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Togo Tuesday: Black Africa

Each people has a history and that of Africa is the oldest and richest history on the planet. It's important to remember the history of Africa before slavery and colonization. Africans were civilized, organized and technologically advanced peoples. They were anything but primitive as some Europeans and Westerners think.

The West African countries, including Togo, shared almost the same lifestyles. This part of the continent, before the arrival of Europeans, had a rich and varied history and cultures.

Political organization

Modern African countries did not exist before Africa was occupied by Western powers. Before the 1900s, Africa was made up of great empires, kingdoms, city-states and other entities, with their own languages and cultures.

For example, we had the Egyptian Empire, which was the first of a series of great civilizations that existed in Africa. This civilization has completed magnificent enterprises in the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, technology and arts. It should be noted that this civilization was more than 2000 years old when the city of Rome was built.

Similarly, the empire of Ghana is not to be outdone. It was a vast empire that spanned a territory the size of Eastern Europe. With powerful local rulers controlled by a king or emperor, Ghana was a very advanced and prosperous kingdom with an army of around 200,000 men.

Social Organization

Africans had normal lives; not too different from that of the Europeans who enslaved them later. Some were rich, others poor; they knew periods of peace as well as periods of war. Africans honored their parents and cherished their children. They worked hard, then when the work was done, they dedicated themselves to music, dance, arts and crafts. They spent their evenings together around the fire to transmit their culture to the youngest through stories. These tales were also intended to educate children since they always end with a moral lesson.

This oral literature constitutes a heritage transmitted from one generation to another to preserve the specificity of its people; it is the fruit of a civilization and the reflection of a society. This literature brings together riddles, divinatory formulas, maxims and sayings, praises, anthroponyms as well as toponyms, and finally the best known; proverbs, fables and tales. In black Africa, the tale is transmitted by griots (traveling poets), storytellers, wise men, old people or mothers. Whether or not accompanied by music, these little stories that people like to listen to are a real work of art that goes beyond mere leisure. They contribute to the orientation and education of young people and carry a message or instruction to individuals of a tribe.

For special occasions or simply for fun, they wear beautiful clothes, make up to see and be seen.

Most people in West Africa lived in huts made from clay and covered with straw. In the south there were huts as we have them today (square). However, in the North, it was mostly round huts; two kinds of architecture that have nothing to do with each other. These were already homes that weathered the weather well.

Economic Organization

To feed themselves and provide for their families, Africans were mostly farmers, herders, hunters, fishermen, and artisans. Since currency did not exist at the time, they practiced barter, an exchange of goods. Certain empires, such as the Ghana Empire already traded in gold, salt and copper.

Religious organization

Very believing people, Africans were for the most part animists because the other religions had not yet made their way to them.

Animism is the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. It originated in Africa and is the oldest known religion on the planet.

From animist teachings, “'The Ash tree near my front door is a living person, who possesses a worldview, culture, and language distinct from my own.  Because I live within such a vital world, I try my best to live respectfully as a member of the diverse community of living persons.'

This means animists respect each and every part of the universe as equally as humans. Animists give animals and plants names such as 'grass-persons, worm-persons, and ant-persons'."

Islam is the other religion that emerged very early. The 7th century marked the beginnings of this religion in Africa, which settled on the east coast and in the north of the continent up to the northern fringe of the sub-Saharan zone.


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