What Are Some Defining Characteristics of African Culture?

Most Africans live in undeveloped rural areas, subsisting on their own home-grown produce and inheriting oral traditions of music and dance. Although this is obviously a sweeping generalization of an enormous and varied continent, there are nevertheless some commonalities to be observed between cultures, especially outside the predominantly Arab world of North Africa.

As in much of the world, the most popular sport in Africa is football; however, there are many more ancient and distinctly African leisure pursuits. These include Mancala, also known as Wari, Kombe or Aweet, which involves moving counters around a board or patch of the ground. This remains a popular game throughout Africa, with over 200 regional variations.

West African food is characterized by cassava, maize, millet and plantains, as well as beans and fish in Cameroon. In North Africa, couscous is a common accompaniment to meat and vegetables.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, music is often based on singing, especially in groups with varying melodies to create a form of call and response. Instruments include a great range of percussion and drums, along with various kinds of flutes and stringed instruments.

The culture of Africa is changing as a result of urbanization and globalization, and purely traditional forms of music and dance have decreased. Even so, African traditions often live on as a fusion with those of the West, as with the southern styles of sabasaba and kwella, which combine swing and jive music.