We’re now getting underway with attempting to tackle mapping out different Indigenous groups in Africa. You can read a bit about the initial approach and how confusing everything is in the first post in this series, Approaching Africa.
We’ve now had a few conversations with different people who specialize or are from different regions of Africa — in particular, Ghana and Nigeria. The most basic thing that we’ve learned — which was fairly obvious from the start, anyway — is that we should pretty much throw out the entire idea of “Africa” as any kind of monolithic project.
Each country has deep and complex histories, interwoven with hundreds of years of both colonialism and strong independence movements. Governments are often a mix of European structures and tribal traditional authority, in varying degrees in varying places. Many countries are made up of numerous ethnic groups (Nigeria is a prime example), many of whom may identify as Indigenous.
A few notions that underlie this idea of being “Indigenous” in a particular place in Africa may seem obvious, but need stating:
- The importance of knowing ones’ ancestors and their ties to the land
- Knowledge of local power structures and traditions
- Knowledge of religious and spiritual traditions that are tied to land and living in a particular place
- Knowledge of language, ethnic traditions, and governance
- That language and ethnicity may intersect in unusual ways, and neither is necessarily an indicator of indigeneity
Different countries are home to different types of immigrants, some of whom may be from other parts of the country, other parts of Africa, or other parts of the world. Mixtures of different tribes in the modern day complexify what it means to be “Indigenous” in any given area. That being said, in many countries, it is still common knowledge for people whose traditional territory they live on.
We are starting to map in more detail with Ghana, and we will continue consulting citizens and experts on different countries as we go forth and approach each country on its own. This allows us to at least make the task smaller and simpler than trying to do “all of Africa”, or trying to “figure out” which groups are Indigenous. After Ghana, we are moving into Nigeria, which will be a heck of a job!
Our ideal, above all, is always to have it so that people who do consider themselves Indigenous and from a particular tribe can look at our map and see themselves represented with a reasonable degree of accuracy. If we can start with a bumbling, unsure set of tribes, and continually improve the detail and complexity we bring, then we will have achieved our goals.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us so far — and keep the information coming! We want to learn more and we want to spend the time necessary to do this right.