The San people are one of the world’s oldest tribes, and traditionally hunter-gatherers, known as the first people of South Africa. Today their descendants are a population of around 100,000 people across Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa.
The San’s tracking skills are renowned, and they have the skills to hunt and survive in the seemingly barren lands of Southern Africa’s deserts. They are easily recognised by the unique clicking sound they make when speaking.
It is the San – also known as the Kalahari bushmen – that were responsible for the cave and rock art found across the region, some of which dates back thousands of years. They used pigments made from minerals, ochre, eggs, and blood to paint their iconic images of hunters and various animal prey.
Today the traditional lifestyle of the San bushmen is restricted to small areas around Botswana’s epic Makgadikgadi Pan, as they’ve lost the ability to cover large ranges by the creation of large national parks and increased land given over to farming and mining.
With a population of around 11 million people, Zulu is the largest ethnic group in South Africa, and one of the continent’s largest tribes. The Zulu are a warrior tribe descended from East Africa, and migrated south centuries ago to find a home in KwaZulu-Natal on South Africa’s Indian Ocean Coast.
In the early 19th century the Zulu ethnic group rose into a formidable empire under the leadership of King Shaka, developing a fearsome reputation that is still acknowledged to this day. Modern-day Zulus are modern and progressive though. While traditional clothing is saved for special events like weddings and funerals, the Zulu maintain strong connections with their tradition and historical roots by giving sacrifices to the ancestral spirits to influence their lives on a day to day basis.
The Zulu are also skilled crafters, particularly their beadwork which is woven into intricate, colourful patterns that are both decorative and display meaning. The number and shape of triangles relate to the sex and parenthood status of the wearer. The colours have symbolism too, around the duality of life – for example, red signifies both love and passion, and anger and heartbreak.
The Hadzabe of Tanzania is a tribe of hunter-gatherers living in north-central Tanzania, and perhaps the last true nomadic tribe in East Africa.
Since first European contact in the late 19th century and then through various independent Tanzanian administrations there have been attempts to settle the Hadza. These efforts have largely failed, and the Hadza pursue the same way of life today their ancestors have for hundreds of years.
The Hadzabe is a relatively egalitarian society, with no governing hierarchy or status differences between individuals, and where children are reared cooperatively. Much time is spent on foraging and hunting. Women forage in larger groups for berries, fruit, and tubers, depending on availability. Hadza men usually forage individually, feeding themselves and bringing home fruit or honey when they can. They also hunt game using a bow and poisoned arrow, lying in wait overnight at watering holes.
The Omo Valley in southwest Ethiopia is a fertile region that’s home to the Hamar. They are a pastoral tribe with a culture that places a high value on cattle. During the dry season families move to live with their herds in grazing areas, and survive primarily on milk and blood from the cattle.
They are easily recognized for their body adornment with multitudes of colourful beads, necklaces, and bracelets, and for their distinctive hairstyles, curling their hair with a mixture of ochre and butter.
Controversial practices include ritual flogging of women by their husbands to prove devotion, and the initiation rite of ‘bull jumping’ performed by boys to allow them to marry.
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
It is estimated that 1 million Maasai people live in Kenya and Tanzania but most Maasai doubt these numbers because they see the national census as government meddling and often miscount their numbers to census takers, according to the Maasai Association.
The Maasai tribe are a tribe of warriors who trace their origins from migration from Sudan to Kenya and Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley.
The tribe is nomadic in nature, choosing to stay in smaller homesteads. They build their way of life around their cattle which they insist are a gift from their god Ngai. They use the cattle primarily as a measurement of wealth as well as a source of food, even going as far as drinking the blood of the cattle for sustenance.
The Eye Of Sahara in Africa occured when subsurface volcanic flow eventually pushed up the overlying layers of sandstone and other rocks. After the volcanism died down, wind and water erosion began to eat away at the domed layers of rock. The region began to settle down and collapse in on itself, creating the roughly circular eye feature.
~The Mali Empire, also historically referred to as the Manden Kurufaba, was an empire in West Africa that lasted from c. 1230 to 1600. It was the largest empire in West Africa and profoundly influenced the culture of the region through the spread of its language, laws, and customs along lands adjacent to the Niger River, as well as other areas consisting of numerous vassal kingdoms and provinces.
~Modern oral traditions recorded that the Mandinka kingdoms of Mali or Manden had already existed several centuries before unification. This area was composed of mountains, savanna, and forest providing ideal protection and resources for the population of hunters. Those not living in the mountains formed small city-states.
~The combined forces of northern and southern Manden defeated the Sosso army at the Battle of Kirina in approximately 1235. This victory resulted in the fall of the Kaniaga kingdom and the rise of the Mali Empire.
~The Mali Empire covered a larger area for a longer period of time than any other West African state before or since. What made this possible was the decentralized nature of administration throughout the state. Its power came, above all, from trade.
~The Mali Empire reached its largest size and flourished as a trade and intellectual center under the Laye Keita mansas (1312–1389). The empire’s total area included nearly all the land between the Sahara Desert and the coastal forests.
~The 1599 battle of Djenné marked the effective end of the great Mali Empire and set the stage for a plethora of smaller West African states to emerge.