The Culture of Africa encompasses and includes all cultures which were ever in the continent of Africa.
The main division is between North Africa (plus the Horn of Africa), which is part of the Islamic world, and Sub-Saharan Africa, which is in turn divided into a great number of ethnic and tribal cultures. The main ethno-linguistic divisions are Afro-Asiatic (North Africa, Chad, Horn of Africa), Niger-Congo (mostly Bantu) in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, Niger-Saharan in parts of the Sahara and the Sahel and parts of Eastern Africa, and Khoisan (indigenous minorities of Southern Africa).
The notion of a "Pan-African" culture was discussed in seriousness in the 1960s and 1970s in the context of the Négritude movement, but has fallen out of fashion in African studies. The wide distribution of Bantu peoples across Sub-Saharan Africa, encompassing parts of Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Central Africa as well as Southern Africa is a result of the Bantu expansions of the 1st millennium AD. The wide use of Swahili as a lingua franca further establishes the Bantu peoples as a nearly "Pan-African" cultural influence.
Africa is home to innumerable tribes, ethnic and social groups, some representing very large populations consisting of millions of people, others are smaller groups of a few thousand. Some countries have over 20 different ethnic groups.
Africa has a rich tradition of arts and crafts. African arts and crafts find expression in a variety of woodcarvings, brass and leather art works. African arts and crafts also include sculpture, paintings, pottery, ceremonial and religious headgear and dress.
African culture has always placed emphasis on personal appearance and jewellery has remained an important personal accessory. Many pieces of such jewellery are made of cowry shells and similar materials. Similarly, masks are made with elaborate designs and are important part of African culture. Masks are used in various ceremonies depicting ancestors and spirits, mythological characters and deities.
In most of traditional art and craft of Africa, certain themes significant to African culture recur, including a couple, a woman with a child, a male with a weapon or animal, and an outsider or a stranger. Couples may represent ancestors, community founder, married couple or twins. The couple theme rarely exhibit intimacy of men and women. The mother with the child or children reveals intense desire of the African women to have children. The theme is also representative of mother earth and the people as her children. The man with the weapon or animal theme symbolizes honour and power. A stranger may be from some other tribe or someone from a different country, and relatively more distorted portrayal of the stranger indicates proportionately greater gap from the stranger.
The continent of Africa speaks hundreds of languages and if dialects spoken by various ethnic groups are also included, the number is much higher. All these languages and dialects do not have same importance: some are spoken by only few hundred persons, others are spoken by millions. Among the most prominent languages spoken are Arabic, Swahili and Hausa. Very few countries of Africa use any single language and for this reason several official languages coexist, African and European.
The language of Africa present a unity of character as well as diversity, as is manifest in all the dimensions of Africa. Four prominent language families of Africa are:
An early center of literature was the "African Ink Road".
With a few notable exceptions in East Africa, nearly all African countries have adopted official languages that originated outside the continent and spread through colonialism or human migration. For example, in numerous countries English and French are used for communication in the public sphere such as government, commerce, education and the media. Arabic, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Malagasy are other examples of originally non-African languages that are used by millions of Africans today, both in the public and private spheres.
Africa is a huge continent and the food and drink of Africa reflect local influences, as also glimpses of colonial food traditions, including use of food products like peppers, peanuts and maize introduced by the colonizers. The African cuisine is a combination of traditional fruits and vegetables, milk and meat products. The African village diet is often milk, curds and whey. Exotic game and fish are gathered from Africa's vast area.
Traditional African cuisine is characterized by use of starch as a focus, accompanied by stew containing meat or vegetables, or both. Cassava and yams are the main root vegetables. Africans also use steamed greens with hot spices. Dishes of steamed or boiled green vegetables, peas, beans and cereals, starchy cassava, yams and sweet potatoes are widely consumed. In each African locality, there are numerous wild fruits and vegetables which are used as food. Watermelon, banana and plantain are some of the more familiar fruits.
Differences are also noticeable in eating and drinking habits across the continent of Africa. Thus, North Africa, along the Mediterranean from Morocco to Egypt has different food habits than Saharan Africans who consume subsistence diet. Nigeria and coastal parts of West Africa love chilies in food. Non-Muslim population of Africa also uses alcoholic beverages, which goes well with most African cuisine. The most familiar alcoholic drink in the interior Africa is the Ethiopian honey wine called Tej.
Cooking techniques of West Africa often combine fish and meat, including dried fish. The cuisine of South Africa and neighboring countries have largely become polyglot cuisines, having influences of several immigrants which include Indians who brought lentil soups (dals) and curries, Malays who came with their curries with spices, and Europeans with "mixed grills" that now include African game meats. Traditionally, East African cuisine is distinctive in the sense that meat products are generally absent. Cattle, sheep and goats were regarded as a form of currency, and are not generally consumed as food. Arabic influences are also reflected in East African cuisine – rice cooked with spices in Persian style, use of saffron, cloves, cinnamons and several other spices, and pomegranate juice.
Ethiopians lay claim to first regular cultivation of coffee, and they have a sort of coffee ceremony, like Japanese tea ceremony. From Ethiopia, coffee spread to Yemen, from there it spread to Arabia, and from there to the rest of the World.