Many of the West Africans were farmers by the early sixteenth century, which they usually lived in villages made up of extended families and clans. In some societies, social rank and property was passed though the males. Such as from father to their son and so on. In the matrilineal societies, property and rank, are still controlled by men, are passed from generation to generation in the female line. Many of the West Africans lived in societies with no states, no government other that provided by extended families. In nuclear families or some polygynous families acted as economic units.
These family units existed in the text of the broader family of the community. Which are made up of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The elders in the extended family have a greater power over the social lives and the economy. The elders in my extended family still have an influence on my life. I respect their opinions and ask their approval on issues or different situations. People often used mud to build their small houses, which were rectangular or round. Usually the houses had thatched roofs or palm roofs.
Many different items they had were cots, rugs, storage chests, tools, weapons, and household items that they used to prepare food. Just as we do in our society, we have many of the same items we use on a daily basis. West Africans cultivated millet, sorghum, and rice for their diets. They also kept goats and cattle for milk and cheese. They also ate yams, peas, okra, watermelons, and many different kinds of nuts. It was very hard to do farming in West Africa, since drought was common. Usually the men were responsible for planting, weeding, harvesting, and carrying in the produce.
The women usually took care of the children, prepared meals, and created household pottery. Since West Africa was had stateless societies, most of them lived in hierarchically states headed by monarchs who claimed status. The monarchs were far from absolute in the power they had, but they did command armies, taxed commerce, and accumulated considerable wealth. Below the royalty were the different classes such as land nobles, warriors, peasants, and bureaucrats. Below them was the lower class, which included the butchers, weavers, woodcarvers, tanners, and blacksmiths.
Since ancient times slavery had been a big part of the hierarchical social structure. It was very common throughout West Africa, and it took a wide variety of different forms. Like different parts of the world, West Africans held war captives, (including men, women, and children). Slaves who served in the royal courts of the kingdoms often exercised power over free people and could acquire property. The slaves of peasant farmers had standards of living similar to their masters. Regardless of their generations, the slaves retained the low social status.
Looking at religious traditions of West Africa there were two main religious traditions, which was the Islamic and indigenous. Arab traders introduced Islam into West Africa. Islam was the religion of the bureaucrats and merchants and it fostered literacy in Arabic, the building of mosques in the cities and the spread of Islamic learning. With West Africa’s indigenous religions were remained the strongest in the forest regions. Indigenous religions were animistic and polytheistic, and recognizing a great number of sprits and divinities. Beneath the all powerful creator god was lesser gods who represented the forces of nature.
The practitioners of West African indigenous religions believed that the spirits of their remote and direct ancestors could influence their lives. Therefore, there were ceremonies designed to sustain ancestral spirits and their power over the earth were a central part of the traditional African religions. The different rituals were apart of the everyday life, making churches and clergy very rare. Family members assumed religious duties and encouraged their relatives to participate in the different ceremonies that involved animal sacrifices, dancing, and music to all honor the ancestors that had been deceased.
The funerals were very important because they symbolized the connection between the dead and the living. The Igbo political organization was a republican system of government. Where the citizens were guaranteed equality and opposed to a feudalist system with having king ruling over subjects. Whereas the Mende educations came, first and they are considered to like learning more than doing any sort of business. The Poro societies role in the Mende politics was that of communicating with the spirits of the leaves. If you ask it to do something for you and it may promise to make someone sick who steals for does something wrong.
The Poro society prepares men for leadership in the community and they are a secret society with secret languages and passwords. Both the Poro and Sande in the Mende community have rules they must obey and Poro is the political force. The Poro and Sande are both initiated into adulthood, which they both protect their own and help take care of others. A connection between religion and politics are that of the spirits are always watching and having control on what is happening. In both societies the ancestors have such a big role in their lives that they are dominated by the decisions they make.
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