Wednesday, 4 April 2018

D is for...Diverse


is for

Fatoumata Diawara, a singer of Malian origin who at present lives in France.


And a track called Dounia by Rokia Traore, also from Mali





Diverse - Africa is vast and hugely diverse – entirely impossible to sum up its diversity in a blog post, even a humongous one like mine. Africa is the second largest continent on earth, the Equator and both the Tropics run through it, and because the landmass stretches on both sides of the Equator, it has climates and topographies of every possible shape and range. The longest river is in Africa, the largest hot desert is in Africa, and the largest land mammal lives right there in Africa. 

Given its vastness and its wide range of ecosystems – from deserts through grasslands and rainforests to icecaps – the biodiversity matches the terrains. Let me just define the Sahel and Sudan savannah region (not to be confused with Sudan the country), because that’s where I lived, and I’ll be referring to many things from these grasslands later in this series. The Sahel is essentially the southern fringe of the Sahara, the word comes from Arabic sahil for ‘shore.’ It is a semi-arid belt of acacia grassland roughly 1000 km wide running from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east. Incidentally, the name Sahara is also Arabic and means ‘desert.’ The Sudan savanna lies south of the Sahel and is also a grassland but somewhat less sparse. Any grassland is characterised by a tree canopy that does not close. What is called ‘savannah’ in the Northern half of Africa is called ‘veldt’ in the Southern half.


Source
Okay, back to diversity. More than 100,000 species of insects have been recorded in Africa, that includes nearly 900 species of dragonflies and 3700 species of butterflies, just to take two examples. Larger animal life varies from penguins to predators like lions and leopards. It is estimated that Africa is home to about 20% of all species found on earth, though we haven’t yet got to the bottom of its range of fauna exhaustively. Africa, in short, is teeming with life forms.


Coming to the human angle - around 30% of the languages spoken in the world are found in Africa, though only 16% of the world’s population lives there. In other words, roughly an eighth of the population but nearly a third of the languages. Nigeria alone has a record of more than 500 languages! 


Africa consists of 54 separate countries and each has distinct languages, customs and traditions, religions, cuisines, music, arts and literature, political systems, and economy, and conflicts of interest, and characteristics. Each country has subtle and not so subtle variations within its provinces too. It's estimated that Africa is home to over 3000 different tribes. That's not exactly monolithical or homogenous - talk about cultural diversity!!

Apart from the indigenous languages, colonial rulers brought in labourers/workers from the Indian subcontinent along with their respective languages to East and South Africa. And added their own European languages in the 19th century, which have gone onto become the lingua franca in many countries because the linguistic diversity makes it impossible for the citizens to choose one of their own without favouring a particular group. In recent decades the Hispanics and Chinese have come to work/settle in Africa and have added their languages to the already rich mix.


Another cultural marker is the variety in cuisine. This includes couscous and tagine for example, in Morocco in the extreme North West, where Andalusian, Arab, Berber, and Mediterranean influences have combined to produce a range of distinctive dishes. Very different from a typical meal in West Africa, consisting of Pounded Yam/Cassava (called variously Fufu, Garri and Eba) and a meat/fowl based stew or soup, more spicy with peppers and chillies liberally used. Travel further south to the Cape, and the staple changes to polenta and breads and roasted meats and curries, here the Dutch, Portuguese and Indian settlers have influenced the local cuisine to produce a completely different range of dishes. 

The population densities vary across the continent too, from nearly 500/km2 in Rwanda to 13/km2 in Mali and just 4/km2 in Libya. Just four countries - Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa account for more than a third of the continent’s population.  And Africa has the largest breadth of economic activities as it retains both people who still live the life of hunter-gatherers as ancestral humans did millions of years ago, as well as the sophisticated digital livelihoods of the information age. Not all diversity is acknowledged or positive, though. Homosexuality is a stigma and a criminal/legal offence in many African nations. And the economic divide between the rich and poor is staggering as well.

From the Safaris


Books n stuff

David Diop (1927-1960) was a West African poet, of Senegalese-Cameroonian parentage. He was born in Bordeaux in France and died tragically in a plane crash off the coast of Dakar aged just 32.  He lived most of his life in France, moved often between Paris and Africa and lived an uprooted expat life yearning for Africa, “Let these words of anguish keep time/with your restless step/Oh I am so lonely so lonely here,” which he expressed in his poems. One of the prominent poets of the Negritude literary movement, directly inspired by Leopold Senor Senghor, and a major voice of Francophone Africa. His poems too were a part of my school curriculum. I particularly like his ‘Your presence’ which I read not in school but as an adult much later. 


Boubacar Boris Diop (1946-)  - is a Francophone writer from Senegal, who has also written in Wolof. He is in addition a journalist and essayist, he’s contributed to many national and international publications/papers. He is the author of Murambi: The Book of Bones (the original Murambi, le livre des ossements, published in 2006) set against the backdrop of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It has been jury-selected as one of the 100 best books about 20th century Africa. On my TBR as of now.




Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018

38 comments:

  1. D is also for delightful. Your posts are dangerously addictive. I learn from each and every one. Megathanks.

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    1. Are addictions always dangerous? just wondering... :)

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  2. depths of deep learning. Damn good. Your safari videos should be in every classroom in the world.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the clips. Safari clips in my classroom as a kid would have meant much greater attention on my part for sure!

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  3. Thank you for this post! The knowledge you shared is enlightening and fascinating. Diversity is definitely a strength on this planet.

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    1. If only more people realised that strength and worked to preserve and protect it rather than make the whole planet uniform.

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  4. As Indians, I think we tend to be overtly proud of our own diversity and ignorant and dismissive of diversity that might exist elsewhere in the world.

    There is so much about Africa that we do not know. Thank you for sharing this with us. The quantum of effort and research must have been enormous.

    All the best for the A to Z Challenge. Do drop by mine.

    Cheers,
    CRD

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    1. The research is the part of A-Z I enjoy the most :) as an Indian I tend to take diversity for granted everywhere else in the world as well - but that may be 'cause I did most of my growing up outside India.

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  5. Hari OM
    Another fabulous offering Nilanjana! I particularly loved the second track to accompany my journey through your words... YAM xx

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    1. Dounia is one of my favourites too - Malian music is beyond brilliant.

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  6. The cuisines part. Do they have vegetarian food too?
    Just curious

    Tongue Twister for D

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    1. Breakfast dishes and snacks, yes. Individual dishes could be vegetarian. But I've not come across African cultures/cuisines that are exclusively vegetarian. Meat is a major part of the African main meal all over the continent - unless of course, economic conditions get in the way. Which unfortunately they do in some parts.

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  7. I've lived on this continent all my life, but reading your posts, opens my eyes in wonder. https://www.hesterleynel.co.za

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  8. Two very different songs today - the second is haunting and the first makes me bop along. It really is terrible how the West forgets about the diversity of Africa - it's looked on as a homogeneous continent, which is why we underestimate it so much.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings - Movie Monsters

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    1. The second song is def one of my favs. They're both lovely, but Dounia is just out of this world! :)

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  9. Such diversity, 3700 species of butterfly! And 500 languages in one country - wow! That is incredible - what a melting pot for life and resources.

    Speaking as a Brit, we as a nation are not brought up to learn languages, we are very lazy and we don't start early enough, IMO - 2 for us is pushing it! The nearest to that kind of diversity in language for us, I suppose, might be Welsh, because, even though it is looked on as one language now, thanks to the isolation in days gone by, especially in the North of Wales, there could be significantly different dialects from one valley to the next.
    Sophie
    Ghostly Inspirations - Sophies A to Z

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    1. Melting pot of life and resources is such an apt description!

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  10. I think that the rest of the world, we are not aware of this diversity. I have enjoyed your post, and also the book recommendations (both unknown to me).

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  11. Boy you do go all out for the A to Z. And you never disappoint! Diverse is a word that almost doesn't tell or describe Africa! WOW!
    You could write you own social studies book - maybe you should consider your A to Z posts for such an event!

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    1. Social studies - should have paid more attention to it when I had the chance at school!

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  12. So interesting! Wow, there's a lot of information here - and thank you for the videos, too! Yes, Yolanda nailed it - you've gone all out for these posts. Thank you.

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    1. I like doing things in-depth :) it doesn't show in the poetry as it does in the prose for obvious reasons :-)
      Thanks for being here!

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  13. As always your post does not disappoint. I look forward to these posts, approaching them like I'm a sponge soaking up all the fascinating bits you've offered.

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  14. Interesting information. Enjoyed reading about the diverse Africa. :)

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  15. Another excellent and interesting post, Nilanjana. Your slideshows are must watch. The more I read about Africa, the more I want to visit. By the time we reach Z, I might be looking up flights. LOL!

    Emily In Ecuador | Dolphins - Puerto Lopez

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the slides. Africa is a fantastic destination for anyone who likes nature and wildlife and natural history! And if you like ancient civilisations - North Africa is a must-visit!

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  16. Africa always fascinates me for its rich and diverse culture, striking natural beauty, food... and this post added the interest quotient for it. Thanks for an informative post, Nilanjana.

    5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Diary #AtoZChallenge

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    1. It is indeed a fascinating continent. Thanks for being here.

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  17. The things you mention on your blog are why it is so irritating when people act as though "Africa" was one country instead of a vast, diverse continent.
    http://findingeliza.com/

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    1. True. No-one thinks of any other continent - Asia or Europe or the Americas - in the same manner.

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  18. Awesome Nila. What great research!

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    1. You know me Denise! :-) always getting sucked in by some or other fact.

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  19. Your posts are very diverse and filled with tons of information! :)

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    1. Neat comment :) liked your use of diverse! thanks for being here.

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