African tribal women live quite differently from women in Asia, Europe or America. The difference is not only in extraordinary traditions and rituals. Many of these women have no idea about rights and freedoms they should have. The life of African tribal women can surprise other around the world.
Globalization has connected even the most remote areas of the world. It seems that the life in every corner of Earth goes on the same way. Nope! Countries and cultures differ greatly all over the world. What is very typical and acceptable in Asia, for instance, can be a taboo in other cultures.
If you are tired of your everyday life and want to experience something unusual, welcome to Africa! Perhaps you have seen the colorful photos of African people on the Internet and have already been left speechless.
Your reaction is quite natural. African tribes are in the lead with their ability to shock. This shock can be both positive and negative. If we take a look at the cultural peculiarities, beautiful garments, music and dances, then these African tribes can amaze us.
But there is some dark side of their lives too. The way they treat women is also mind-blowing. African tribal women can be bought to be married.
In fact, many African tribal women are not aware of their basic human rights. They do not practice them at all. There are some exceptions, though. They are busy with household chores and do their best to be good wives, mothers and daughters. Find out more about the life of women in various African tribes in this article.
African Tribal Women 1) Zulu Women
This tribe Zulu is the most popular and the largest one in Africa. They are also quite famous for their beautiful and brightly colored beads and baskets and other small carvings.
Zulu people are quite aware of modern clothing and technologies. Although these modern things make part of the Zulu life, the ancient ideology of patriarchy remains a milestone for many rituals and traditions. It has yet to be changed. Accordingly, women still live under these patriarchal rules.
These rules carry a huge impact on their lifestyle, clothing and the way women are treated. Let’s discuss one by one.
Clothing of Zulu Tribe Women
- Women face a lot of restrictions in terms of clothing. Here is how;
- Married women can never wear anything revealing
- The garments generally have very conservative colors.
- While attending formal events, like weddings and religious celebrations, women have to wear something specific
- Traditionally, a married woman wears a scarf on her head.
The way women get dressed depends on their status. Unmarried women who are proud of displaying their body. They wear a short skirt made of grass or beaded cotton strings and puts on a lot of creative beads. Clothing for Zulu unmarried girls is mainly made of beadwork and is usually revealing. Younger women sometimes decorate their skirts with beads.
Engaged women have to let her traditionally short hair grow. They also cover their breast with a decorative cloth. This shows respect for her future husband and family. Besides, it is like a sign; people understand that she is engaged.
Things take a sharper turn in case of married African tribal women. Married women have to fully cover their bodies. When a young girl gets married, she then has to wear certain colored beads in her hair and around her skirt so that everyone in the village can see that she is married.
Duties of Zulu Girls
Zulu girls are responsible for running the house. Through various rituals, they are slowly introduced to the family chores by first learning how to carry water using a small gourd.
In the field, she is taught how to plant and reap the crops. After turning eleven she is given her own home. By this age, she is capable of making a fire, preparing some simple dishes and looking after her younger siblings.
African Tribal Women 2) Maasai Women
Maasai society is strongly patriarchal in nature like nearly all African tribes. The men, together with retired elders, decide most major matters concerning the tribe.
Traditions and clothing vary by age and location of the tribe. Red is a favored color. Blue, black, striped, and checkered cloths are also popular, as are multicolored African designs.
Many Maasai people in Tanzania wear simple sandals. Both men and women wear wooden bracelets. The Maasai women regularly weave and bead jewelry.
This beadwork plays an essential part in the ornamentation of their body. Although there are variations in the meaning of the color of the beads, some general meanings for a few colors are: white for peace; blue for water, red for a warrior, blood, and bravery.
Head shaving is also very common in the life of Maasai people. It represents the fresh start that will be made as one passes from one to another of life’s chapters.
Maasai Women and Education
Women in Maasai community are considered inferior to men. Like other poor African tribal women, the majority of Maasai women in Kenya have to live a life of poverty and cultural oppression.
Maasai girls face many obstacles and fail to get a proper education. The economic, cultural and physical factors hindering the education of Maasai girls in Kenya are numerous. Taken together, these obstacles are nearly impossible for young girls to overcome.
Maasai girls who do enroll in primary school, attend free public day schools. But all students in Kenya are required to wear uniforms. Many families, however, cannot afford even the uniform needed for their child to go to school.
Moreover, the quality of education in these rural day schools is never adequate to prepare students for the national tests. Early marriages, in their turn, make Maasai girls drop out from the school.
The nomadic Maasai lifestyle is another obstacle on their way. The Maasai are nomadic society. They have to move in order to find water and grass for their cattle. This causes both girls and boys to fall behind in their studies, or to stop attending school altogether.
African Tribal Women 3) Berbers Women
Unlike other African tribes, women play a prominent role in Berber culture. The Berbers of North Africa were colonized by, interacted with and outlived the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Byzantines.
The recorded history of these civilizations hardly mentions women, unlike Berbers.
The Legend of Kahina
In this culture, there is a myth of Kahina. Kahina was the pre-Islamic female warrior. She is still very much alive in Berber culture and nowadays is used as a symbol of Berber language and culture. Kahina is remembered for her acts of bravery.
The recorded history shows that Berbers of the 7th century were not religiously homogenous. Kahina, however, was able to unite them against their invaders, leading them in the battle for five years before she was finally defeated.
Before taking her own life, Kahina sent her sons to the Arab camp with instructions that they adopt Islam and make common cause with the Arabs. They did so and would go on to participate in the invasion of Europe and the subjugation of Spain and Portugal.
Kahina is depicted as a figure who combined political and religious authority. She is considered a Berber queen and warrior who fought to defend her people and her country against the Arab invasion.
This is how the Berber women started playing a central role in their families and communities, managing to combine their Islamic faith with their own ancestral traditions.
The role of women
Until now Berber women perform a fundamental role in transmitting Berber language and culture through rituality, orality, and art.
These rituals concern healing, fertility, worship, lamentation, and life cycles. The rituals can be carried out either publicly or privately. They are intended to bring personal and communal satisfaction regarding spirituality, emotional needs, and reinforcement of family and social bonds.
Berber women’s orality covers poetry, songs, folktales and public oratory and ranges in topic from love, the self, family and community to the struggle for independence from colonialism and modernity.
Women also perceive storytelling as a strong means of maintaining power inside the family, especially in rural extended households. They also use stories to create the impression that what they do not say is as important as what they do say.
In a sense, these women create their own power. Most importantly, women are the artists in Berber life. Berber women express art in carpet weaving, textile making, body tattoos, and face, hand and feet decoration.
Berber culture of clothing still carries the Arab influence. On their heads, men use to wear wrapped cloth turbans. As for women, they cover their hair with scarves and their faces with veils.
Berber women’s clothes are quite colorful and decorative. Most parts of the clothes worn today by many Berbers have ancient origins. However, some Berber women, especially those living in cities, wear Western-style clothes.
The national costume of Berbers consists of a long top shirt. It is embroidered at the neck and across the bottom. They also wear a wide bright cloth skirt that is wrapped around the waist. Red tones dominate in the embroidery. They are also fond of traditional decorations.
These decorations are beautiful, heavy, and handmade. They are made of silver only. Berber women do not use gold. Besides they paint on themselves. The signs include different swastikas and symbols of fertility. Diamonds with dots inside, for instance, symbolizes fertility.
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