Comparative Anthropology

Cultural Practice in Pre Colonial Africa

  • April 27, 2019
  • Race Equality Foundation

    27 Greenwood Place
    NW5 1LB


Only a loyal, determined struggle to destroy cultural aggression and bring out the truth, whatever it may be, is revolutionary and consonant with real progress” – Cheihk Anta Diop

Culture functions to refine the imagination of self or selves (community). It’s a reminder of who I am, where we came from and why we will always be. In this short programme, students will experience an intensive introduction to the cultural mythologies of various pre-colonial civilisations in Africa’s history.

The course begins with a critical perspective on the question of culture. What constitutes culture as is and or as it should be? Then, using an anthropological approach and decolonisation lens identify and assess the unseen aspects of traditions which often remain invisible in dominant societal narratives. The course will challenge students to look at aspects and theory that go past the visual aesthetics of African culture. The aim is to promote intrigue in further applied learning on African ancestry and heritage, and place African myth at its rightful place as the pantheon of world cultures.

Course Structure:

Programme consists of four themed workshops that deconstruct practice of distinct African groups along with discussion, analysis and theory on the wider impact of those practices.

Session One –An Introduction to Cultural Studies

What constitutes culture? How to discern from engaging in the process from an exclusively Eurocentric gaze? What holistic engagement with culture and ancestry looks like in practice.

Session Two – An African Mind

Culture and mental health. How tradition can impact ways of thinking, examples taken from Cushite, Azande and Igbo heritage. Applied lessons from the cultural practices of these histories.

Session Three – The African Body

The engagement between culture and the body. How the body can be used to connect with heritage, examples presented from Berber, Anlo- Ewe and Bamana society. Discussion on the lessons derived from these societies and how to apply in present context.

Session Four – African Community

Cultural practices on the societal and political make-up of communities. Identifying various modes of bringing communities together. Examples will be given from Asante, Shona and Wolof heritage.  Drawing attention to storytelling as a cultural entity that shapes community spirit. Discussion will take place on the lessons and application derived from these communities.


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