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.
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
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!
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.
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!!
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
From the Safaris
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