The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent has 54 sovereign states, including Madagascar, various island groups, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a member state of the AfricanUnion whose statehood is disputed by Morocco.
Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones. The African expected economic growth rate is at about 5.0% for 2010 and 5.5% in 2011.
History of Africa
The pre-history of Africa begins with the first emergence of Homo sapiens in EastAfrica, continuing into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. Agriculture began about 10,000 BCE and metallurgy in about 4000 BCE. Early civilization arose in Egypt and later in the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa. Islam spread through the Maghreb and the Sahel, with a major centre of Moslem culture at Timbuktu. States and polities subsequently formedthroughout the continent.
From the late 15th century, Europeans and Arabs took slaves from West, Central and Southeast Africa overseas in the African slave trade. European colonization of Africa developed rapidly in the Scramble for Africa of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Following independence and struggles in many parts of the continent, decolonization took place after the Second World War.The history of Africa has been a challenge for researchers in the field of African studies because of the scarcity of written sources in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Scholarly techniques such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archaeology and genetics have been crucial.
The culture of Africa encompasses and includes all cultures which were ever in the continent ofAfrica.
The main split is between North Africa, 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, Nilo-Saharan in parts of the Sahara and the Sahel and parts of Eastern Africa, and Khoisan (indigenousminorities of Southern Africa.
The notion of a "Pan-African" culture was discussed in seriousness during 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 theBantu 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.
Main articles: African people and demographics of Africa
Africa is home to innumerable tribes, ethnic and social groups, some representing very large populations consisting of millions of people, others are smallergroups of a few thousand. Some countries have over 20 different ethnic groups, and also are greatly diverse in beliefs.
African Art and Crafts
Main article: African art
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 andreligious headgear and dress.
African culture has always placed emphasis on personal appearance and jewelry 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,...