Africa, the largest continent in the world, is home to many tribes with diverse and fascinating customs and traditions. some of these customs and traditions may seem unusual or even barbaric by Western standards. They are deeply rooted in the culture and beliefs of the people who practice them. It is important to respect and appreciate these customs and traditions, even if we may not fully understand them.
Below are five African traditions you might find weird and strange.
1. The courtship dance of the Wodaabe
Just like birds and bees, courtship dances are also a part of human mating rituals. The Wodaabe tribe of Niger takes inspiration from nature’s ways with their annual Guérewol ritual and competition. During this event, young men adorn themselves with intricate ornaments and traditional face paint, and line up to sing and dance in an effort to catch the eye of a marriageable young woman who serves as one of the judges. In this tribe, the male beauty ideal emphasizes bright eyes and teeth, so men showcase their sex appeal by rolling their eyes and baring their teeth.
2. The Hamar people’s bull jumping Rites
The Hamar tribe of Ethiopia, mainly consisting of pastoralists who hold their cattle in high regard, practice a rigorous initiation ceremony that involves an impressive display of athleticism. This traditional rite of passage, known as bull jumping, spans three days and is mandatory for all boys to partake in. The ceremony holds great significance for the initiate and his family, as it is a matter of honor and dignity. The challenge entails walking over 15 dung-rubbed castrated bulls, making the task even more arduous. Failing the challenge would mean waiting for a year to try again, while succeeding indicates readiness for marriage to a girl selected by the parents and the responsibility of raising children and cattle. Forget about cow tipping; this tradition is a true test of strength and courage.
3. The Mursi people’s lip plates
In Africa, the Mursi tribe follows the custom of women wearing large pottery or wooden plates in their lower lips, making them one of the few remaining tribes to do so. When a Mursi girl turns 15 or 16, an older woman in the community, usually her mother, cuts her lower lip. The wound is kept open by a wooden plug for approximately three months until it heals. Despite the prevalence of this tradition, the Mursi tribe values equality, and girls are never compelled to undergo the piercing. However, as is typical for 16-year-olds in any culture, peer pressure often influences their decision to get a lip plate.
4. The spitting of the Maasai
The act of spitting is considered a gesture of honor and good fortune among the Maasai people residing in Kenya and Northern Tanzania. It is a customary practice for them to use spitting as a means of expressing respect, making a deal, or wishing someone well. For instance, when two friends meet, they spit in their hands before shaking hands. Similarly, when a baby is born, family members spit on the child as a way of wishing them a prosperous and healthy life. On the wedding day of a daughter, it is customary for her father to spit on her forehead as a sign of bestowing blessings for a happy and fulfilling married life.
5. The San people’s Trance dance
The trance dance, also known as the healing dance, is practiced among the San people of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Angola. The dance is considered a sacred power and one of their most integral traditions. The healers and elders lead the community in this dance around a fire for several hours or even an entire night. Through chanting, hyperventilation, and dancing, the healers induce a trance-like state that grants them access to the spirit world, where they can seek guidance and healing. They also perform the dance to expel the star sickness which they believe causes jealousy, anger, and arguments. Overall, the trance dance is a significant part of San cultural heritage and spirituality.