Indigenous Africans are members of the human species that never left the continent nowadays known as Africa. According to the Out-of-Africa theory (which says the 1st humans came about in Africa and different groups of them left to inhabit different landmasses over thousands of years), indigenous Africans are the most genetically diverse of all human groups. This means that despite the existence of different skin colours, hair textures, eye colours and the like in other parts of the world, they still possess more genetic diversity than everywhere else.
(However, it’s interesting to note that despite this, humans are one of the least genetically diverse organisms on the planet. There’s more diversity among a single troop of chimpanzees than in all 6.8billion humans alive today, including Africans! Furthermore, contrary to common logic, there is more genetic diversity between humans of the same ethnic group [eg. 2 Hadzabe] than between members of different ethnic groups [eg. 1 Hadza & 1 Lapp]!)
|Zulu men of South Africa, examples of what are typically thought of as “true Africans/ Negroes”|
Most people think they know what a “proper African” looks like: extremely dark blackish-brown skin, thick lips, wide-set nostrils and kinky hair. However, this idea is based on racist propaganda promulgated from the days of the TAST. Not the fact that such people exist, but the belief that those are the only true Africans is racist. What European slavers did back then was find those Africans who looked most different to themselves and dub them “true Africans/ Negroes”. Any African who possessed features that more closely resembled what they considered typical European was considered mixed (and by extension superior to “true Negroes”). This explains why Somalis for example are to this day considered Arab or mixed with Arab, despite the fact that most Somalis have no non-African admixture and will tell you so. This is also partially why the Kemetics (ancient Egyptians) are believed to be ‘white’, despite the fact that they drew themselves with dark red-brown skin and said they originated from Punt, which equates to the Horn of Africa – ie. the extreme East side of “sub-Saharan” Africa* (Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia & Eritrea).
In fact, in many cases you can very clearly see the differences between different African groups. And there are different groups. Note – some of these terms more accurately refer to linguistic groups, but pre-TAST it was usually the case that languages followed specific ethnicities:
AFRO-ASIATICS: Originally from East Africa (especially the Horn), they now inhabit much of the Middle East & North Africa too. It’s believed that their homeland is where the very first OOA migrants came, thus making them the ancestors of all non-African humans. This group includes the Kemetics (ancient Egyptians), original Arabs (more on this later), Afar (aka. Danakil), Somalis, Hausa, Berbers (which includes Tuaregs, Kabyles & Moors), Harla (aka. Harala), Hamer (aka. Hamar), and Beja.
|Rageh Omaar, Somali-British journalist|
|Ethiopian Hamer girl|
|Djiboutian women doing raks-al-sayf, traditional sword dance|
|Imuhagh (Tuareg) girl with decidedly non-afro hair|
NILOTES: Their language group, Nilotic, is a huge subgroup of the Nilo-Saharan language group. They mostly inhabit the Nile Valley in the Northeast, the African Great Lakes region in the East, and southwestern Ethiopia. They include the Maasai, Turkana, Luo, Samburu, Nuer, Dinka and Shilluk (aka. Chollo). Out of all Africans, these & the Niger-Congo people are the closest in looks to the “true Negro”.
|Salva Kiir Mayardit, 1st President of south Sudan|
|Sudanese model Angelique Deng. Personally I find her more attractive than Alek Wek|
NIGER-CONGO PEOPLE: This group is split into two main subgroups – Niger-Congo A & Niger-Congo B (aka. Bantu). Most modern Africans all over the continent speak a language in this group, because of the Bantu Expansion when Bantu-speaking people spread across the continent from what’s now the southwestern border between Cameroon & Nigeria. This expansion is believed to have begun in 1000BC. In this group are the Wolof/ Jollof, amaZulu, Akan (which includes Asante/ Ashanti, Akuapem, Fante & others), Bakongo (aka. Congolese), Ndi-Igbo, Yorubas, Bubi, Fulani (aka. Fula or Fulbe), Makua, Kikuyu, Shona, Nguni, Manden (which includes the Vai, Soninke, Dyula & Mandinka) and WaSwahili (despite their close cultural & linguistic ties with Arabs). Out of all Africans, these & the Nilotes are the closest in looks to the “true Negro”.
|Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou|
|Woman of the Bororo people, a subgroup of Fulani|
|Tutsi man. Note: there’s disagreement as to whether Tutsis are Bantus or Nilotes. I classify them as Bantu|
|Gorgeous Ghanaian model Teiko Dornor|
Note there are Bantu languages spoken outside mainland Africa too: on the islands of Madagascar, Mayotte & the Comoros (off the Swahili coast, southeast Africa). These languages include the Comorian and Sabaki groups.
KHOISANS: Originating from East & Southern Africa, they now reside mostly in the South & Southwest. Their languages are famous for the click sounds. This group name is a fusion of 2 related groups, the pastoral Khoikhoi (used to be called Hottentots but this is now offensive) & the hunter-gatherer San (aka. Bushmen, also offensive). Nowadays they’re said to be the oldest human group, but that’s assuming better preservation of lineages (which they have) = greatest genetic diversity (which they might have) = genetically oldest, which has not been proven yet. Because of their eastern origins, it’s likely they also contributed to the gene pool of the first OOA migrants along with the Afro-Asiatics. They were mostly displaced by southward-heading Bantus during the Bantu Expansion, and many have mixed with them.
The Damara may be mixed (as they’re a Bantu people who speak Nama, a Khoisan language), or they could be among the first Bantu migrants to the Khoisans’ land. Anthropologists are still trying to work that out.
|Group of San adults & cute baby. Khoisanids in general have epicanthic eyefolds like most Easians & native Americans|
|More San women, plus child|
PYGMIES: This is a vague term as it really only means a group whose average adult height is less than 150cm. However in Central Africa, where they originate, there are specific terms for specific groups: Gyele, Efe, Mbuti (aka. Bambuti), Twa (aka. Abatwa or Ge-Sera), and Bayaka. In present-day Congo, Bantus possess pygmies as slaves.
|Baka dancers in Cameroon|
|Mbuti pygmy Ota Benga. He deserves his own post, but for now just read his story here|
|The big orange strip in the north is the Sahara desert. See Wikipedia for a more detailed explanation|
AUSTRONESIANS: technically not an indigenous African group but I’ve included them for completion’s sake. This is represented by the Malagasy people of Madagascar. The traditional story says Madagascar was uninhabited until Austronesians arrived on canoes around 1500-2000 years ago, with native Africans arriving later, but that is being contested and revised.
* Now about the term sub-Saharan Africa, which you may hear bantered around a lot nowadays. It sounds innocent and rooted in geography, but it’s another Eurocentric and unnecessarily divisive term, a synonym for “black Africa”. It claims to demarcate a clear racial distinction between North Africa (currently inhabited by Africanised foreigners &/or their mixed descendants) and the rest of the continent. It also claims the desert somehow isolated ‘blacks’ from the rest of the world (the Saharan barrier theory, or as I call it “true Negroes are scared of sand”). It’s inaccurate and misleading for at least these reasons:
1- There was once a time when the Sahara desert itself didn’t exist. It used to be forestland but over centuries became arid sand and spread further south, some of which the Kemetics & Nubians witnessed in their lifetimes.
2- Even after the desert came to exist Africans didn’t consider it a big deal. There were and still are native Africans living there (eg. Tuareg, Gnawa), and other groups who’ve travelled and done trade through it like any other piece of land. That’s why the African Union doesn’t consider it a barrier, more like a bridge.
3- Female circumcision originated in Egypt and spread almost all over the continent. If the desert were a barrier it wouldn’t have spread anywhere.
Then there are the stereotypes that go along with the term. Funny, that. If ‘sub-Saharan’ were so innocent why are stereotypes attached at all? It’s where HIV/AIDS is rampant, children die from starvation daily, destitute poverty is the norm and where Westerners are always chucking aid money with no results. None of this is the norm anywhere in Africa (except maybe the last one), but that’s how stereotypes of non-‘white’ people typically work. However, Africa is gaining economic strength and international prestige, and Africans are fighting the stereotypes, so they may just finally regain their previous glory in the world. I hope…
I hope to add more posts on specific African cultures, people, individuals, countries, empires, societies and the like. But later.