History of African Cultures 

Africa is essential to all cultures since human life originated on the continent, its inhabitants migrating to other areas of the world some 60 000 years ago.

Over the centuries, people from other parts of the world migrated back to Africa bringing their own influences and eventually being integrated into the existing systems.

In a very broad way, Africa can be divided into 2 cultural groups:                                

North Africa ….with strong ties to the Middle East                                                                  

Sub-Sahara ….with historical, physical and social characteristics which are very different to their Northern counterparts.

The Sub-Sahara with its extreme environment has been largely determinate in developing Africa’s cultures with the desert literally acting as a physical barrier for any cross pollination of ideas and technologies.

In the 7th Century Arabs arrived in North Africa introducing Islam to local societies. Between the 11th and early 15th centuries Islam found its way to East Africa. While Marrakesh was being formed in Morocco round 1006, primarily Bantu-speaking Africans were settling along the East African coast. They gradually attained a common culture and a linguistic base that became what we know today as Swahili, but was known then as Shirazi.

Trade between East Africa and the Persian Gulf was well established by AD1000 and by the 1400’s the Shirazi City States of what is now modern day Tanzania had became prosperous. Their wealth and power continued to escalate throughout the 14th and 15th Centuries. Most important and powerful were Mogadishu in Somalia, Malindi and Mombasa in Kenya and Zanzibar and Kilwa in Tanzania. 

Kilwa was the centre of all trading and supported a rich kingdom. Ships from India, Malaysia, Indonesia and China visited these ports bringing silk and cotton cloth, pottery, porcelain and beads which they exchanged for ivory and gold.


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