Masks are one of the most spiritually important art forms developed in Africa. Among the masks many uses were; communicating with spirits and ancestors, serving as teaching aids in gender specific initiation ceremonies, tools for maintaining order, enhancements for reenacted stories and myths, symbols of rank and power, and a record for past leaders. I will be focussing on masks from the first three categories. The masks, which are all Helmet style masks from West and Central Africa, illustrate how artists from different tribes approached symbolism and visual storytelling. They also show what was considered ideally beautiful for each clan.
Preconceived ideas about one’s culture often arises from stereotypes passed down from generation to generation. It is those stereotypes which shape one’s way of thinking, without being educated properly. In the novel Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, misunderstood culture is what drives the story of a small African clan called the Umuofia and the life story of Okonkwo, a fearless warrior and farmer. An in-depth look into pre-colonial African culture helps the reader discover and understand an unbiased point of view of a world one may not understand. In doing so, Achebe uses imagery as well as strong narration to describe the cultural norms and activities that the Nigerian tribe undergoes in everyday life. Through this he offers a nonbiased point of view, and communicates and accurate picture of pre-colonial African culture to a western reader.
Every culture has their own set of traditions, beliefs and traditions. For this report, there will be a discussion about the Dobe Ju/’hoansi located in the Kalahari Desert. Then there will be a comparison between the Ju/’hoansi and the Maasai tribe from the southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. There will be an exploration regarding their cultural domains, belief systems, politics and kingship. Each of these tribes have a developed sort of principles from which they live their daily lives within their cultures. Between these two cultures, there is only very little in common. They differ in the areas of marriage practices, social influences, as well as their views on sexuality and religious beliefs.
Both power and relationships are revealed in dress, uniform and costumes” (p.349). Clothing can bind a community together by wearing similar garments. Zitkala-Sa uses clothing to indicate the relationship she has with her tribe so when she is forced to remove them, she loses a part of her family as well.
During the study, the renowned anthropologist uses the local lingua franca “Neo-Melanesian” to collect his data from the Imbonggu villages. At first, the Wormsley finds himself as an object of competition as different communities wanted to stay with him. The men thought that Wormsley had come to collect the "head tax”, one of the renowned colonial payments that were subjected to men based on the number of women. In these communities, the author observes the culture of both men and women to collect his data. He notes how men are engaged in war, religion and politics (Wormsley, 1993). Women, on the other
Chapter one, “Fieldwork among the Maisin”, describes how anthropologist John Barker, author of Ancestral Lines, goes to Uiaku New Guinea to study the Maisin people. His specific goals were to study how a people can maintain a cultural identify in a modernizing world and how they can live without destroying their environment. Barker first arrived in New Guinea in 1982 where he examined “how the Maisin make a living, organize social interactions, conceptualize the spiritual world, and meet the opportunities and tragedies of life” (Barker 2016:2). He studied the tapa cloth, a fabric made from bark, that the Maisin use as a connection to their ancestral past and to help define their culture. Barker discovered that the Maisin have faith in traditional methods and do what they can to preserve that lifestyle. Barker‘s work went
Rituals marked important sites for the creation of gender identity. Ritual activities provided the stage settings for women and men to carry out socially appropriate behaviors marking key points along the moving edge of their life course. In the process, rituals posited a set of gender expectations that were complicated by the realities of everyday life, for ritual practices embodying definitions of masculinity and femininity were alive to other variables such as age, class, personal circumstances, or changing political relationships. Men and women constructed both each other’s honor and gender identity by means of a complicated ‘network of oppositions and dependencies’. Shows a view of gender constructs alongside the practical relationships and tasks that bound men and women together.
The, “Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of the Dancers”, is a ethnography written by anthropologist Edward Schieffelin, derived from his fieldwork with the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea. The main focus of the book of the book is how many of the fundamental notions that are implicit in Kaluli culture are found in the Gisaro ceremony, which Schieffelin uses as, “a lens through which to view some of the fundamental issues of Kaluli life and society” (p1).
Dancing Skeletons by Katherine Dettwyler is an ethnography that focuses on how infant feeding practices and childhood malnourishment leads to life threatening disease like measles, diarrhea, tetanus, malaria, and diphtheria. On the other hand, the author also experiences how Malian people perceive illness, society structure, and cultural norms of how men are viewed toward a women’s sexuality. However, cultural relativism has controversial cultural practices in Dancing Skeletons which has horrifying traditions and require us to take into account before we form a bias opinion (Lavenda, 2009, pp. 222-223).
“Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa” by Charles Piot is a book based on the lives of the people of the remote village called Kabre located in Northern Togo. The author discusses the “vernacular modernity” of the people of Kabre village that has been influenced by a long tradition of encounters with outsiders that included the colonialists. The author provides an in-depth analysis with ethnographic details about the Kabre people as the author discusses a wide range of their culture and history that included houses and the structure of homestead, gender ideology, ritual like initiations, exchange system, and social relations (Piot 178).
Katherine A. Dettwyler’s Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa focuses specifically on the health issues of tribes in West Africa (e.g., Mali), rather than how their gender roles differ from our own
The author begins the article by preparing the audience what is about to come. Telling the audience that cultures around the world have unusual customs and an anthropologist would even seek out a culture that has one when everyone seems to agree. He then talks about the Nacirema tribe and the extremities of their practices.
When you surf the internet to look for the new about Central African Republic you hear stories about terror, civil war, rebels, murder, bloodshed etc. But what are the other aspects of life in the region that no news reporter wants to cover? A trip to the Center of the African rain forests reveals what happens and has been happening for very many years to the region’s residents. In Listen Here is a Story, Bonnie L Hewlett deals with different aspects of women’s lives of the Aka (Foragers) and Ngandu (Farmers) in this part of Central African Republic mainly, and reveals the political, social, cultural, Ideology in life of these people. There are some studies where people are travelling to explore the subjective experience of women’s in small societies, and this book is one of them.
Shaki, or Napoleon A. Chagnon’s 15 month enculturation with the Yanomamo tribe, Bisaasi-teri is characterized by fear, discomfort, loneliness, nosiness, and invaluable experiences through relationships and modesty about human culture. Chagnon documents the experience through the struggle and discovery surrounding his proposed research, as his lifestyle gradually comes in sync with the natural functions of his community. Much of his focus and time was consumed by identification of genealogical records, and the establishment of informants and methods of trustworthy divulgence. Marriage, sex, and often resulting violence are the foremost driving forces within Yanomamo, and everything that we
For some, coming of age is a time of obstacles and success in a young youth's life. It involves a number of trials that is needed to overcome to become mature. Although, obstacles are not the only features that a young adolescents will encounter. The journey will happen beginning with successes and triumphs that will come to the shaping of who they are to become. One can simply presume that the occurrence taking place in the world would have a strong impact on how an adolescent comes of age. The tale Old Chief Mshlanga focuses on the main character, the protagonist known as “she” or little Nkosikaas her encounter with an African chieftain that causes her to see the differences between her people and the natives of the land they reside. The author, Doris Lessing, uses the protagonist to show radically changing attitudes towards the Old Chief Mshlanga.