in South Africa Do strange things ever happen to you at night or even during the day? Ever thought about ghosts and all they do? When the word haunted is said, all one thinks about is movies. Thinking that being haunted or haunted places only ends in movies is not true. Are you one who loves thrills and scary goosebumps creeping all over you? Or are you searching for a place that will get your adrenaline pump up? Then these haunted places in South Africa should be your next stop. From ghost stories to haunted houses where you hear screams even during the day to hotels, castles, hospitals, and museums are experiences you will never forget in a hurry when you visit any of these places. The CAPE OF GOOD HOPE is said to be one of the most haunted places in South Africa and the most talked about ghost stories. Oral legend has it that sometime in 1941 a Dutch ship called “The Flying Dutchman” used for trading capsized off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope after surrendering to the storm. According to the legend, The Flying Dutchman is doomed to keep sailing the stormy seas forever and it is said to be a very terrible omen to see The Flying Dutchman while at sea. The ghost nurse at the Somerset Hospital is on to look out for whenever one visits Cape Town. This nurse is said to mysterious with her white eyes and loves assisting patients and then disappear afterward. If you like a ghost pulling your toes while you sleep, if you love that kind of thrill then the Nottingham Road Hotel is for you. The ghost of the hotel is called Charlotte and she is said to be fond of tidying and rearranging flowers and objects in your room. So, whenever you visit this South African hotel and pay for a room, have it at the back of your mind that you automatically signed up to have a roommate that does the cleaning. Interestingly scary right? Residents in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria reports having heard strange noises and often seen ghosts in and around the Erasmus castle. Out of the normal things like moaning at night and lit windows in the abandoned mansion has always been reported too. Shoulder tapping is a thing when you visit Rust en Vreugd (an Iziko Museum) in Cape Town. The shoulder-tapping ghost is said to dwell in the museum.

28 Apr 2021

Rwanda, so Interesting

Interesting Places to Visit in Rwanda When we think Rwanda, most times the first word to come to mind is a dark period in the country’s history. However, there’s more to see in this city than its dark history. Let’s take a look at some interesting places you should visit in Rwanda and why this East African city should be on your travel list. 1.VOLCANOS NATIONAL PARK This location is a top favorite among tourists. It is a conservation area located in North-western Rwanda. Fun things you can do at this park include Gorilla trekking or gorilla safaris. This conservation houses a large number of mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, a variety of birds, elephants, bushbucks, reptiles etc. It is a complete safari experience and has absolutely breath-taking scenery with hills and lush grass adding to the distinct bright natural colors in its surroundings. 2.LAKE KIVU Lake Kivu is also known as the exploding lake and is located at the Congo-Rwandan border. It is described as one of the strangest lakes in Africa. Beneath lake kivu are hot springs that feed hot water, carbon dioxide and methane into the bottom of the lake. Scientists have dubbed it a disaster waiting to happen if for any reason the gas beneath the water is ignited. However, it is believed that if the gas is harnessed, it would be a great source of energy. Away from science, lake kivu is beautiful! It is 722 feet deep and contains numerous islands.   3. KIGALI GENOCIDE MEMORIAL This memorial was built to honor the about 250,000 people buried there in mass graves after being butchered by the Interhamwe army during the Rwandan genocide which lasted for 100days. Walking through the premises you are led on a journey to understand the events of that war and how the world watched as the genocide unfolded. It is a powerful and emotional experience as you are exposed to personal details of the individuals and children who were killed and the manner they died. The memorial is located in the northern Kisozi district of the capital. 4.KING’S PALACE MUSEUM Also known as the Royal palace of Nyanza, this museum takes you on a journey to understand the lifestyle of the Rwandan people and Rwandan royalty before the Rwandan kingdom was colonized. Set in a thatched dome replica of a king’s palace in the 15th century, the museum houses relics of the nation’s kings. The star attraction is the sacred cows known as inyambo. These cows have very large horns and are quite massive. All day, the traditional singers sing softly to the cows in amazing poetry which lulls the cows into a mellow state. This is a unique ritual of the Rwanda people. AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK If you would like to catch a glimpse of zebras, hippos, Nile crocodiles, elephants and giraffes, the Akagera national park is your best spot in Rwanda. You can have a drive through the beautiful landscape and spot the animals roaming in their natural habitat. If you are lucky, you may see a Lion or a Rhino.

28 Apr 2021

African Dance STyles

The Evolution of African Dance Styles Since time immemorial, Africans have used various dance styles to express emotions, ritual rites, communication, entertainment, and freedom. In 1500, dance styles were unique to every tribe and connoted deep spirituality. Many African tribes had a dance teacher to pass the traditional dance style to younger generations. It was the dance teacher’s duty to ensure that every group in the community knew their movements naturally. Due to the meanings and expressions behind the styles, it was inherent that no step was missed. A little insight into the dance style of the Ijaw people of Nigeria, West Africa. They had both dry land and wet swampy lands which affected their dance styles. The farmers on the dry savanna placed their feet firmly on the grounds, following their dance leader in a circular motion, swaying their bodies steadily in rhythm. In the mangrove swamps were fishermen whose dance style is called ‘waist dance’. When they danced, their backs leaned forward from their hips, their torsos positioned like they had a dog’s posture except they were not kneeling. They moved lightly, moving their body weight from foot to foot in rhythm to songs they sang as they fish by the swamps.  It is impossible to talk about African dance without mentioning drums. It was very essential for dance because of its rhythm and tune to emotions and spirituality. Drums were known as the tribe’s heartbeat. Drums had the power of staging the mood and connecting positive energies and uniting the people. Another essential accessory for dance was clapping hands and stomping feet in collective rhythm to the drum, singing, and body movements while dancing. With time, dance got complicated as it widely developed. Many dances had what we called isolated and polycentric movements. With this style, each body part moved differently from the other. Bear in mind that these times, Africans were being sold into slavery to Europeans, Caribbean's, and South and North Americans. The slave masters gave them the freedom to practice their traditions which included dance. It was with these dance styles Africans had a passage to be free in their minds. Yet, in North America, slaves were subjected to harsh laws that prohibited them from dancing but Africans devised ways to continue dancing despite the conditions. Due to the dispersion and separation of ethnic groups and tribes, dance styles began to merge and evolve into a broad new African dance style. The Caribbean island was a major influence on this evolution. Inspirations also came from Spain, France, Dutch, and Britain. The African dances we know today were all rooted in the 1500 dance styles. The lasting African dance styles are; Agahu, Agbekor, Adamu, Yankadi, Munchongoyo, Kpanlogo, and Mohobelo.  Even in new lands, these dance styles stayed with Africans and are now popular dance styles in modern-day such as; tap Dancing, Twist, Charleston, Jazz dance, lindy hop, twerking, hip hop, zouk, Capoeira, the jitterbug, etc.

02 May 2021

Africa Mathematical Games

AFRICAN MATHEMATICAL GAMES Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numbers, algebra, and geometry in daily life activities; such as identifying dates and time for harvesting or reckoning a women’s menstrual cycle. This mechanism influenced the world and has evolved to what is known as Mathematics. The principles of mathematics were introduced into African mathematical games and have been used even before colonization, thousands of years ago. Yes, that's right, for thousands of years! Most African games are either physically drawn on the muddy ground in square board dimensions and multiple squares or “houses” as some would call it. They have a rotational pattern of counting and multiplying with a clap of hand or a jump from one square to another. The games are coupled up with singing from both opponents or cheering from others waiting to participate. Incorporating the style used to play these games on a square board they created actual wooden board games with more complex rules and slightly intense competitions. To get the picture, below is a list of seven mathematical games from Africa and how they originated. SENET This is one of the oldest board games in the world. In the tomb of Nefertari, an Egyptian Queen there is a beautiful painting of her playing Senet in 1295 BC. The original rules were passed along verbally because no written form has been found. The Senet game board is a thirty-square grid, arranged in three rows of ten. The grids are colored in black and white or blue and green. Each player has a set of 5 pawns the chess-shaped dice are moved in 6 paces, one after the other. You can buy Senet on Amazon or download it to your iPhone. BUTTERFLY Butterfly is a skilled board game played in Mozambique. It is similar to checkers but shaped in two triangles that join in the shape of a butterfly. Each player has nine pieces of cubes on each side. You win when you hop over your opponent’s cube, using the 19 intersection points to hop into available empty spaces. FELLI Felli from Morocco is played on a smaller 6x6 board. Games from Everywhere has a lovely board for sale, or you can simply draw the board on a piece of paper and use buttons or coins as pieces. MANCALA Mancala, the “count and capture” game is one of the oldest games in the world. It was improvised in those days by digging up pit holes and picking up pebble stones for the game. There are more than 200 versions in Africa. Ethiopia plays with 3 rows while East and Southern Africa play with four rows. Some games have "stores" at the end of each board, others do not. Currently, you can either make your board, play online, or buy mancala on Amazon. FANARONA Fanarona is a very popular board game in Madagascar. Legends say that in the 1500s, a king's son was so busy playing the game that he missed his chance to inherit land from his father. The board has a 9x5 grid pattern with cube pieces moving both forward and backward. Each player has 22 pieces and the object of the game is to capture all your opponent's pieces. DOKI Doki or Derrah (meaning horse) is an intellectual strategy board game initiated from Hausa, Nigeria in the 19th century. It was also conversant in other African countries like Niger and Burkina Faso. It is very similar to Wali and Dama Tuareg. It is a two-player alignment game related to tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses) but more complex. On a 5x6 grid square board (sometimes 6x7 grid), each player has 12 stones which they drop into the squares consecutively. A player wins when their opponent cannot form three square stones in a row. SEEGA Seega is played in parts of North and West Africa. It's originated in Egypt in the 1800s but could be much older. The board game is easy to make yourself using pennies and paper. It is for a game designed for two players on a 5x5 board.  Each player has 12 pieces of stones or marbles placed on the board two at a time, consecutively. The capturing begins by "sandwiching" an opponent’s marble. In some African regions, the central square on the board is a safety zone. The African Mathematical games are built to be strategic, pacing the minds of African children, young adults, and the old. It is thrilling and exciting to the extent that many other countries across the globe have introduced these games to their regions and amended them to their taste and trivia!

02 May 2021