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Roots and Routes: Exploring the Richness of Black Cultures Around the World

Image by dendyh7 — Adobe Stock

Black culture refers to the different customs, traditions, beliefs, practices, art forms, languages, and social behaviours that have emerged from the experiences and contributions of people of African descent.

Black culture is not monolithic but consists of distinct ethnic, regional, and national identities. However, Black as a term does connote a similar experience due to skin tone as white supremacy and colonization has touched the entire world and all peoples of colour. By acknowledging and celebrating the rich cultural similarities and differences within the Black diaspora, we can discredit the myth of a Black monolith and foster greater cultural appreciation.

This is Part 1 of a series exploring different majority Black countries around the world, and various aspects of their Black cultures. We'll start by looking at the beauty of their people and country, some key facts that shape how we view them, and how they use language to express themselves. By highlighting the richness of these communities and their contributions, we increase cultural awareness which leads to a stronger sense of being united as humans.

Table of Contents:


Image by Bill Fairs — Unsplash

Vibrant and Resilient

Resilience and strength are deeply rooted in the Jamaican society. Here, the echoes of ancestral struggles blend harmoniously with a vibrant culture and captivating music.

Jamaicans, renowned for their unwavering determination and resourcefulness, have mastered the art of turning adversities into opportunities. From the wisdom of national heroes to the creativity reflected in Jamaican proverbs, the spirit of persistence shines through this society.

Birthplace of Reggae Music and Rastafarian Culture

Jamaica went through a cultural transformation and embraced its African roots through reggae music in the post-independence era. Reggae music is linked with the Rastafarian movement and was a powerful force for social change. It promoted the values of unity, equality, and liberation.

Reggae was not only music but a voice for the marginalized and a celebration of Jamaica’s African roots.

Calm and Content

In Jamaica, the expression, "Everything Irie!" meaning "Everything is alright," is used to show calmness and contentment, even in challenging situations. It reflects the island's relaxed approach to life and emphasizes finding joy in the present moment.


Image by Adera Abdoulaye Dolo — Pexels

Warmth and Hospitality

Hospitality in Ghana is a cultural practice and a way of life for its people. Whether in the lively streets of Accra or the serene villages, Ghanaians will always extend a welcoming hand to their visitors.

Their warmth and compassion are shown through the open-door policy and the unreserved provision of food and drinks to their guests. This tradition transcends time constraints and offers a space of warmth and generosity where guests are valued and respected.

Rich History of the Ashanti Kingdom and Pan-Africanism

The Gold Coast (Ashanti Kingdom), present-day Ghana, boasts a history of tenacity against colonialism and a commitment to Pan-Africanism.

Ghana's fight for independence in 1957, led by influential individuals such as Kwame Nkrumah, was a turning point in African history that ignited liberation movements. Today, Ghana stands as a symbol of African unity.

Humour to overcome challenges

"We dey bee keke!" — translated as "We are flying in a tricycle" — implies that everything is going exceptionally well or smoothly, even if it might not be entirely true.

South Africa

Diverse and Struggling

South Africa's journey from apartheid to democracy illustrates the complexities of diversity and struggle. While progress has been made, challenges persist, particularly in achieving true equity in gender dynamics. Recognizing the need for equality and equity is crucial for fostering inclusivity and addressing systemic disparities.

Legacy of Nelson Mandela and the Struggle Against Apartheid

Nelson Mandela's resolute spirit illustrates South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy. Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years for his anti-apartheid activities, led the nation toward a peaceful transition to democracy. His legacy shows the power of perseverance and collective action in the face of oppression.

Friendly advice

"Sisi, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the braai!" — This South African phrase is a variation of "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." It suggests that people should step away from situations they can’t handle.


Wisdom and Connection to the Land

Indigenous Australians share a deep connection to the land and its inhabitants. Their traditions, founded on respect and stewardship, convey fundamental teachings on sustainability and harmony. From ancient practices like firestick farming to modern-day advocacy for environmental conservation, Indigenous Australians hold a deep appreciation for their land.

Indigenous Dreamtime Stories and the Fight for Land Rights

Indigenous Australians have upheld their culture and identity despite centuries of marginalization and dispossession. The struggle for land rights represents their desire for recognition and justice. This desire stems from their strong ties to the country and the Dreamtime stories that define their identity.

Indigenous Australians have upheld their sovereignty and demanded respect for their ancestral lands since the Wave Hill Walk-Off and the landmark Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Local Proverb

“The more you know, the less you need" is an Aboriginal proverb that truly expresses the serenity and connection to all the wisdom their ancestors have imparted on them. This reflects beautifully their spiritual and physical belief system.


Rich History and Cultural Diversity

Sudan's cultural diversity is a vibrant mosaic of traditions, languages, and customs. Despite the influence of modernization, its cultural heritage continues to thrive. From the Fur in the West to the Humr tribe in central Sudan, Sudanese cultures comprise various linguistic, ethnic, and religious characteristics that highlight the nation's cultural vibrancy and strength.

Nubian Civilization and Contemporary Challenges Faced by Sudan

Despite its Nubian descent, Sudan still struggles with contemporary challenges like identity and conflict. Arab influence and colonial legacies have influenced Sudan's national identity at the expense of its African heritage. The Afro-Arab identity crisis has fuelled civil wars and humanitarian crises. This demonstrates the complexities of race, religion, and power in Sudanese society.

Humour despite hardship

"He's as lost as a goat in the souk!" — This metaphor describes someone confused or disoriented, likening them to a goat wandering through a busy marketplace. It adds a lighthearted touch to the idea of being directionally challenged and exemplifies the playful nature of Sudanese people.


Music, Revolution, and Spirituality

Music in Cuba goes beyond mere entertainment; it mirrors the island's rich cultural heritage and spiritual traditions. Grounded in African rhythms and enriched by Spanish influences, Cuban music tells a story of strength, resistance, and cultural fusion. With its sacred rituals and vibrant sounds, Cuba's music embraces its roots and captures the nation’s indomitable spirit.

Fidel Castro's Revolution and Enduring Cuban Traditions

Cuba's revolutionary spirit and vibrant cultural traditions have captivated the world for decades. Fidel Castro's leadership during the Cuban Revolution reshaped the nation's sociopolitical outlook and ushered in an era of socialist principles and international enemies. Despite external pressures and internal challenges, Cuba's cultural resilience and commitment to social justice have inspired and caused revolt amongst generations worldwide.

Common sense perspective

"Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando, sobre todo si son gallinas." (A bird in the hand is worth more than a hundred flying, especially if they are chickens.) — This saying emphasizes the practical value of what one already possesses over the potential but uncertain benefits of pursuing something greater or more difficult. 


Resilience and Rich Cultural Heritage

Haiti's heritage includes art, music, cuisine, and an enduring spirit that inspires people worldwide. Despite facing numerous challenges, including natural disasters and political unrest, the Haitian people demonstrate remarkable resilience and resolve. Haitian art, music, and cuisine offer a glimpse into the nation's vibrant cultural tapestry, showing the strength and creativity of its people.

Slavery, Revolution, and the World's First Successful Slave Revolt

Haiti's history, which includes slavery, revolts, and triumphs, demonstrates the human spirit's resilience. The country’s independence in 1804 broke the ties of oppression and inspired freedom movements worldwide. With a population predominantly of African descent, Haiti continues to embrace its African heritage and solidarity with the diaspora.

Crickets chiming

"Li fè sa tankou yon krikèt nan zòrèy mwen!" — Translated as "He's doing it like a cricket in my ear," this expression describes someone annoying or persistent, likening them to the sound of a cricket chirping loudly in one's ear. Funny ways of expressing discontent or discomfort are common in Caribbean culture.

Fostering Global Unity Through Culture

Image by Raquel Sílva — Pexels

Black cultures worldwide show their richness and the threads that bind humanity together. By exposing yourself to cultural differences, you will inevitably increase your appreciation and understanding for others. These are simple but effective ways to foster more unity amongst diverse peoples, and celebrate the beauty of cultural diversity, for in our differences lies our greatest strength.

Download the COBA guide to be a better ally to your Black community and deepen your understanding of different Black cultures and traditions.


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