Studies & Degrees in African Studies
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The African Studies program covers a wide variety of subjects for the aspiring Africanist. The program looks into the various aspects of African life, from its history, culture, and present state. These subject matters include African music, dance, languages, literature, art, and architecture, only to name a few. A brief discussion of some follows, to give an overview of the course inclusions.
African music and dance have characteristic native musical and dance expressions that are still practiced and celebrated up to date. The pride of their culture, these musical and dance gestures are passed on from generation to generation by oral tradition. African music and dance are distinct, in terms of style, depending on the location – whether from North, Western, or sub-Saharan Africa – but most are practiced and are more visible in the sub-Saharan areas.
During the early days before colonization was widespread, there was a lot of interaction between the sub-Saharan people and the Muslims and Arabs. Trading of goods, wars, travel, and even spiritual beliefs or religion stimulated these relations. This is why African music and dance are partly influenced by those of Islamic and Arabic nature. Some instruments techniques were borrowed and adapted from these.
Although there are a lot of variations, the features nevertheless are unified characteristically in the sub-Saharan traditions. Practically anywhere in the continent, music and dance are included in their activities, whether the event is political, ancestral, recreational, or spiritual.
African literature is composed of all oral and written works created in Africa, even those not written in the continent’s indigenous language. Africa has a rich and diverse collection of oral literature, which has grown ever since the African societies were born and still continues to do so up to date. Majority of the written works are either derived or strongly influenced by the oral ones. A lot of these literary works convey Africa’s social norms of conduct, like their proverbs and riddles. Others, as their myths, folk stories, and legends, showcase supernatural beliefs and origins of a wide variety of occurrences and things. Some of these stories are actually truthful historical accounts.
African languages are those languages native to the African continent. There are roughly more than a thousand different languages are presently used in Africa. The most widely spoken languages in the African continent are Swahili and Hausa although Arabic is also extensively used. However, only small portions of the population, about a few thousand compared to others who go by the millions, speak a number of other languages. Only a handful of these African languages have written works, most of them have very old but highly conserved traditions of oral literatures.
Artists of African art and architecture, hail mostly from the south of the Sahara. The artists belong to an extensive range of African cultures; each has by its distinct language, traditions, and artistic forms. The influence of intercultural relations, from the trading systems, is largely apparent in African structures and art works. Basically, this is also why African art and architecture are so diverse in terms of style. Majority of these cross-cultural influences are Islamic, Arabic, and Egyptian. Just to illustrate, even today, Egyptian art and architecture still manifest this parallelism.
A majority of Africanists are presented with career opportunities in areas related to History, Anthropology, and Archaeology, among others. Some graduates prefer to be part of the academe as they join university faculties, while others choose to be part of research in the field.