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Africa, second-largest of the Earth's seven
continents - covering about 30,330,000 sq km
(11,699,000 sq mi), which makes up about 22 per
cent of the world's total land area.Largest
Country Sudan, Republic of, republic in
north-eastern Africa, the largest country of the
African continent. Sudan has a total area of
2,505,800 sq km (967,490 sq mi). Smallest
Country The smallest African country is The
Seychelles covering an area of 453 sq km but,
Gambia is the smallest of the mainland African
states, covering an area of 11,300 sq km (4,363
sq mi).
When a person views African art, several themes
seem to come up over and over again. These themes
are representations of different things that are
significant to African culture and reveal the
importance behind some of its most beautiful art.
The common themes areA couple A woman and a
child A male with a weapon or animal An
outsider or "stranger" Couples are most commonly
shown as freestanding figures of relatively the
same size and stature. The most common theme of
the male and female couple is that of strength
and honor not love and intimacy.The mother and
child couple is often representative of mother
earth and the people as her children. African
women will generally have a very strong desire
for children. A male with a weapon or animal
(commonly a horse) is commonly produced to show
honor to departed ancestors. Even today, many in
Africa would consider the ownership of a horse to
be of greater status than the ownership of an
automobile. As women achieve significance through
their children, men will often be honored in
warfare. The one who goes into battle must have
physical, emotional and spiritual energy to
survive and to conquer. Thus the emphasis on
weapons, and the spoils of war in many African
works. A final common representation in African
art is that of the stranger. In Africa, a
stranger is someone from a different country or
tribe. Unfortunately, much of African art comes
with no explanation of the meaning intended to be
symbolized when it was created.
Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) - Many inland waters
in Africa, especially the central region are
infected with Bilharzia, which is caused by
parasites that live and breed in specific
freshwater snails. When these larvae are released
into the water, they are capable of penetrating
unbroken skin of their human host. The disease is
carried by humans and spread by people urinating
in the water. Bilharzia is now curable, but it
is obviously best to take precautions. Steering
clear of still water pools, dams and some lower
lying rivers, using an insect repellent like DEET
before swimming or paddling and after swimming
drying off thoroughly with a towel, will give
you some protection.
The malleable quality of moist clay and a
potter's skill allow her to create forms ranging
from bowls of minimal form to water bottles of
complex shapes. These objects, often cherished by
individuals and families, may remain undecorated
or may be embellished in various ways. Once a
vessel is formed and dried to a leather-hard
state, a potter has a series of choices. She may
cut intricate designs into the clay surface with
a wood or metal blade create a roughened,
textured surface by impressing patterns with a
roulette burnish the surface to a high sheen or
alter the original form by adding handles, clay
pellets, or strips. She may color the entire
surface or apply a slip (colored, clay wash) to
highlight the decorative areas, which often
appear on the most visible parts of a
vessel--namely, the neck and shoulders. After a
vessel has completely dried, it is fired at a low
temperature. Once fired, the pot is set aside to
cool. Sometimes, a pot is smothered in leaves or
splashed with or dipped in a broth of tree bark
or leaves and then left to cool.

African traditions also greatly emphasize dance,
for movement is regarded as an important mode of
communication. For this purpose the dance
utilizes symbolic gestures, mime, props, masks,
costumes, body painting, and other visual
devices. The basic movements may be simple,
emphasizing the upper body, torso, or feet or
they may be complex, involving coordination of
different body parts and intricate actions such
as fast rotation, ripples of the body, and
contraction and release, as well as variations in
dynamics, levels, and use of space. The dance may
be open to all, or it may be an activity in which
one, two, three, or four individuals (regardless
of sex) take turns in the dancing ring. Team
dances also occur. The formations may be linear,
circular, serpentine, or columns of two or more

More than 1,000 different languages are spoken
in Africa. Although most countries in Eastern and
Southern Africa have adopted colonial European
languages for official government business, most
people speak indigenous or local languages.
The music, art, literature, and cultural
practices of Africa have provoked interest and
respect throughout the world. The old belief that
Africa is somehow childlike in its cultural
development has been denounced as people become
more familiar with the rich traditions of the
Africans live in rural areas, particularly those
people who live in western, eastern, and southern
Africa. Many villagers are subsistent farmers,
which means that they live almost entirely off of
the food that they grow themselves. Fast food
restaurants and supermarkets, as we know them, do
not exist in most of Africa. People sell
clothing, food, and other supplies at outdoor
markets.In Egypt, many people enjoy a popular
bean dish called ful. Couscous is common in
countries like Morocco and Algeria. This steamed
grain is served with a stew of meat and
vegetables.In Western Africa, people grow
cassava, maize, millet, and plantains for food.
Cameroonians may eat beans and plantains
accompanied by baton de manioc, or manioc sticks.
In Gabon, fish is prepared in a spicy sauce and
served with rice. Most cultures in Africa remain
very traditionalwomen and girls do most of the
cooking. Visitors to Kenya may be surprised to
discover how the Indian culture has influenced
the menu. Chicken curry may be enjoyed with a
glass of chai tea. Mandalas, a type of donut, may
finish off the meal. Kenya's colonial past has
also influenced the menu. The British brought the
practice of drinking tea which continues to this
day.In Botswana, millet and sorghum porridge
are primary sources of nourishment. Millet and
sorghum are both types of grains that must be
pounded into flour and cooked.
To the west of the buried pyramid of Sekhemkhet,
a large rectangular structure was discovered
composed mainly of a gigantic enclosure wall.
This enclosure encompasses an area that is even
considerably larger than Djoser's complex. It has
long been assumed -without any substantial
examination of this structure- that this wall,
known as the 'Great Enclosure' or by its Arab
name 'Gisr el-Mudir' (wall of the director), was
part of an unfinished mortuary complex of a 3rd
Dynasty king. There is, however, no trace of a
step pyramid inside this wall. Furthermore, this
wall seems to have been completed, which would
make the building of a pyramid within its
compounds quite impossible.
Hepatitis A - This is a viral infection of the
liver transmitted through poor personal hygiene,
poor sanitation and intimate contact. Many people
get the disease by drinking contaminated water or
eating contaminated food stuffs but it is
possible to catch the disease from your own hands
to mouth contact, by touching a contaminated
object or from the hands of an infected
individual with poor sanitation habits. Again, by
avoiding raw vegetables and salad, uncooked or
undercooked fish, and boiling all drinking water
will reduce the chances of contracting the
In the pre-colonial period, trade, wars,
migrations, and religion stimulated interaction
among sub-Saharan societies, encouraging them to
borrow musical resources from one another,
including peoples exposed to Islamic and Arabic
culture, who had integrated some Arabic
instruments and techniques into their traditional
music. Some usages became concentrated in
particular culture areas, whereas others were
widely distributed. Thus, the savanna belt of
West Africa forms a music area distinct from the
Guinea Coast because of its instrumental styles
and the presence of a class of professional
praise singers in that area. Similarly, the music
of East Africa is distinguished from that of
Central Africa by a number of instruments, and
from that of southern Africa, which traditionally
emphasizes certain kinds of choral organization
and complex forms of musical bows. The musical
instruments of sub-Saharan Africa include a wide
variety of resonant solids (idiophones) such as
rattles, bells, stamping tubes, the thumb piano,
and the xylophone. Parchment-head drums are found
in many forms, such as goblet drums kettledrums
cylindrical, barrel-shaped drums, and hourglass
drums. Among wind instruments are flutes made of
bamboo, millet, reed, or the tips of animal horns
and gourds ocarinas panpipes horns (made from
elephant tusks or animal horns) and trumpets
(made of wood, sections of gourd, or metal
tubes) single-reed pipes made from millet
stalks and double-reed pipes adopted from Arabic
culture. Stringed instruments (chordophones)
include musical bows, zithers, bowed and plucked
lutes, harp-lutes, arched harps, and lyres. Body
percussion is also exploited, the most common
being handclapping and foot stamping. Drums are
among the more popular African instruments, but
other important percussion instruments include
clap-sticks, bells, rattles, slit gongs, struck
gourds and clay pots, stamping tubes, and
xylophones. African stringed instruments include
the musical bow, lute, lyre, harp, and zither.
The flute, whistle, oboe, and trumpet are among
the African wind instruments.
Much of African culture places great emphasis on
appearance and therefore on jewelry. African
jewelry has been given tremendous attention for
centuries. Many pieces of African jewelry
contain cowry shells. They are not only beautiful
but also symbolic!
The ever popular cowry shell has many uses and
meanings.  It has shown up in the form of money,
jewelry, and even religious accessories in almost
every part of the world. Found in the islands of
the Indian Ocean, the cowry shell soon gained
popularity throughout much of ancient
Africa. According to African legend if you are
attracted to cowry shells, you could be related
to an ocean spirit of wealth and earth.  It also
represents Goddess protection which is very
powerful and connected with the strength of the
ocean.  Throughout Africa, and South and North
America, the cowry symbolized the power of
destiny and prosperity.  Thought of as the mouth
of Orsisas,it also is believed to have taught
stories of humility and respect. 
The knife of Gebel-Arak was purchased in the
Middle Egyptian town of Gebel-Arak in 1894 and
sold to the Louvre Museum in 1914.. It is one of
the oldest prehistoric artifacts of ancient
Egypt, with some elements already in the typical
ancient Egyptian style. The knife itself is made
of flint. One of its sides has been smoothed, the
other has been worked on to have parallel running
grooves. It does not appear to have been used
much, which is taken as an indication that the
knife had a ritual or symbolic purpose. The knife
handle is made of ivory, coming from a
hippopotamus' tusks. Both sides are decorated
with images in raised relief. It is principally
these images that have interested historians ever
since the knife was discovered.
Stories from Africa were traditionally passed
down by word of mouth.  Often they were told by
the light of the moon around a village fire after
the completion of a long day of work. The stories
rarely ended with the words we so often heard as
children when our parents told us bedtime stories
-- "and they all lived happily ever after". Most
stories didn't end happily ever after.  Usually
the stories taught a lesson, and frequently, the
selfish person learned that lesson the hard way.
Indigenous African musical and dance expressions
that are maintained by oral tradition and that
are stylistically distinct from the music and
dance of both the Arabic cultures of North Africa
and the Western settler populations of southern
Africa. African music and dance, therefore, are
cultivated largely by societies in sub-Saharan
Africa.All sub-Saharan traditions emphasize
singing, because song is used as an avenue of
communication. Because many African languages are
"tone languages," in which pitch level determines
meaning, the melodies and rhythms of songs
generally follow the intonation contour and
rhythms of the song texts. Melodies are usually
organized within a scale of four, five, six, or
seven tones. In group singing, some societies
habitually sing in unison or in parallel octaves
with sporadic fourths or fifths others sing in
two or three parts, using parallel thirds or
fourths. Songs generally are in call-and-response
form. Modern TrendsWith urbanization and the
impact of Western culture, traditional music and
dance, although still practiced, have decreased.
New idioms have emerged, however, that combine
African and Western elements they include West
African highlife (showing certain Caribbean
traits), Congolese popular music (reflecting
Latin American influence), and in southern
Africa, sabasaba and kwella (both akin to U.S.
swing and jive music). Evidence suggests that the
needs of the church and other transplanted
institutions may stimulate a new art music.
Traditional music and dance face serious threat
of decline. Because of their political and
cultural importance, however, their preservation
is given special attention in many countries

Though often denied education or political roles,
women in rural areas of Africa are masters at
A combination of doctor, psychiatrist and
psychic, traditional healers hold positions of
great respect in African communities. Many are
Known as Africa's "invisible producers," women
are estimated to account for roughly 80 percent
of the continent's agricultural production.
Women's land holdings, however, tend to be
smaller and in more isolated areas than those
owned by men.
For these women soldiers, patriotism means you
carry a rifle.

Polio - Many people in Africa suffer from polio
which is transmitted through close contact with
infected persons or by contaminated food and
water. The best protection is the vaccination
(polio drops) and precautions in where and what
you eat and drink.Once polio has been
contracted, there is no special treatment for a
cure and victims are unlikely to completely
recover. Some people will have weakness in an
arm or leg for the remainder of their lives and
in more serious cases a polio can leave a person
paralyzed, and it can also be fatal.
The Holy Quran, the holy of book of about 1
billion Muslims around the world is now
available, with selected verses translated in 114
languages and the complete book in 47 languages
of the world. The Quran has been translated into
Zulu, even though there are only 10,000 Zulu
speaking Muslims.
Most people in the fourteen independent countries
in North Africa are Muslim. The religion they
believe in is called Islam. Muslims pray to their
god Allah and his prophet Muhammad five times a
day facing the city of Mecca. In African
countries south of the Sahara Desert, people
follow many different religions. Some are Muslim,
although the majority of the people are
Christian. Missionaries from other parts of the
world brought Christianity to many countries in
Africa. Some people, however, choose to follow
ancient religions and believe that natural
spirits and ancestors affect everyday life.

In southern Sudan, child slaves wait for
Christian Solidarity International to buy their
freedom from Muslim slave masters. The price?
Twenty-five dollars per slave. These boys, ethnic
Dinkas, live in the mostly Christian and animist
south, a rebel territory that Sudan's Islamic
government wants to occupy. The war has dragged
on since 1976, causing the deaths of millions and
the displacement of even more.
Sleeping sickness (African Trypanosomiasis) -
There are two form of this disease in Africa -
"The Rhodesian" or acute which is founds in the
eastern third of Central Africa and "the Gambian"
or chronic, which occurs in the western half of
Central Africa.. The disease is transmitted
through the bite of a tsetse fly , the Rhodesian
form being common in low lying game reserves, and
sparsely populated areas, and the Gambian
organism found in humid areas and along forested
river banks. The Tsetse fly looks like an
oversized house-fly, they bite during daytime and
are attracted to blue. Symptoms include
inflammation of the skin at the site of the bite,
development of fever, skin rashes, painful skin
surface, enlarge lymph nodes and anemia. Later
stage cause a person to become depressed, have a
lack of appetite, disturbance of speech and the
feeling of being extremely tired. Symptoms for
the Rhodesian form take about 2 weeks to appears
whereas the Gambian form can take from 6 months
to several years to develop. If left untreated,
the disease can cause irreversible brain damage
and in some cases death.
Teeming with 20 million people, Cairo, the
capital of Egypt, is Africa's largest city. Long
thought of as a rural continent, the rest of
Africa is quickly catching up. The United Nations
predicts that by 2020 half of Africa's predicted
population of 1.3 billion people will be
city-dwellers, with most of the change occurring
in sub-Saharan Africa.
As Africa's population numbers soar, the
environment is under increasing pressure to
provide for people. Here, a Kenyan woman travels
great distances over parched land in search of
water. The Horn of Africa, where this woman
lives, contains 14 million people at risk from
drought-induced famine                   
Nothing signifies the importance of water in
Africa more than this, Libya's Great Man-Made
Waterway. It has been dubbed the eighth wonder of
the world and is the largest single construction
project on earth.
Yellow Fever - Transmitted to humans by
mosquitoes and if you are visiting Africa, it
is advisable to have the vaccination. The
symptoms, which appears with 5 days of exposure
include fever, nausea, flushed face, stomach
pains and constipation, headaches, muscle pains
particularly in the neck, back and legs,
irritability and restlessness. In some cases the
disease recurs, and the patient develops jaundice
(yellowed skin and eyes). You can lower the
chances of contracting the disease by covering
up, using mosquito repellent and sleeping under
nets. Mosquitoes are most prevalent at dawn and
dusk.If you have been to a country which is
infected with Yellow Fever, most other countries
in the world will require you to show an
International Certificate of Vaccination as proof
that you have had the vaccination.
The Festival of the Dhow Countries, East Africas
largest cultural event is located in Zanzibar
around the magnificent, historical venues along
the waterfront of Stone Town. The festival
celebrates the unique cultural heritage of Africa
and the Dhow countries of the Indian Ocean region
and their global Diaspora. The Festival of the
Dhow Countries promotes an extensive program of
Films, Music Performing Arts, Women's events,
Children's Panorama, Workshops Seminars,
Exhibitions and Mini-Festivals in villages
throughout the Zanzibar islands.
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