Africa, the second world largest continent both by size and population, holds 54 countries and over 1.2billion people. Africa’s diversity could be traced back to when human race originated from Africa. The dawn of human history began in the continent with the emergence of Homo sapiens.
There are many facts on how Africa got its name and the beginning of Africa’s civilization; however where its name was originally derived from is still in dispute.
Before the European settled for the word Africa, Nubia, Kush, Libya, and Ethiopia were the names Africa was called. The term Africa came into existence in the late 17th century when the continent had been colonized. Initially, it was only the northern part of the continent that was referred to Africa. According to popular suggestions, the name ‘Africa’ was coined from “Afri tribe” which was the Roman name for the Berbers race living in the north of Tunisia.
After traveling across most of the North Africa and giving an account of what he saw, Leo Africanus, a famous mediaeval traveler and another Scholar gave a suggestion that the term Africa was also coined from a Greek word ” a-phrike’ which meant ‘without cold’ or ‘without horror’. Another historian suggested that, Africa was derived from a Latin word ‘ Aprica ‘ which means Sunny. Thus, there is either little or no certainty on the source which Africa derived its name from however ‘ Alkebulan’ was the original name of Africa. Alkebulan is the oldest originated word which means ‘ Mother of mankind’ or ‘ Garden of Eden’. The European afterwards influenced the change of the continent’s name to Africa.
Prehistoric humans developed from Africa. About two million years ago, the first creature which was classified as human species evolved from Africa. That period was called the Stone Age as the human species developed the first technology which was sharp tools. In Omo, Ethiopia, human remains were discovered that were dated 195,000 years ago. Humans in Africa also produced the earliest form of paintings on stone slabs. A painting on stone slabs found in Namibia was dated nearly 30,000 years old. The Sahara paintings explained a lot about the prehistoric humans in Africa. At that time, Sahara was a fertile land filled with wildlife like rhinoceros, elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, fishes and lots more. Their paintings depicted that dogs were domesticated and were also used for hunting. The people were hunters, gatherers and cattle herders. The painting also depicted that the people wore woven clothes and animal skins. Around 3,000 B.C, there was a climate change in Sahara; it became a desert. As the desert spread the people emigrated to the east, north, south and west while some remained in Sahara and adapted to surviving with little water. In those days, Africa originally had two races who lived in Sahara the Berbers( Egyptians who were called Hams) of the Mediterranean coastlands and Negroes of equatorial Africa. The Berbers were of European physical features while the Negroes consisted of the pygmies (averaged height of about 4’9′) who initially migrated to the South, eventually settled at the West and Central Sudan with the other Negro tribes and they finally became the Bantu-speakers. The Pygmies began to spread all over Africa.
In 3,000 B.C Africa’s first civilization began when people emigrated from Sahara to other parts of Africa. Egypt became the first civilized country not only in Africa but in the world. Egypt was popularly called The Kemet and it means “the black land”. According to Scholars, the name was derived from the fertile soil left over from the River Nile flood. In the third dynasty, Pharaohs were rulers in Egypt; pyramids were built for Pharaohs as their funerary complex. The first great and extraordinary pyramid, Giza was 481 feet tall equal to 40 storey building. In Egypt, there was existence of toilet and sewerage. Toilet was used to dispose waste. They manufactured soap, perfumes and natron solution to fumigate their houses. Egypt also produced Afro combs out of ivory tusk. At that time, Egypt flourished and connected with other parts of the world importing and exporting goods, services, religions and people. The trade was done along the Mediterranean coast. The oldest form of writing ‘hieroglyphics’ was established in Egypt. However, the Kushites who were skilled iron workers and a Egypt’s military rivalry overpowered the old kingdom of Egypt and ruled it at the 25th dynasty. The Kush’s which is now the modern Sudan culture was influenced by the Egypt. The capital of Kush( an ancient Nubia empire) was Meroe. The Kushites became an economic centre, mummified their dead like ancient Egyptians, worshipped Egyptians gods and built their own pyramid. Meroe, Kush homed over 200 ruined pyramids which was more than Egypt’s. The kingdom of Kush only lasted for 8 centuries; it was destroyed by the King of Axum who rose to power in Ethiopia. Similarly, Ethiopia became another early civilized country; the Arabia mostly influenced its civilization. Its gold and ivory trading gave it an important link between ancient Europe and Far East. The country is one of the first empires to adopt Christianity. The country declined but Christianity is still in existence in form of Orthodox. The Carthage was also a North African country now Tunisia which flourished for 500 years and was Rome’s rival. It dominated trade in gold, silver, textile and copper and its influence extended to parts of Mediterranean and Spain. All that remains of the mighty empire became ruins in Tunis.
Around 1000 BC, the Bantu-speaking people settled in the central Africa with the establishment of Bornu-Kanem Empire which is now called Chad. The Bornu-Kanem Empire flourished in that century. They also occupied the country which we now know as Nigeria and Cameroon. One interesting fact is that iron smelting was known in the region but Nok Art and magnificent pottery established there remains the most recognizable African Sculpture. Bantu-speakers who were agriculturist and herdsmen settled in the south of the Limpopo River displacing the original land owners, khoi-san speakers. The region is now the present day KwaZulu-Natal.
The spread of Islam began in Africa when Arab Muslim conquered North Africa in the 7th century by invading Egypt and wiping out Christianity except from a Coptic church which had Ethiopia strong influence because Ethiopia practiced Coptic Christianity. Then, they moved down to other countries in North Africa; the Berbers totally submitted to the conversion but The Carthage resisted and was destroyed by the Arab armies. In West Africa, the powerful countries were Ghana, Gao and Kanem empire. When Ghana declined in the 11th century, it was succeeded by the Mali Empire then Islam began to spread inside West Africa with the influence of Mansas of Mali Empire. The Mansas tribe of Mali Empire established a city Timbuktu however, Mansa Musa was the richest man ever on earth. They influenced the spread of Islam in Bornu-Kanem Empire and this led to the establishment of states in Hausa, Nigeria and creation of Islamic schools. During the 15th century, the Portuguese explorer, Prince Henry, the son of King John I known as the Navigator became the first European to explore Africa and its oceans. This paved way to European exploitation of Africa and creation of ties between the two continents. However, the ties did not only encouraged economic exploitation but slave trade. Slave trade became rampant, although it had began in the 10th century after the Arabs introduced camel for transportation. Slaves were rather servants unlike in American where they were used as laborers. There was huge demand for laborers in the likes of North America, Brazil and Caribbean by the Portuguese, Spaniards, English, French, Dutch. To meet up this demand, powerful kings from west Africa sold their captives in exchange for goods such as fire arms, rum, fabrics and seed grains to slave traders. Despite the European attempts to suppress slave trade in the early 19th century which was the Act of parliament passed to end slave trade, other countries still continued this illegal trading for 60 years. Eventually, the trade was totally terminated.
Furthermore, the European conquered and colonized Africa countries except Ethiopia and Liberia. The presence of Europeans disrupted Africa Traditional ways and brought in the wide spread of Christianity and foreign education. The continent came under the rule of Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Portugal. After the 2nd world war, France took control of Germany’s colonies. In 1951, Libya became the first decolonized country in Africa. This made other countries in Africa to clamor for self independence.
However, after independence many African countries still operate under western influence but still attempt in blending with wearing Africa traditional styles and patterns and western clothing
Finally, Africa has a rich culture and had been a juggernaut in all sorts of arts like the Famous Nok Art in Nigeria, beautiful sculpture Sphinx of Giza which was carved 7,000 or more years ago in Egypt and the magnificent textiles which Congo manufactured.