Category: Culture

The collective heritage – the shared perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, and interactions – that at once differentiate and unite the peoples of West Africa. Behind the material expressions of culture, (i.e. language, art), lie the more intangible societal values that create and refine these diverse West African identities.

The Mandé Ritual Clown

Comedians, contrarians, jokesters and tricksters have made their appearance in all human societies, from the more or less secular, bell-capped court jesters of the English Royal Court to the humorous …

The Blacksmith

To the percussive rhythm of the forge — clanging hammers, puffing bellows, hissing vapor — the West African blacksmith has been shaping the culture around him since the ancient, artistic, …

The Power of a Name

To the Shakespearean question “What’s in a name?”, West Africa’s answer is “Everything”. In a world where even the act of speaking is infused with power, birth names ― whether …

The Talking Drum

In the creative process known as ilu sise, the Yoruba drum maker uses only wood from trees along manmade roads; trees that are conversant in the human language of passers-by.

The Baobab, Muse and Myth-maker

“A majestic tree with a massive trunk, the baobab reigns in nature’s midst like a lion among animals. Its huge, tortured, root-like branches give credence to the belief that, thanks …

West African Religion(s)

Though a majority of West Africans have now adopted Abrahamic religions such as Islam or Christianity, there are still pockets of people who adhere to the spirituality of their ancestors. …