List of Bizarre African practices

BY Vaishali Mahajan, 15 May, 2018

Global Jigyasa - Simply Put

An Insight

Africa as a continent houses a plethora of unique indigenous tribes that follow various traditions and customs that have been coming down the centuries. Some of these are thousands of years old and have unique significance in their ways of living. Unfortunately, Africa has been in the news off late for reasons like human rights violations, civil wars, child soldiers, terrorism, hunger, poverty and other negative aspects. However, Africa is also known to house various tribes that each have their own unique practices and traditions. This article looks at highlighting some unusual cultural practices followed by different peoples of Africa. 7 such practices have been discussed in this article.

Masai Spitting

This cultural practice is popularly followed by the Masai tribe which majorly occupies part of Kenya and Tanzania. Spitting is a way of greeting each other. On the birth of a baby, the elderly spit on the child and say that it is evil and bad. They feel that if they praise the child, it will bring bad luck to the baby. Also, as a symbol of respect, the younger ones spit on their hands before offering it to an elder for a hand shake. Spitting on auspicious occasions such as marriages is also common.



The Practice of Leblouh

In the African countries of Mauritania, Mali (in the Northern Regions) and Niger (in its rural areas), it is said that a woman’s size indicates the amount of space she has in her husband’s heart. Being rich is associated with the wives’ fatness. Young girls are sent to fattening farms where they are made to eat truckloads of millets, drink camel’s milk and consume butter with calorie counts going up to 16,000 kilo-calories a day! A successful fattening process will see a 12 year old weighing as much as 80kgs. This unique practice is a respected ancient practice in the nation of Mauritania.

Measuring Wealth by the Number of Cows

The Pokot tribe is located in Kenya and has a population of about 1 million. They are semi-nomadic tribal people who measure wealth by the number of cows a family owns. Cows are used for barter, as a means of exchange and also to determine how many women a man can marry. A man can marry as many women as he wants if he has the designated number of cows to offer to the families in exchange.


african cow

Sharo Festival

This festival is celebrated in Nigeria by the Jafun Fulani people. It is a display of courage and endurance by boys entering adolescence. It also involves quite a demonstration of the Fulani culture with singing and dancing. It is organised in an open market and goes on for a week. The people who take part in this festival have to compete bare-chested. Boys, usually of the same age group, participate in this festival to try and prove that they are ready to be men. Each participant has to go through a flogging ceremony. The severe flogging leaves scars on the participants which they see as marks of courage for a warrior. Ultimately, the winners get to marry any girl of their choice from the clan and are considered mature by the elders of the tribe.



Lip Stretching

Among the Surma tribe people of Ethiopia and South Sudan, this is an extremely popular tradition. A rounded plate is fitted inside the lips of 15-16 year old girls by removing their lower teeth. The plates are replaced by bigger ones as the lip enlarges. Some of the men do this practice with their ears. These plates give the people of this tribe a fierce look. 


surma tribe

Kidnapping the bride

One of the interesting cultural practices prevalent in some parts of Africa is kidnapping your own bride. The countries of Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia follow this unusual custom. In the Sudanese Latuka tribe, if a man wishes to marry a woman, he kidnaps her and later informs her parents. The girls’ family, however, does not have any say in this marriage by abduction. Even if they refuse, marriage happens forcefully. The fear of bride kidnapping is one of the main reasons that most women in these countries do not step out of their homes.

Bull Jumping

This is a common practice in Ethiopia. In this bizarre tradition called Hamar, young boys have to run, jump and land on the back of a bull, multiple times while naked, in order to prove their manhood.



Links for Detailed Research on Various Practices


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