Teaching Ideas about Other Cultures- Africa

Teaching Ideas about Other Cultures- Africa (Part 1)


                         J. Doyle Casteel
                         Charles Guthrie

               Sheila Benjamin     Mary Lou Mullon
               Marva Carter        Tracie Nelson
               Alvin Colbert       Nikki Pascuzzi
               Catherine Fischer   Ellen Pritchard
               George Hemond       Deloris Rentz
               Sheila Keller       Judy Rock
               Jack Kreutchic      Carolyn Tyrrell
                          Quinn Wiggins

              Printed at the University of Florida
                   Gainesville, Florida 32611
                          October 1980

Financed by a grant from the U.S. Office of Education, Division of International Education, under the Citizen Education for Cultural Understanding Program (13.581). Assistance also provided by the following University of Florida Offices: The Graduate School, the Centers for African Studies and Latin American Studies, and the Department of Subject Specialization Teacher Education.

When one teaches about any body of social science knowledge, intentionally of unintentionally they teach ideas that give some pattern of meaning to the data taught.

When one teaches about any culture, any era, or any geographical space, one normally expects students to use ideas they already possess in order to interpret the information or event; or, one takes care to present students with 'organizing ideas' in order to influence how they perceive data and give meaning to it. When a North American teaches about another culture which is outside the experience of his students, with the intention that students see the logic and morality of behavior in that culture, this choice is not sufficient. In such an instance, 'organizing ideas' capable of shaping student interpretations must be illustrated within a valid cultural context. Otherwise the data will refer to another human society, whereas the meaning given to that data will continue to bear the stamp of the U.S. The Summer Institute dealt with this problem in the following manner.

Six organizing ideas (focal ideas) were identified for each of the three world culture areas as the focus of study at the Institute. Each group of six ideas constitutes an intellectual frame of reference for the study of one important culture area. Teachers should note that the ideas identified here were selected with care; however, they do not begin to exhaust the possibilities. Note also that the ideas are on a high level of generality and do not pretend to speak for all of the cultures within the selected broad culture regions.

The focal ideas identified for Africa are as follows:

(1) An African's position in society is firmly defined through a number of fixed social relationships, and his rights and responsibilities are determined by these relationships.

(2) Africans commonly believe that a person's success and prestige are to a great extent dependent upon the number of people who support and are loyal to them. Consequently, developing and maintaining social relationships is extremely important.

(3) The primary aim of most African societies in resolving social conflict is to restore peace and equilibrium to the whole community. Consequently all members affected by the conflict may participate in determining justice.

(4) Africans do not separate religious ideas and practices from other aspects of their daily lives.

(5) Education in African societies today reflects the existing conflict between traditional values-- which emphasize maintaining and transmitting the group's heritage and culture- - and modern values which encourage change.

(6) In African communities, the arts (music, dance, drama, the visual arts) are viewed as an integral part of the whole of life.


The bulk of this monograph consists of activities that may be used in order to begin teaching the ideas presented in the previous section. These activities are written in nine different formats and stress some of the more important skill teaching responsibilities of the social studies teacher. What follows is a description of these nine formats.

1. Confrontation Activities. The same event, institution, or behavior may have more than one valid meaning. As one shifts from one culture to another, or from one era to another, meanings also tend to shift. For example, Africans, Europeans, and Latin Americans all respect the family; however, the meaning of family membership is different for each.

2. Acquisition Activities. When one uses an acquisition activity, one stresses the acquisition, comprehension, and retention of knowledge relevant to the ideas one is teaching.

3. Searching Activities. When one uses a searching activity, one continues to stress skills associated with the acquisition and retention of knowledge. One also stresses analytical skills that are used in order to locate relevant information and to establish relationships between fact and idea or between idea and idea.

The searching activity consists of a resource from which students may acquire information, and a solicitation guide. This guide contains comprehension items and relational items. These are grouped and labeled in the activities presented.

4. Sorting Activities. Even the most valid idea about any phenomena is to be held tentatively. For every generalization one might make about another culture or people, exceptions tend to merge. The sorting activity is intended to demonstrate to students that for even the very valid ideas about another culture there are exceptions.

The sorting activities contain the following: an idea that is to be tested; a set of ten to fifteen descriptive statements, most of which are consistent with the idea; and a reaction guide that students use in order to identify information that is consistent and information that is inconsistent with the idea.

5. Valuational Activities. When one uses a valuational activity, one emphasizes skills associated with the acquisition and retention of knowledge. One also stresses the analysis of data in conjunction with the evaluation of the idea or ideas one is teaching. In addition, one stresses skills associated with framing, communicating, and explaining personal judgements.

The valuational activity consists of a resource and a solicitation guide. The solicitation guide contains three types of items: comprehension items, relational items, and personal items.

6. Forced-Choice Activities. The forced-choice activity belongs to the area of decision making. When one needs to make a decision, he/she may be confronted with a limited number of options from which he/she must choose the greater good or the decision making.

The forced-choice activity consists of a short story, which provides a context in which a decision is necessary, and two decision sheets. The first decision sheet is to be completed by students working individually. The second decision sheet is to be completed in small groups of five or six students.

7. Affirmative Activities. Another important decision- making skill is the capacity to generate a range of alternatives that one might apply in order to resolve a social problem. The affirmative format emphasizes this dimension of decision-making.

The affirmative activity contains a short story and two decision sheet. The short story presents a social problem within a human context. The first decision sheet guides students, first to invent a range of reasonable options and, second, to make a decision that they can argue. The second decision sheet guides a small group of students, first, to share individual reactions and, second, to frame a group decision.

8. Contrast Activities. When one uses an activity written in the contrasting format, one continues to stress acquisition and analytical skills. The element is the requirement that students cope with two sources of knowledge, both of which illustrate the same ideas but do so in different ways.

The contrast activity consists of two sources of information, both relevant to the idea one is teaching, and a solicitation guide. The solicitation guide encourages students to identify and process information from these two sources and to relate it to the idea.

9. Rank-Order Activities. Persons may agree that a number of objects or behaviors have value but disagree as to their relative value. This is to say that values interact with one another and exist in hierarchies. Rank-order activities stress this point.

The rank-order format contains a short story and two decision sheets. The story provides a context for a social problem. The individual decision sheet requires students to rank-order options that might be used in order to resolve the problem presented. The group decision sheet encourages small group members to seek consensus.

Each of the activities presented in this monograph contains the following elements: attending directions, a source of data relevant to a key cultural idea, and behavioral initiators. Attending directions are intended to control student information processing activities and are a critical component of each classroom activity. The data source provides the information, concepts, and ideas that are to be processed. The behavioral initiator, whether in the guise of questions, a guide, or a decision sheet is intended to help students complete activities and, at the same time, to learn appropriate information processing strategies.

As the reader studies and evaluates the activities that follow, it is important that he keep the intention for each activity in mind--to teach ideas about other cultures. As a teacher introduces, uses, and summarizes these activities in the classroom, it is critical that each format shape his perspective and that of his students.

FOCAL IDEA: An African's position in society is firmly defined through a number of fixed social relationships, and his rights and responsibilities are determined by these relationships

TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Confrontation

TITLES: Blood Is Thicker Than Water Dissolution of a Family

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS: The stories you are about to read will demonstrate the differences in the way two different cultures perceive and act upon kinship responsibilities which arise as a result of a death in the family. As you read the stories, keep in mind that an African's position in society is firmly defined through a number of fixed social relationships, and that an individual's rights and responsibilities are generally determined by these relationships. After you have carefully read the two stories, you will be expected to answer a set of questions that will help you to better understand your own as well as Africans' perceptions of kinship responsibility.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Edafe Oddo, a Nigerian, was a professor at a university in Washington, D.C. He had come to the United States some years back to further his education. While he was here he met and eventually married a young lady from Chicago. Shortly thereafter, he got a job at the university where he was now working.

One day Edafe received a letter from his younger brother in Nigeria saying that his father had suddenly taken ill and died. Since Edafe was the the oldest son, the letter continued, he must return home and take over the responsibilities as head of the family. There was farm land to be managed and quite a few cattle. There were young brothers and sisters who had not yet finished school. His mother would be alone, as would be an aunt who had lived with them since Edafe was a child. These and other thoughts raced through his mind.

Edafe realized that his life in the U.S. had been exceptionally good. He had a good job and a wife he cared for. Thus far they had no children. He had become accustomed to the North American way of doing things. But Edafe knew that this did not remove his responsibilities towards his family. Although there had been many kinsmen to support his father and mother in old age, as eldest son it was customary that he take over the family upon his father's death. While he was growing up, his father had hammered away at that idea of responsibility to the family. When he attended school as a young boy, his father had paid school fees and given Edafe money for school uniforms but not without reminding him that one day his education would enable him to repay the family. When he had come to the U.S., too, the family had helped him. His family had, in fact, always supported him-- especially his father. Edafe suspected that the time would come when he would need the help of his family again.

Even though he had been away for several years and had married a North American, he had maintained contact with the family. Secretly he feared being totally alienated from them. Although he was happy in the U.S., sometime he did have nagging doubts about not going back. Occasionally, he felt somewhat of an outsider in the U.S.-- not quite fully accepted. It was fine while he was young, but what would happen as he grew older? He had no support system of kinsmen in the U.S. as he did in his own country.

He showed the letter to his wife. She was shocked that he would even consider the request to return. She certainly had no intention of moving there. She knew nothing about life in Africa. She did not want to give up the comforts she had become accustomed to in the U.S. And, quite frankly, she was frightened by the possible physical hardships and what would be expected of her in that new situation.

For several days Edafe was buried in thought. He talked over the predicament with many of his African friends who had also taken up residence in the U.S. and understood his problem.

Two weeks after receiving the letter Edafe made a decision. The most difficult part was confronting his wife. He told her that he could not turn his back on his family in Nigeria. He had decided to return to Nigeria and assume his role as head of the family. He pleaded with her to return with him, but, of course, he had to leave the decision to her.

Dissolution of a Family

Allan Baker, an associate professor of history at a university in Pomona, California, received a phone call from his younger sister in Atlanta, where he had grown up. His father, a retired electrician, had just had a serious stroke. He had recovered somewhat, but was weak, and the doctors were not hopeful of his living through the next day. The family wanted Allan and his wife to come immediately. There would be things to discuss and matters to settle.


Five days later, on the plane back to California, Allan had a chance to think through how his father's death had affected his own life and that of his family. His father had died shortly after his arrival in Atlanta. The next three days had been hard on them all. After the funeral Allan, his brother, and two sisters met to discuss their father's estate and, more importantly, what was now to become of his mother.

Shortly after Allan arrived, his mother had called him aside and said that she no longer wanted to stay in her house alone. She didn't feel capable of taking care of herself. Yet she had no other relatives in Atlanta, not even cousins. Though she had friends she could not be a burden to them. She certainly did not expect any of her children to return to Atlanta just to take care of her, but she wanted to know if there was room enough at Allan's life for her to live with him and his family. She was willing, she said, to hand over her social security check as her contribution to expenses.

Allan was the eldest of four children. None of the others was married. The two sisters were still in college. To some extent, major decisions such as this had always fallen on his shoulders. He spoke with his wife Judy about the problem. Judy got along well with Allan's mother, but she did not think it was a good idea for his mother to move in with them. Their house was very small. She had two young children. His mother needed increasing attention, and Judy felt that she could not handle the extra responsibility.

Allan still felt that it was his responsibility to take care of his mother in her declining years. For two days he wrestled with the problem. The day before he returned to California he had reached a decision--he felt it was the only decision he could reach. He respected his wife's wishes, but he could not turn his back on his mother. Though it would be a strain on their finances, Alan decided to find a retirement home for his mother either in the Atlanta area or near his home in California, subject, of course, to her approval. There she could receive adequate care and would make friends. Settlement of his father's estate, the sale of their old home, and insurance benefits would help with his mother's expenses as well as help support his sisters until they finished college.

It was sad, he reflected, to manage the dissolution of his family. His home in Atlanta--where he had grown up, where he had learned to love, where he had attended school--would be no more. His family was scattered. In typical North American fashion each would go his own way, with occasional visits and phone calls serving as reminders that they were once dependent upon each other.


1. Edafe is a "good" member of his family. How does he meet his responsibility?

2. Allan is a "good" member of his family. How does he meet his responsibility?

3. How does the behavior of Allan differ from the behavior of Edafe?

4. How does the behavior of Edafe reflect African culture and society?

5. How does the behavior of Allan reflect North American culture and society?

FOCAL IDEA          Africans commonly believe that a
                    person's success and prestige are
                    to a great extent dependent upon
                    the number of people who support
                    and are loyal to them.
                    Consequently, developing and
                    maintaining social relationships is
                    extremely important.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:   Confrontation

TITLES              Fulani's Story
                    Anita's Story

                    For many Africans people are
                    considered to be a form of wealth.
                    They may acquire this kind of
                    wealth through increasing the
                    number and quality of their social
                    relationships. These relationships
                    help them to meet a variety of
                    social and economic needs. It is
                    not surprising, then, that they
                    should actively seek social
                    relationships which might be
                    beneficial to them. One of the ways
                    Africans seek to develop social
                    relationships is through gift-
                    giving or granting favors. The
                    favors or gifts are not expected to
                    be returned immediately, so the
                    receiver is placed in a relation-
                    ship of obligation to the giver. As
                    the following activity
                    demonstrates, this custom of "owing
                    favors" is easily misunderstood by
                    North Americans who generally have
                    a different idea about indebtedness
                    to other people.
                    Keep this African belief in mind as
                    you read the two stories which
                    follow. Also remember that a single
                    event may have more than one
                    meaning, depending upon how it is
                    perceived and who perceives it.
                    When you have finished reading the
                    stories you will be asked to make a
                    comparison of the two positions.

                               Anita's Story

My name is Anita. Recently I moved to Kwakwafe, a village in Zambia, to conduct research in Anthropology under the sponsorship of the Zambian Government. Shortly after settling my family in our new home, I was visited by a Zambian woman named Fulani. Fulani had come over to welcome us to the village. She was extremely friendly, and I was excited about our visitor.

After we had exchanged greetings Fulani presented me with a basket of manioc flour. I was touched by this very warm gesture, and I felt that I had to repay her kindness. I remembered that I had packed some extra salt, and I had been told that salt is quite hard to get in this area. I dashed into the kitchen, found the small bags of salt, and brought one out for her.

What happened next was very confusing. Fulani was very clearly unhappy with my gift and embarrassed for some reason I could not see. She refused the salt and abruptly excused herself. I stood there speechless. Apparently I had offended her, but I did not know how. She had given me a gift; I had given her a gift in return. What could possibly be wrong with that?

                              Fulani's Story

My name is Fulani. I live in Kwakwafe village in Zambia. When I heard that an American couple, the Hansens, had recently come to my village to work for the Government, I wanted to present them with a gift so that they would be my friends. I measured out a container of manioc flour that I had just prepared. When Mrs. Hansen came to the door, I introduced myself, and she invited me in to sit down.

She seemed quite happy to see me. She told me her name was Anita and that her little boy's name was Wesley. She told me that they would be living in our community for a year. I held the container of flour out to Mrs. Hansen said, "I have brought you some manioc flour since I am sure you haven't had time to go to the market yet."

At first she seemed delighted and thanked me several times. But then without explaining what she was doing, she jumped up and disappeared into the back of the house. I waited. Imagine my surprise when she returned and handed me a bag of salt! My heart fell. I had offered her a gift to extend my friendship. Did she think I was selling the flour? I was very embarrassed and could not think of anything to say. I got up and left the house.


1. Where does this event take place?

2. Who is the character in the first story?

3. Who is the character in the second story?

4. What did the gift-giving mean to Fulani in the first story?

5. What did the gift-giving mean to Fulani in the second story?

6. What is the difference between the two?

7. What does this difference tell us about "owing favors"in African societies?

8. What does this difference tell us about "owing favors" in our own society?

FOCAL IDEA          The primary aim of most African
                    societies in resolving social
                    conflict is to restore peace and
                    equilibrium to the whole community.
                    Consequently all members affected
                    by the conflict may participate in
                    determining justice.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY    Acquisition

TITLE:              The Community is Judge

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS North American believe that those
                    who determine justice, the judge
                    and the jury, should be totally
                    removed from the conflict they are
                    helping to resolve or there can be
                    no true, impartial "justice.".
                    Africans, on the other hand,
                    believe that since conflict creates
                    disharmony within the whole group,
                    the group had best be involved in
                    determining justice in order to
                    restore harmony.

                    The story you are about to read, a
                    shortened version of a folktale
                    from the mountainous African
                    country of Ethiopia, demonstrates
                    this African belief. After you have
                    studied the story, you will be
                    asked to respond to a series of
                    questions which will test your
                    understanding of the story.

The Community Is Judge

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, there lived a man named Haptom Hasei. Haptom was a wealthy man and owned everything money could buy. He was, however, bored, and sought co entertain himself by making bets.

One cold night when his young servant, Arah, came to bring wood for the fire, Haptom offered to bet him that a man could not stand on the highest peak, Mount Sulutla, all night without clothing, blankets, food, or fire. There the blowing winds were unbelievably cold. Arah, a poor man, agreed to accept the bet if Haptom would give him ten acres of good farm land if he succeeded. It was agreed that Arah would go to the mountain the following evening.

The next day, rather worried about what he was going to attempt, Arah went to see an old man known for his wisdom and told him of the bet. Arah needed help. The old man, in his wisdom, came up with a solution. That night he would go and build a fire directly across the valley from the high mountain where Arah would be standing. Arah must watch the fire all night, thinking of its warmth as he stood in the cold. And this would keep him warm.

That evening Arah went to the mountain with two of Haptom's servants. Arah removed all his clothing and stood in the cold., He could see his friend's fire across the valley. He watched the fire all night and thought of his friend keeping it for him.

When dawn came, Arah and the servants returned to Haptom's house. Haptom was surprised to see Arah and asked how he had managed to survive. Arah replied, "I watched the flames of a fire across the valley."

Haptom declared that Arah had cheated because therefore he would not give Arah the ten acres. Even when Arah explained how far away the fire was Haptom would not change his mind. Discouraged, Arah again went to see the old man who had helped him. The old man told him to take his case to the judge. When the judge had heard Arah's case he said, "You had fire. You have lost the bet."

Now even Arah's friends and acquaintances became angry, and they advised him to seek further advice. Once again Arah returned to the old man. The old man then went to see Hailu, a rich and respected man of the community. After hearing the situation explained Hailu said, "I will take care of the matter."

Some days later Hailu sent out invitations to many important people to attend a feast. The judge and Haptom were among those people invited. On the day of the feast many guests arrived. Hailu instructed his servants to prepare the food but not to serve it until he had ordered them do to so. The guests talked and danced, but there was no food served. As the evening wore on, the guests could smell the food, and their appetites became fierce, but no food was served. Finally, one guest asked Hailu, 'why have you invited us to feast but have not served us food?"

Hailu replied, "If a man on a mountain is warmed by a fire across the valley, then you have eaten because you have smelled the food."

When the judge heard this, he immediately understood what Hailu was doing. When the bet between Arah and Haptom was explained to the guests, they agreed with Hailu and turned upon Haptom with their arguments until he, too, agreed that he had been wrong. The judge was persuaded at that moment to change his ruling, and Haptom was ordered to give Arah his ten acres of good farm land.

Food was brought in, and the famished guests began to eat.


1. There are four main characters in the story. Name them.

2. Hampton is a wealthy man. What did he hope to gain from the bet with Arah?

3. What was the bet between Arah and Hampton?

4. How did the old man help Arah to fulfill the conditions of the bet?

5. Hampton refused to reward Arah because he said Arah had cheated. How had he cheated?

6. List those most responsible for resolving the conflict.

7. Describe the role each of these individuals played in resolving the conflict.

8. This story suggests that one man cannot judge a case without help from the community. How does the story show this?

     FOCAL IDEA:    Africans do not separate religious
                    ideas and practices from other
                    aspects of their daily lives.


     TITLE:         Honoring Ancestors

                    The story that follows is a
                    shortened version of a West African
                    folktale which introduces the
                    concept of ancestor veneration.
                    Many Africans believe that
                    ancestors continue to influence the
                    world of the descendants. The
                    ancestors may work for the good of
                    their kinsmen, or they may cause
                    illness or misfortune among them.
                    For this reason, it is believed
                    that those who die should be
                    frequently honored, and communica-
                    tion with them should be maintained
                    in some fashion so that they will
                    work to influence existing super-
                    natural forces on behalf of the
                    family or its individual members.

                    Read the story carefully, keeping
                    in mind that Africans do not
                    separate religious ideas and
                    practices from their daily
                    activities, and that the veneration
                    of ancestors is an important part
                    of their religious beliefs. Pay
                    particular attention to the proverb
                    expressed at the end. When you have
                    finished the story, you will be
                    asked several questions that will
                    help you understand it better.

                             Honoring Ancestors

Near the edge of the Liberian rain forest was the village of Kundi. In this village lived a hunter by the name of Ogaloussa. He lived with his wife and many children. One morning Ogaloussa took his weapons and went into the forest to hunt. The day passed, and darkness came, but Ogaloussa did not return. Another day went by, and then weeks. At first Ogaloussa's sons talked constantly about their father's disappearance, but as time passed they gradually ceased to mention his name.

After he had been gone about four months, Ogaloussa's wife bore another son who was called Puli. When Puli was finally old enough to talk, his first words were "Where is my father?"

The other sons, slightly surprised by the question, looked across the fields. "Yes," asked one of them as he now remembered his father. "Where is our father?' "Something must have happened. We ought to look for him," said another.

So the sons took their weapons and started out to look for Ogaloussa. Several times in the deep forest they lost the trail, but each time one of the sons would find it again. At last they came to a clearing, and there on the ground lay Ogaloussa's bones and his rusty weapons, They knew then that Ogaloussa had been killed in the hunt.

One of the sons stepped forward. "I know how to put a dead person's bones together." He gathered all of Ogaloussa's bones and put them together, each in its right place.

Another said, "I know how to cover the skeleton with sinews and flesh." He went to work and covered Ogaloussa's bones with sinews and A third son put blood into the body. A fourth added breath. Movement and speech were added by other sons. At last Ogaloussa sat up and spoke,"Where are my weapons?"

His sons picked up the rusted weapons and gave them to their father. Then they started home through the forest. At home Ogaloussa bathed and ate and remained in the house for four days. On the fifth day he came out of the house. He killed a cow for a great feast. From the cow's tail he braided a switch and decorated it with beads and cowry shells and bits of shiny metal. It was a beautiful thing. Ogaloussa carried it to all important functions. Everyone in the village admired the switch. They thought it was the most beautiful cow-tail switch they had ever seen.

Soon there was a celebration in the village because Ogaloussa had returned from the dead. Some of the men grew bold and asked for the switch. Then all the women and children begged for it, but Ogaloussa refused them all. At last Ogaloussa stood up, and the noise stopped, for everyone wanted to hear what Ogaloussa had to say.

"While I was hunting," he began, "I was killed by a leopard, My sons brought me back from the land of the dead, and it is one of them who must receive the switch. Though all my sons did something to bring me back, I have only one cow-tail switch. I will give it to the one who did the most to bring me home."

The sons began to argue. One claimed that he had done the most because he had found the trail when it was lost. Another said he should have the switch because he had put the bones together. Still another deserved it, he said, because he had put blood into Ogaloussa's body. Each son claimed the right to possess the wonderful cow-tail switch.

The villagers began to choose sides, arguing for the son they thought had done the most to bring Ogaloussa back from the land of the dead. They argued back and forth until Ogaloussa asked them to be quiet. He came forward and bent low and handed it to Puli, the little boy who had been born while Ogaloussa was in the forest.

"To this son I will give the cow-tail switch, for I owe most to him," Ogaloussa said.

The people of the village remembered then that the child's first words had been, "Where is my father?" They knew that Ogaloussa was right. For it was a saying among them that a man is not really dead until he is forgotten.


1. Why didn't Ogaloussa return from his hunting trip?

2. What finally happened to make Ogaloussa's sons search for him?

3. What did Ogaluossa make upon his return from the land of the dead?

4. Why did each son claim that he had the right to own the cow-tail switch?

5. Why did Ogaloussa give the cow-tail switch to Puli?

6. The last line of the story reads, "For it was a saying among them that a man is not really dead until he is forgotten." After having read the story, what do you suppose is meant by this?

7. In Africa it is common to offer gifts of food and other sacrifices to the spirit of an ancestor. In what ways do Americans honor their ancestors?

FOCAL IDEA:    Africans commonly believe that a person's
               success and prestige are to a great extent
               dependent upon the number of people who
               support and are loyal to them. Consequently,
               developing and maintaining social
               relationships is extremely important to them.


TITLE:              Art learns a lesson

               Africans attach great importance to
               increasing the number of their social
               relationships. They may use these
               relationships to accomplish a variety of
               social and economic goals or simply to
               enhance their position in society. One
               commonly accepted way in which Africans
               establish a relationship with another person
               is through giving a gift or granting a favor
               to that person. Usually, by accepting the
               favor the receiver is accepting the new
               relationship. In the story which follows a
               young North American is puzzled by the
               customs which surround gift-giving. As you
               read the story, keep in mind the African
               belief that a person's wealth and prestige
               may be determined by the number of people who
               support and are loyal to him. When you have
               finished studying the story you will be asked
               to respond to some questions. By responding
               to these questions you should develop a
               better understanding of the nature of social
               relationships in African societies.

                            Art Learns a Lesson

Art had moved to Zambia from the U.S. several months ago to work on an agricultural development project for his consulting firm. He stayed near the village of Kafkwame and had already come to be well-known and respected by the villagers. One day a friend told him that a cow had just been butchered in the village. Meat was scarce in the area, so Art immediately stopped work and headed for the village.

When he arrived he found that the butcher, Kwame Kafwale, had just slaughtered and begun to butcher the cow. Art knew the butcher. He had met him several times at the butcher shop, and just last week he had spoken with him at some length at a meeting of local farmers and businessmen. Now, as Art attempted to buy a piece of meat, Kwame announced quite loudly, "No. You will not pay. I will give you some meat." He then cut a large portion of meat and weighed it.

Before Art could think of how to respond, Kwame further announced for all to hear: "I am giving you five pounds of meat worth $18." Art was rather embarrassed by this special attention in a shop full of anxious buyers, and he tried to pay for the meat. But Kwame clearly did not appreciate his arguing, so he finally accepted it, thanked Kwame, and left.

Art was puzzled by this incident. He immediately sought someone who would both understand his puzzlement and be more familiar with local customs. He talked with an African Methodist minister who smiled and explained.

"We in Africa like to surround ourselves with relatives and friends who can be of some help to us when we need it. In fact, a person's wealth and prestige may be determined by the number of such relationships a person has. Owing favors becomes a basis for establishing a relationship. This means that if someone thinks it is to his advantage to establish a relationship with you, he may do so by granting you a favor or giving you a gift. This is what Kwame has done. This is often done with witnesses present, so that all will be able to see Kwame"s generosity and recognize that a relationship has been established. To repay the favor immediately, or in this case to pay for the meat, would be like refusing the offer of friendship.

"In the future Kwame may expect a return favor. He would like to feel that a relationship has now begun and that he may be able to depend upon you for support, as with a close friend. This is only the beginning of the relationship, however; either of you may be expected to nourish this relationship.


1. Who is Art?

2. Why is Art in Zambia?

3. Why did Art rush to the butcher's when he heard that a cow was being slaughtered?

4. When Art entered the butcher shop and tried to buy some meat, two things surprised him. Describe these two things.

5. Art was particularly embarrassed by the circumstances of Kwame's offer. Explain these circumstances.

6. What was the first thing Art did after leaving the shop?

                           Relational Questions

7. What was Kwame's purpose in giving Art meat for free?

8. According to the minister's explanation, Kwame could not have achieved his purposes as well by offering Art the gift in private. Why is this so?

FOCAL IDEA:    The primary aim of most African societies in
               resolving social conflict is to restore peace
               and equilibrium to the whole community.
               Consequently all members affected by the
               conflict may participate in determining


TITLE:         A Disputer over Land Rights

               In the U.S. we are concerned primarily with
               "justice according to the law"; whereas in
               many African societies the purpose of justice
               is to provide fair compensation to the
               accused as well as to restore harmony to the
               whole community. In the story that follows, a
               dispute arises over rights to land. As you
               read the story remember that in many
               communities, any conflict between individuals
               may bring disharmony to the whole community.
               When you have finished the whole story you
               will be asked to respond to a number of
               questions. By responding to these questions
               you should develop a better understanding of
               how justice in African society may function
               to serve the good of the entire community.

                       A Dispute Over Land Rights

The elders of Njiapanda village sat in council to help Matuli and Sibie reach a decision in their dispute over the control of a piece of farm land.

Nine years before, when Matuli was just nineteen years old, he and one of his two brothers had left their father's farm to find work in Dar-es-Salaam. Though they had intended to return, they quickly adapted to city life and stayed to make their homes there. They never completely lost contact with home and from time to time sent money back to their father.

About the same time, Sibie, a stranger, came to Matuli's village looking for work. Seeing that Matuli's father had only the one son to help him, Sibie offered to help in the farm work if the father would grant him a small plot of land for a house and gardens where he could settle. During the next year, Matuli's brother who had remained at home was killed in an automobile accident. For the next two years Sibie assumed an ever-increasing share of the farm work until Matuli's father became ill and was unable to assist at all in working the land. At that time his sons did not return from Dar-es-Salaam to help their father. Sibie began to assume the responsibility for the running of the farm that should have been assumed by Matuli and his surviving brother. It was finally agreed between Sibie and Matuli's father that Sibie would work the land and give to Matuli's father one-third of all the produce from the land. When Matuli's father died two years later, his wife returned to live with her kinsmen in a distant village, and Sibie began to work the land for himself and his growing family. Both Matuli and his brother sent money home for a proper burial, but they could not get time off from work to make the long journey home.

Three years passed. Matuli grew tired of the city and decided to return home. When he arrived in Njiapanda he was surprised to find Sibie, a stranger to him, farming his father's land. Matuli was angry and demanded to know why Sibie was on the land. Sibie explained about the agreement with Matuli's father which allowed him to work the land. Since he had now returned to work the land for himself, however, Matuli insisted that Sibie leave. When Sibie refused, Matuli took his case to the village headman.

It was the responsibility of the headman, together with the village elders, to settle such disputes in the village. Matuli and Sibie met with them in council.

Matuli spoke: "This land has been farmed by my family for generations. It is good soil, close to water, and the forest is nearby for wood. This is why my grandfather first selected and cleared this land. This is why my father cared for it for his whole life, as you all know. And I, too, worked it during my childhood. While I was absent I sent my father money to invest in the farm. Unfortunately my job prevented me from returning immediately after my father's death. But the land should be returned to me without delay because it is the duty of the elders to see that those born into the village are cared for before strangers are cared for. I know that Sibie helped my father, and I am willing to pay him for taking care of the land while I was absent. But he is not the owner."

It was now time for Sibie to speak.

"I feel," he began, "that Njiapanda is my home. I am no longer a stranger to any of you. I have worked this land where I now live for nine years. I have done well with it, and I have shared my wealth." He cautioned the elders. "You yourselves knew of the agreement between Matuli's father and me. I have been faithful in paying a portion of my harvest to the family of the land. It is unjust to expect me to just take money and move away. Money is not land."

The quarrel was not immediately resolved. Several meetings were held at which Sibie, Matuli, and even villagers presented their arguments or opinions before the headman and elders. The elders, too, each had an opportunity to speak and argue, until discussion finally led to an agreement. It was felt that since Matuli was a son of the village, he had a right to return and claim his father's land. Control of the land is based on kinship, not on financial arrangements. However, Sibie was now a respected man of the village, as many of the villagers were quick to point out. He, too, had rights. Both Matuli and Sibie agreed that Matuli would take control of his father's land immediately, but would contribute one-third of his crop yield to Sibie and his family for the next three harvests. The headman would grant Sibie another piece of suitable land to farm and live.

Harmony was restored.

                            SOLICITATION GUIDE

Comprehension Questions

1. There are two main characters in the story. Who are they?

2. Matuli left Njiapanda when he was nineteen. Where did he go?

3. Sibie made an agreement with Matuli's father. What were the terms of agreement?

4. Sibie and Matuli disagreed over a piece of land. Summarize the details of this disagreement.

5. In African societies compensation plays an important part in resolving conflicts. Give evidence of this from the story.

Relational Questions

6. In addition to Matuli and Sibie, the village headman, the elders,and even individual villagers all had their say in the dispute. What does this suggest about the way in which many African societies choose to resolve conflict?

7. The process of resolving conflict demonstrated in this story suggests that justice in African societies could never to the "guilty or not guilty" confusion which is the primary aim of Western courts. Explain why this is probably true.

FOCAL IDEA:          In African communities, the arts
                     (music, dance, drama, the visual
                     arts) are viewed as an integral
                     part of the whole of life.


TITLE:               Art for Life's Sake

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS: In the West, what we generally refer to as
                     art has ceased to have the useful function in
                     society that it once had. Often, too, art tends to 
                     be for those who have money. The more "artistic" it   
                     is, the more valuable it is and the more likely it 
                     is to be carefully hung on the wall in a home, or 
                     in a museum or in an office to be looked at and 
                     admired. If it is music, we may go to a concert and 
                     listen to it; if dance, we may go and watch it 
                     being performed on stage. This is not to deny  
                     exceptions, of course.

                     ln Africa, on the other hand, art serves a variety 
                     of functions. lt helps man to relate to 
                     supernatural forces. Art may explain the past; it 
                     may describe the values and the way of life of a 
                     particular people. It may serve as a mediator in 
                     social relations, express emotions, denote prestige 
                     or status, or simply provide entertainment. The 
                     arts in Africa are, in summary, an integral part of 
                     all of life. Even in Africa, however, there are 

                     In the activity which follows there are twelve
                     situations which describe the behavior of Africans
                     related to art. Certain of the situations are
                     consistent with the focal idea stated above. 
                     Certain situations are inconsistent with that focal
                     idea. Mark those that are consistent with a "+". 
                     Mark those that are inconsistent with a "0". In the 
                     process of completing this activity you will come 
                     to understand more clearly the function of art in 
                     African societies, and to recognize the exceptions 
                     to this generalization.

                     The column headed "Ind." is for your individual
                     reaction. The column headed "Gr." is for subsequent
                     work in small groups.                        
                            Art for Life's Sake

Ind. Gr.

1. A 400-year-old bronze plaque from the African kingdom of Benin reflects a historical period in African history--a Portuguese soldier in the type of armor worn at the time the Portuguese first sailed down the West African coast in the 15th century and began trading with Benin.

2. The dark ebony of the carving glistened in the dim light of the curio shop near the palace in Benin, Nigeria. As Bisi picked up the carving of a king's head she felt the weight of the wood. She thought, "This is just the thing to decorate my new apartment in Lagos."

3. In the large shed in Mombasa, Kenya, a manager oversees ten to fifteen men who sit on the floor carving wooden animals, masks, and other interesting objects to be sold in tourist shops all over the world.

4. The hard day of working in the gardens is finished. Rebeka has finished cooking and eating, and now she relaxes in the cool of the evening. While she sits talking with other women from the village, however, she continues to work on a tightly-woven basket with specially prepared grasses. The basket has intricate colored designs, and it will be used to carry grain to town to be ground into flour.

5. Some Africans may create small scars on the body as a form of decoration, sometimes in beautifully elaborate designs. Scarification may also be a device for indicating a person's role in life or his origins. This practice is now disappearing.

6. The carved wooden stools of the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana, some embellished with designs of silver or brass, have for centuries functioned not only as seats, but have also served to symbolize the state of office of a chief. It is of such importance to the Akan that without it the religion of the ancestors becomes almost meaningless.

7. Among the Woyo people, men eat with men but are served their food by their wives. The wives bring food in a small pot covered with a decorated wooden lid. If there is some disagreement between the man and wife the pot is covered with a lid which has a very special series of decorations which serve the purpose of bringing the disagreement into the open so that others can help to settle the disagreement.

8. Dancers dressed in beautifully carved masks and elaborate costumes play an important role in the rituals of the Gelede cult of the south- western Yoruba (Nigeria). In the masquerade the dancer helps, through his actions, to control certain forces for the good of the community.

9. Most Ghanaian traditional rites, such as puberty and funerals, are accompanied by a dance. In some areas, there is usually drumming and dancing at funerals, and a failure to hold a dance at a funeral may be regarded as an ill omen.

10. A South African man of the Xhosa people in Ciskei is wearing elaborate handcrafted jewelry and fabrics made near and in his locale. These are more than mere "pretty ornaments." He can associate closely with each piece, its process, and its heritage.

11. In Southern Ghana, terra-cotta heads and freestanding figures on pot lids are part of the funeral of an important person. These figures are formed only by men or old women past childbearing age. It is thought that if a young women did this work, her fertility would be destroyed.

12. Chief Inoren of the Owo Yoruba people in Nigeria presents his son with a large and lovely cloth called sheeghoshen. "This will show that you are a man of importance and wealth," he explains, "for sheeghoshen is indeed a cloth of prestige."

FOCAL IDEA:    People who live in West European cultures place a higher
               value on "individualism" than do those who live in other

TITLE:         Personal Incidents, Here and There

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS: No idea or generalization about a culture applies 
               to absolutely every member of that culture. There are
               always exceptions to generalizations, and we must be  
               aware of them.

               In this activity, you will confront eleven personal
               incidents, all of which take place in West European
               cultures. Some of the incidents are consistent with the 
               idea that Western European cultures place a high value on
               the individual and on individual achievement. A few do 
               not support the idea. If an incident supports the idea,
               indicate your judgment with a plus sign (+). If an 
               incident does not lend support to the idea, use a (0). 
               The column headed "Ind." is for your personal reaction. 
               The column marked "Gr." is for your subsequent work in a 
               small group.

                        Personal Incidents, Here and There

Ind. Gr.

1. The National Steel Industry Job Assignment Committee was meeting to determine labor needs in each steel factory. It was already obvious that fifty workers would have to move from the southern province to a northern province. They were to be identified and notified to move immediately.

2. The crowd in front of the Washington Monument was huge. These thousands were listening to a living legend. He concluded his speech: "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

3. John is sitting with his counselor in the Guidance Office. They are reviewing his school record and discussing what he will do after graduation.

4. As Elsie prepared herself for her upcoming interview, she knew she was about to be promoted. She thought of her parents. How pleased they would be with her professional progress. The small, drab house near the coal mines seemed so very far away.

5. Carl does not want to believe what he is reading. Writing his novel, his masterpiece, has taken years. And now this letter from the publisher: "Your book contains too much political criticism to be considered for publication at this time."

6. Dan's gold medals are very important to him. They remind him that he was privileged to represent his country in the Olympic Games. They also remind him that he, personally, made the decision to train and prepare himself for competition at this high level.

7. Mr. Smythe and the bank's loan officer studied the forms necessary to process the loan. Mr. Smythe signed in the places indicated. The loan officer gave Mr, Smythe one copy of each form for his records.

8. Jacques and his family were enjoying their walk through the park on this fine autumn day. Leaves fell through the air and rustled in response to the breezes. In the distance, sounds of cymbals and Eastern music could be heard. Three young men stood in a small plaza distributing literature and requesting donations. Jacques and his family smiled, spoke, and passed on without pausing.

Ind. Gr.

9. The dark drapes were tightly drawn. As they clutched their small prayer books, the little group softly spoke the words they believed their god had given them. They must hurry. They thought a patrol might pass at any moment.

10. There was a new, sobbing surge in this music. "What do they call it?" Jazz. It obeys no rules, and yet I like it. Who would have thought it?" mused Greta. "A new art form from America."

11. "What a town meeting," Mary thought. "The very idea of discussing a leash law for our small town. And for three hours, no less, and no end in sight."

FOCAL IDEA:         Africans commonly believe that a person's
                    success and prestige are to a great extent dependent  
                    upon the number of people who support and are loyal 
                    to them. Consequently, developing and maintaining 
                    social relationships is extremely important.


TITLE:               The African Concept of Wealth


         Often we make generalizations about people of other cultures.
         In the following activity, for example, we generalize that
         Africans commonly measure a person's wealth and prestige by the
         number of people who support and are loyal to them, and that
         this practice leads them to actively seek social relationships
         through generosity toward others. This tends to be true. We
         find, however, that generalizations such as this do not 
         describe adequately all people or situations in a culture all 
         of the time.

         In the activity that follows, there are twelve descriptions 
         which are valid African situations. Mark those descriptions 
         with a "+" that are consistent with the focal belief stated 
         above. Mark those descriptions with an "0" that are 
         inconsistent with that same African belief. Careful study of 
         this activity should lead you to see that even the most common   
         practices do not account for all behavior within a culture.

         The column headed by "Ind." is for individual decisions. The      
         column headed by "Gr," is for group decisions.

                       The African Concept of Wealth

Ind. Gr.

1. Dr Abide Bogan, a physician, has recently returned to where he received his medical training. He set up practice in Lagos, and his daily schedule has been extremely demanding. He has told his wife to discourage friends and relatives from frequent evening visits so that he will have time to rest.

2. Amos Silwimba, a successful businessman in the small rural town of Isoka, Zambia, frequently invites members of his community to share his food. In fact, it is known that anyone who happens to be around Silwimba's house at mealtime will be offered food.

3. Fatime is a hard-working and successful young manager of a women's clothing store in Abijan. Fatime has never married. One of the keys to her success has been to remain free of social and economic obligations which might interfere with career decisions.

4. After basic necessities such as rent, food, and clothing, Otieno always spends the remainder of his salary on expensive personal items.

5. Ibironke had a good yam harvest this year and shared it with his neighbor, Bade, whose crops did not do so well.

6. Yetunde presents gifts of manioc flour and two chickens to the American family who recently came to her village to work.

7. Abiose received an interest-free loan from her cousin Dada to send her son to college. Specific time for repayment was not discussed.

8. Art received twenty-five ponds of meat from Oke when Oke butchered a cow. Art did not pay Oke for the meat. Oke said it was a gift and would not accept payment.

9. Although Adetayo had not received an invitation to Adebisi's party, she knew that she was welcome and could eat and drink as much as she liked.

10. Although Jacob Sinkala was not related to Amos Silwimba, a successful businessman in town, he approached Mr. Silwimba with a request for enough money to finish his college training. Mr. Silwimba knew Jacob and lent him the money without further questions or conditions.

11. After paying his monthly bills for such basic necessities as food, rent, and clothing, Adu spent the remainder of his check in the bars buying beers for his friends.

12. Oyedele has just returned from studying abroad. He is now setting up evening classes in his community to teach new agricultural methods to farmers in his spare time.

FOCAL IDEA:          Africans do not separate religious ideas and
                     practices from other aspects of their daily lives.     

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:    Valuational
TITLE:               The Diviner

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS:                 
                    The Yoruba are a very large group of people who live
                    in the southwestern part of the African nation of
                    Nigeria. The story which follows relates how a young
                    Yoruba man goes about choosing a bride and how
                    religious customs play a part in his choice.

                    Many Africans believe that people's lives and 
                    actions are determined by external supernatural
                    forces which can be manipulated through proper 
                    channels. One of these channels of manipulation
                    in many African groups is the diviner. The diviner 
                    is a person believed to have the power to contact
                    spiritual forces for guidance in many important 
                    matters, including marriage.

                    As you read the story, keep in mind the central idea 
                    we are discussing: Africans do not separate religion 
                    from other aspects of their daily lives. After you 
                    have read the story you will be asked several types 
                    of questions which will help you to better 
                    understand the story and this focal idea.

                             The Diviner

Banji's life had always been guided by Orunmila, the god of destiny. Before he was born his parents had gone to a diviner to discover what they might do to have a healthy baby because three children born to them had died in infancy. Banji was born a healthy baby.

When Banji was eight, he had become ill, and the process of divination had been carried out in order to learn why. The diviner suggested that the Banji was now a young man, and it was time for him to take a wife. He needed someone who could help him with the farming, who would cook for him, and, most importantly, someone who would bear strong sons to carry on the family line.

For some time, Banji had his eye on Adesina, a beautiful, strong young girl from the town of Ilorin. They had met in the market place and had since spent much time in each other's company. As was the custom of his people, Banji first spoke to his father about his desire for a wife, and for Adesina in particular.

"I have heard that her family is a good one," Banji's father said. "I will visit them with gifts of kola nuts and palm wine to see how they feel about the marriage."

He did this, taking his brother with him, for among the Yoruba people it is customary to involve the entire family in such affairs. Adesina's parents were receptive to the match. But since the marriage was such an important step, they knew it was wise first to seek the advice of a diviner to see if the marriage was part of the destiny of their daughter.

As in most African societies, the Yoruba believe in one Supreme God (Olodumare) who created and controls the universe. But they also believe in a wide range of lesser divinities who owe their existence to Olodumare but who are concerned with specific aspects of man's activities. There are among the Yoruba, for example, a god of the farm (Orisha Oko), a god of the rivers and fish (Yemoja), and many others. Africans choose to call on those deities which are most likely to help with a particular problem. Adesina's family wished to consult the deity Orunmila, the god of destiny, who could read the future. Access to this god was through the process of divining. So Adesina's father and grandfather visited a well-known diviner who had access to Orunmila.

The diviner spoke to them briefly, then proceeded solemnly to the task at hand. First he called on Orunmila and gave an offering of kola nuts. Then, taking sixteen palm nuts from a large wooden bowl, he began to toss them from one hand to the other. When at last only one or two nuts were left in his right hand, he made small marks on a wooden board. He continued this process eight times until he had eight sets of marks on the board. Looking carefully at the marks, he was able to interpret them and learn what prophecy would be most appropriate to recite. He then recited the lengthy prophecy which gave hints as to what the couple must do to receive the approval of the deities for their marriage. Once these requirements had been completed, the terms of marriage were agreed upon, and the couple became formally engaged.

Banji was happy. Orunmila had indicated that the match was acceptable with his destiny. Soon the lovely Adesina would be his wife, and together they would have many children to make a fine family of their own.

                                 SOLICITATION GUIDE

                               Comprehension Questions

1. Two principal characters in this story are Banji and Adesina. What is the event in the story which links them?

2. How does Banji go about choosing a wife?

3. The story involves a "diviner." From your reading of the story, how would you describe the work of a diviner?

Can you identify practices in our own culture for telling the future?

4. Adesina's father and grandfather went to visit the diviner, What was the purpose of their visit?

5. According to the story, when does one seek the help of a diviner?

                           Relational Questions

6. Most African believe that their deities frequently intervene directly in people's lives. What evidence can be found in the story to support this statement?

7. One main idea that we are exploring is that Africans do not separate religious ideas and practices by external

8. Another main idea that we are exploring is that in many African societies people's lives and actions are thought to be determined by external forces which can be manipulated through proper channels. At the beginning of the story, how are the actions of Banji's relatives consistent with that idea?

                            Personal Questions

9. If you were a man or woman in the Yoruba culture, at what time in your life would you consult a diviner?

10. Suppose you were an American watching the process by which Banji becomes engaged. You would see that the family plays a dominant role in Yoruba life. Would you like to live in such a society?

FOCAL IDEA.    Africans commonly believe that a person's success and
               prestige are to a great extent dependent upon the number 
               of people who support and are loyal to them. 
               Consequently, developing and maintaining social 
               relationships is extremely important.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:    Valuational

TITLE:              Ajibade Beats the System

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS:                        
               The story you are about to read illustrates how an 
               African establishes social relationship in order to 
               overcome a bureaucratic delay. Africans attach great 
               importance to social relationships, whether with kinsmen 
               or with non-kinsmen, and actively seek to develop these
               relationships in order to meet a variety of social and
               economic needs. Once a relationship is established with
               another person, suspicions disappear, and both parties
               then feel a sense of obligation and a willingness to
               cooperate which did not previously exist. As you study 
               the story, keep in mind the following idea: Instances of
               what we may call bribery and corruption and consider to 
               be unethical may be viewed by Africans as perfectly 
               normal uses of social relationships. When you have 
               studied the story, you will be asked to respond to  
               questions, some of which will allow you to explore how 
               you might react if you found yourself in similar 

                         Ajibade Beats the System

Ajibade, a professor of history at the University of Calabar in the African nation of Nigeria, had just received an invitation to attend an important history conference in the U. S. and to present a paper by a nearby bar for drinks after work. That evening, and for the next three days, Ajibade arranged to be at that bar when Mr. Oddo arrived. The first day they merely nodded in recognition. The second day Ajibade had an opportunity to engage in conversation with Mr. Oddo and even to buy him a drink. By the end of the second day each knew the other's work and interests. And Ajibade had managed to interject the details of the history conference. By the third day they were clearly on friendly terms with one another. During the conversation on that day, when Mr. Oddo casually admired Ajibade's silver cigarette case, Ajibade offered it to him.

"Please take it. In fact I have another almost exactly like it at home. And what can I do with two?" This, of course, was not true.

After some hesitation, at Ajibade's insistence Mr, Oddo accepted the cigarette case.

On Monday morning, less than two weeks after he had walked into Mr. Oddo's office, Ajibade received his passport in the mail, updated and ready for travel. He was able to attend the history conference in the U.S.

                            SOLICITATION GUIDE

Comprehension Questions

1. The two characters in this story are Ajibade and Mr. Oddo. What kind of work does each one do?

2. Ajibade wants to attend a conference on history. Where is the conference being held?

3. In trying to prepare for travelling abroad, Ajibade runs into a problem. Describe the problem.

4. Ajibade does not let his problem hinder his attempt to attend the conference. What does he do?

Relational Questions

5. Both Mr. Oddo and Ajibade, like many Africans, clearly value social relationships. How do Mr. Oddo's actions demonstrate this?

6. How do Ajibade's actions support the idea that Africans value social relationships.

Personal Questions

7. From Mr. Oddo's point of view, was his action bribery? Explain your answer.

8. If you were to do as Ajibade did in the U.S., would your actions be considered bribery? Explain your answer.

FOCAL IDEA :         Africans do not separate religious
                     ideas and practices from other
                     aspects of their daily lives.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:    Forced Choice                                

TITLE:               An Accusation of Witchcraft

               Just as Africans believe in positive supernatural forces
               which influence men's daily lives and which can be
               manipulated and controlled by men, so do they believe in
               negative forces. Manipulation of these negative or 
               harmful forces by men or women is commonly referred to as
               "witchcraft." Africans often blame illness, disease, and
               misfortune upon these negative powers of witchcraft and 
               seek to weaken or eliminate them through proper rituals.

               In the story which follows, a well-educated young African
               woman must make a difficult decision which involves her
               grandmother and an accusation of witchcraft. Read the
               story carefully, keeping in mind that Africans do not
               separate religious ideas and practices from their daily
               lives. After you have finished the story, you will be
               asked to choose one of five possible decisions that the 
               main character could make and to give your reasons for
               that choice.

                            An Accusation of Witchcraft

'We accuse you of being a witch!" Laniyonu's mouth tightened as she watched her grandmother's head bow to the onslaught of the village elder's words.

How could this possibly be so? Grandmother is just a helpless old woman who minds her own business. Who knows, maybe there are such things as witches."

Certainly, she had heard enough about them as she grew up. But there were many things she did not understand about such religious beliefs. In the University, she and her friends used to talk late into the night about some of the beliefs and ways of the older generation. Women still went to diviners to learn why their children were sick, and when those children died, cries of witchcraft were still heard. Sometimes she and her friends had scorned the old beliefs, but they were torn between embarrassment at such old fashioned ways and a grudging respect for such religious beliefs as the belief in witches. She had learned in school that most societies have some belief in the power of evil and that they devise ways to combat it.

"Even if there are witches," she thought, "surely Grandmother is not one of them."

It was just this kind of tragedy that Laniyonu had come from the city to try to prevent. She had been one of the lucky ones. When she had shown promise in the local school as a child, she had been sent to stay with relatives in the city in order to further her education. Hard years of work followed, resulting in a trip across the ocean to attend medical school in the United States. She had returned proudly, a full-fledged doctor, with a taste for the bustle of the city and all the social excitement it offered, but the pull of her family was strong, and it was only fair for her to share with them what she had learned. Her own home town already had a doctor and a small clinic, so she had settled in Igboaiye, a small town about fifty miles from her own parents, a town where modern medicine could make a real difference. Grandmother had come along to help with daily chores and to provide the close relationship that Laniyonu knew she would desperately need in this new situation.

That was about four months ago, and things had gone wrong from the beginning. Laniyonu and her grandmother had arrived at the onset of a terrible drought which had all but destroyed the yam crop, the staple food of the region. The unseasonable downpours had flooded the fields so that what was left of the crop had rotted. Because of the poor diet, many children had fallen ill, and several had even died. Try as she might, Laniyonu was having great difficulty getting their mothers to use even the simplest health precautions, and sometimes the medicine she gave was thrown away. With a virtual epidemic underway, the townspeople had decided that they were being bewitched, and suspicion had fallen on several old women. Grandmother had tried to console several mothers who had lost children by talking with them about several of her own children who had died years before. When the witch-finders, a group which called itself the Alatinga, began to zero in on the older women to accuse them of witchcraft, a neighbor woman told them how Grandmother's children had died. She raised the question: "Has this woman killed her own children to get greater power as a witch?" Further investigation revealed to the Alatinga that she had arrived about the same time all the troubles had started in the village. That strengthened the case against her. She was, after all, an outsider.

Laniyonu was at a loss to know what to do. Several options were open to her. Slowly she considered them.

1. She could send Grandmother back to her family and stay on in Igboaiye, in the hopes that the people would eventually forget the incident and her association with it. She would miss her grandmother terribly, and there was no guarantee that the people would trust her again.

2. She could take her grandmother and move back to her family, leaving her work in Igboaiye and going where she wasn't really needed as much. Her medical skills would be sorely missed in Igboaiye.

3. She and her grandmother could stay and ignore the problem. The Alatinga might eventually lose their following among the people, as they had in other places.

4. She could allow her grandmother to submit to the arduous process of ritual purification. While the ceremonies--a series of incantations, animal sacrifices, and pleas for help from the accused witches--were not in themselves dangerous, Grandmother's heart was not as good as it could be, and there was always the danger that the excitement could produce a heart attack.

5. She could call in the Nigerian police. Accusations of witchcraft are forbidden by modern Nigerian law. It was difficult to know how the police would react, or even if they would do anything. That law was considered "city law" and was seldom enforced in the countryside, Also, there was no guarantee that the townspeople would continue to trust her even if the charges were dropped under police threat.

Once again Laniyonu heard the accusation and looked at her grandmother. "What should I do?" she worried.

                        INDIVIDUAL DECISION SHEET

Below are listed the five choices Laniyonu can make. Select the one you think she should make and mark it.

_____  She could send her grandmother back to her family and stay on in

_____  She could take her grandmother and move back to her family.

_____  She and her grandmother could stay and ignore the problem.

____   She could allow her grandmother to submit to the process of 
       ritual purification.

____   She could call the Nigerian police,

Suppose Laniyonu's family disagree with the decision she makes. How can she justify that choice?

                         GROUP DECISION SHEET

Select the best thing that Laniyonu can do. Indicate your choice with a check mark (S).

       Send her grandmother back to her family.

       Go with her grandmother and return to the family.

       Stay and ignore the problem.

       Submit her grandmother to ritual purification.

       Call the police.

Indicate grounds on which your decision might be justified.

FOCAL IDEA:          An African's position in society is firmly defined
                     through a number of fixed social relationships, and
                     his rights and responsibilities are determined by
                     these relationships.

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:    Forced Choice

TITLE:               Kofi's Dilemma

ATTENDING            DIRECTIONS: In the following story Kofi, a
                     Ghanaian working as branch manager of a large
                     U.S. oil company, is forced

                     you have finished reading the story, you will
                     be asked to make a decision based upon your
                     understanding of the story and to justify that

                                  Kofi's Dilemma

Kofi was brought up in a small farming village in the country of Ghana. Like most Africans, Kofi had a large family. He was daily in contact with uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents, all of whom lived either in the same or in nearby villages. Without realizing it, these associations continuously reminded him of who he was and what his position and responsibilities were within the family network. This was particularly true since, of the seven sons and three daughters born to his parents, Kofi was the eldest and had always felt a strong responsibility toward caring for his younger brothers and sisters.

Kofi did very well in school, and his teachers encouraged him to go on to a secondary boarding school in a nearby town. Since Kofi was one of the few boys from his village to continue school, he was determined to make good. Upon completion of secondary school he made high passes in all exams, but due to the crowded conditions in Ghana's universities, he was not able to get in. Because he had done so well thus far, several members of his family had pooled their savings to send him to the U.S. to study. No one in his family had ever achieved such a high level of education.

Kofi was accepted at the University of Florida where he studied business and economics. During this time Kofi met Sarah. Sarah had been born and reared in New York. Her father was a successful banker.

Two important things happened in Kofi's life one month after he graduated from the university. He married Sarah, and he accepted his first job in Houston, Texas with a large oil company. The oil company offered a lot of room for advancement, and after six years Kofi had worked himself up to a branch manager. Kofi had two children, a little boy three years of age and a baby girl four months old.

Kofi's decision to settle in the U.S., at least temporarily, was hard for his family to accept. He remembered, not without some pain, their expressions of disappointment. A few accused him of turning his back on those who had made his life possible. That accusation was not really fair. Kofi never forgot his family. He frequently sent money home to help educate younger members of his family and to help support his parents who were growing old. With his support, two of his younger brothers had been able to come to the U.S. to study, and a cousin and one of his sisters were attending college in Ghana with his help. He had even made two short trips home to visit. The family soon learned to accept his decision. They were proud of what he had done and of the fact that their eldest son in the U.S. always remembered them.

Everything seemed to be going well until one day Kofi received a letter from his aging mother informing him that his father had died. Since Kofi was the first-born, his mother reminded him it was his duty to return to their village and assume responsibility as head of the family. Though they had forgiven him his extended stay in the U.S., to them this was merely temporary. He would one day, of course, have to return home.

To Kofi, his situation was not really temporary. He had made a good life for himself in Texas. He had gradually become Americanized. He had grown accustomed to a different lifestyle and had quite different expectations for himself and his wife and children. In fact, he was in the process of applying for citizenship. Yet, with some guilt he admitted that he had not given much careful thought to the future. His family in Ghana had tolerated his absence. But now that his father was dead, custom demanded that he return to assume his responsibilities. From their point of view, they were making a reasonable request.

Kofi was now put on the spot and forced to make a decision. He reviewed his options:

1. He could stay in Houston with his wife and children, keeping his job with the oil company and sending more money to supply the family's needs.

2. Though the likelihood was slim, he might try to make some arrangement with his oil company to serve as a consultant in Ghana on a periodic basis. In this way he might appease his family with frequent visits.

3. He could see about a job transfer to the offices in Accra, Ghana's capital and move his wife and children there.

4. He could leave his wife and children in Houston and move back to Ghana himself.

                      INDIVIDUAL DECISION SHEET

Imagine yourself in Kofi's predicament. What would you do if forced to make a decision? Indicate your decision below by making a mark in the space provided.

Stay in Houston and send money back home

Attempt to go to Ghana periodically as a consultant

See about a job transfer and move his wife and children there

Leave his wife and children and move back to Ghana

Undoubtedly you will have to explain your choice to both your Ghanaian and your U.S. family. How will you justify your decision?

                           GROUP DECISION SHEET

As a group, determine the one best thing for Kofi to do.

Stay in Houston

Work in Ghana as a consultant

Seek a job transfer

Return alone to Ghana

FOCAL IDEA:    An African's position in society is firmly defined 
               through a number of fixed social relationships, and his 
               rights and responsibilities are determined by these

TYPE OF ACTIVITY:   Affirmative

TITLE:         A Tough Decision

               In African societies a person's position and identity are
               firmly defined through a limited number of social
               relationships. These relationships generally assume far
               greater importance in determining an individual's rights 
               and responsibilities than do relationships in our own
               In the story that follows a young man, an employment 
               officer with a large company, must cope with pressures on
               him to show favoritism to a kinsman in the hiring 
               process. Read the story carefully. Keep in mind that you 
               are trying to understand the importance of an African's 
               fixed social relationships and how these relationships 
               can create conflict between his obligations as a kinsman 
               and his professional responsibilities. When you have
               finished reading the story you will be asked to assume 
               the main character's role and to respond to certain

                             A Tough Decision

Once again Peter read the letter from his father which had been hand-delivered to him by his adopted cousin, Kinman. His eyes fixed on the next to the last paragraph:

"Do not forget that we owe a great debt to Kinman's father for saving us from starvation many years ago, and that Kinman is your cousin. You have done well in your work, and you are now

in a position to help repay that debt by finding Kinman a good job...."

Peter Kinyangui worked as an assistant employment officer for a large oil distributor in Nairobi, Kenya, a position he had held since graduating from university about a year ago. He now remembered clearly the conversation with his boss during the interview. It had to do with favoritism in hiring, and Peter had assured Mr. Macharia that no family or other obligations were strong enough to override his belief in giving equal consideration to all qualified applicants.

In the first three months of his work, several young men from Peter's home region had approached him for work. He had rejected them on the basis of their qualifications and training, but they were neither relatives nor close friends. Kinman's family, on the other hand, were considered as his own family.

When Peter was a small boy his father had an extremely poor year for crops and did not have sufficient food to feed his family. Kinman's father had allowed them to share his harvest. This generous act had helped sustain Peter's family until the next harvest. In the years that followed the two families became very close. Peter called Kinman's father "uncle" and his sons and daughters "cousin." When schooling took Peter *way from his small village, he had lost touch with Kinman's brothers and sisters. Peter was much older than Kinman and had not really known him as a boy.

Peter now sat at his desk looking at Kinman's qualifications on the one hand and the company's vacant positions on the other. There were only two job openings with the company at present. Kinman might possibly qualify for one of them but there were at least four other applicants better trained than Kinman, and each had strong letters of recommendation. Peter felt that he had to keep family obligations from interfering with the proper conduct of his job. On the other hand, Peter could not ignore his debt to Kinman's father and the responsibilities of that social relationship. Nor could he ignore the pressures from his father who had sacrificed so much to provide school fees and personal expenses which made possible Peter's education and training for his present position.

Peter folded the letter and put it on the desk. He had to make a decision. As he buzzed the secretary to send Kinman in he decided what he would do.

                         INDIVIDUAL DECISION SHEET

List at least three things Peter might do.


What Peter should do is 

The reasons why he should do this are as follows:

                           GROUP DECISION SHEET

Use this space to record what each group member believed Peter should do.


We believe Peter should

Our reasons for believing this are the following:                 

FOCAL IDEA :         Education in African societies today
                     reflects the existing conflict
                     between traditional values--which
                     emphasize maintaining and
                     transmitting the group's heritage
                     and culture--and modern values which
                     encourage change.

TYPE OF Activity:    Affirmative

TITLE:               Benjamin's Future

                     Most African students dream of
                     acquiring an education which will
                     enhance their future economic roles
                     and improve their lifestyles. Often,
                     however, the process of acquiring an
                     education creates conflicts with the
                     values of society from which they

                     In the following story you will read how one young
                     man's education has prepared him for a very 
                     promising future, yet at the last minute he has to 
                     make a crucial decision which will affect that 
                     future. As you read this story, remember that you 
                     are trying to understand how education in African 
                     societies today encourages conflict between 
                     traditional and modern values. When you have 
                     completed the reading you will be asked to assume 
                     the role of the young man and make the best 
                     possible decision.

My name is Benjamin Balama. I am from a village near the town of Ganta about 150 miles from Liberia's capital city of Monrovia. In five days I will graduate from the university. I majored in business at the university and am promised a fine job at the firm of my choosing. In fact, I have already had three good job offers in Monrovia.

I have studied very hard because I am the only young woman from my village who has made it this far, and I am determined to make good. I have respect in my village because of my education, and I look forward to moving up the financial ladder in the firm I select to work for. My family sacrificed much to save enough money to send me away to school and to help support me these last few years. They are very proud of me, and I am indebted to them. But I received a letter yesterday from my father which has left me a bit confused and uncertain as to what I should do. I know my parents want me to succeed, but they seem to desire a whole different outcome for my life. The letter read:

Dear Benjamin,

Greetings to you from your father. All our family are excited about coming to your graduation. Your three youngest brothers and sisters have never travelled far from the village and are looking forward to seeing the big city. We will be staying four days at your uncle's house in Monrovia, and then we must return home. We expect that you will be ready to return with us at that time since your studies are finished.

We have not seen very much of you in recent years, but we know that is because you have been so busy. I want to tell you how proud the family is of you. You have been clever in school, and it has paid off. We are looking forward to your returning to open a nice business in Ganta just like we used to talk about years ago. I am sure you will be successful, and the whole family will benefit from it. I am getting old now. As the eldest son, when you return you will be able to help me with the family. One day you will be in charge, and there are many things you need to learn before that time comes--things they did not teach you in school.

I will close now. Your cousin Jacob is writing this letter for me as you know I do not write so well. We will see you soon.

Your Father

My training has been for work in a large modern business firm, not a small town business selling everything from soap to women's dresses. Ganta has no such opportunities. And I have always dreamed of life in the city. Certainly I do not want to forget my family and the debt I owe them. But I have gotten used to different ways. I do not think I could return to the countryside and be happy. Still, it is my family that has made this possible. Is returning to Ganta the only way to repay them? Must I be in Ganta in order to provide for the family needs? What am I going to do?

                      INDIVIDUAL DECISION SHEET

Pretend you are Benjamin. Considering the situation and background very carefully, list at *east three possible decisions you might make.

A. I could
B. I could
C. I could

The best decision in this situation is to

My reasons for believing this to be the best possible decision are 

                              GROUP DECISION SHEET

     Record the decision of each group member in the space provided.


The best thing to do is

This is best because

FOCAL IDEA:    Education in African societies today reflects the 
               existing conflict between traditional values--which 
               emphasize maintaining and transmitting the group's 
               heritage and culture--and modern values which encourage 


TITLES:        Honored Elder

          For several decades education on Africa has reflected
          the conflict which exists between traditional
          values--which emphasize maintaining and transmitting
          local heritage and culture--and modern values which
          encourage change in many areas of life. The two stories
          which follow reflect this conflict. In the first story, 
          the elders are perceived to be the source of wisdom. In
          the second story, books are seen as the source of
          wisdom. As you read the two stories, keep in mind that
          African education today is likely to be influenced by
          both traditional and modern values. When you have
          finished reading the two stories, you will be expected
          to respond to questions without referring back to the

                             Honored Elder

Bahitwa is an old man. He never attended school. He has lived all his life in a small African village on the shores of Lake Victoria in the country of Tanzania. At the age of ninety, he is unable to read or write. Bahitwa was never interested in schools, in books, or in Christianity which introduced these things to his area when he was a boy. Like most of his family, Bahitwa had no wish to change his style of life.

Bahitwa did, however, receive an education. When he was a young boy, he learned by listening to members of his family and to the village elders. When all the other boys would go out to play he would stay and listen to the men discussing how their forefathers had come to the area where they now lived and the things they had done.

Before the Europeans introduced them, there were no history books among his people. Memories were the only storehouses of past events. Even as a young boy Bahitwa began to devote his life to memorizing what he learned from the old men of his people's past. He consumed staggering amounts of facts about his own family and other important families in his area, and he could recite these histories upon request. It was just this particular kind of history that earned Bahitwa the respected title of "Omwanzu," family historian.

The extent of Bahitwa's knowledge about his people and their history is encyclopedic. For this reason he is respected by all, and even feared by some. Knowledge gives him power and status.

But Bahitwa is old now, and he is concerned about the changing times and attitudes. Young people are no longer interested in memorizing information about the past. Bahitwa is very much aware that his storehouse of historical knowledge will die with him, and he wonders what the people will do without this knowledge.


Kitereza was eight years old when European Christian missionaries arrived in his area in the early years of the 20th century. No one was aware of the widespread influence these men would have. One of the first things the missionaries did after building a church was to establish a primary school near the church. They thought that teaching the people to read and write would be one of the most effective ways of spreading Christianity.

Kitereza was one of the first pupils to attend the school. It was here that books first became known. Kitereza proved to be an eager and extremely able student as he quickly grasped the skills needed for reading and writing. He was fascinated by the vast knowledge contained in the books and enjoyed reading of faraway lands and peoples.

The elders of the village rightly sensed that the books were a threat to their way of life. Children who attended school learned new perspectives and began to challenge their traditions. With education Kitereza's attitudes began to change. His respect for parental authority sometimes weakened. He learned new skills that would help him obtain a job, but only by leaving the village. He respected family historians like Bahitwa, but he didn't want to imitate them. Kitereza thought, "Why memorize history when you can write down and get on with other things?" During this time many students like Kitereza adopted the proverb:

     Words that are spoken fly like the wind
     Words that are written last forever.

                          SOLICITATION GUIDE
1. Summarize the ideas contained in the story "Honored Elder." Use your own words. Do not refer back to the story.

2. Summarize the ideas found in"Books" in your own words. Do not refer back to the story.

3. Both stories reflect the conflict which exists between traditional values and modern values, but they do so in different ways. How are the two stories different?

FOCAL IDEA :         Africans commonly believe that a
                     person's success and prestige are
                     to a great extent dependent upon
                     the number of people who support and are loyal to
                     them. Consequently, developing and maintaining  
                     social relationships is extremely important.


TITLES:              Idefayo Stands Alone 
                     Adebise and His Friends

ATTENDING DIRECTIONS:                                             
                     In North America we tend to judge a person's 
                     success and status by the amount of money he has or 
                     the material items he possesses. Africans, on the 
                     other hand, commonly measure a person's success by 
                     the number of people who support and are loyal to
                     him. Because of this, Africans place a high value 
                     on generosity as a means of expanding social
                     relationships and acquiring supporters.

                     In the two brief descriptions which follow, look 
                     for evidence which either supports or contradicts 
                     this common African value. When you have finished 
                     you will be asked to complete several questions 
                     from memory so it is important that you study these 
                     two descriptions carefully.

                           Idefayo Stands Alone

Idefayo is a city planning engineer in the large city of Abeokuta, Nigeria. He receives a very high salary for his work. He lives with his wife and two children in a large two-storey house in the suburbs and owns two new cars. Idefayo grew up in a small town where most of the residents were farmers. His own father was a farmer, and not a particularly prosperous one. Having come from such humble beginnings, Idefayo is proud of his accomplishments. But among his childhood acquaintances and those who know him now, he has a reputation as a "beento".

A "beento" is a label given to Africans who have been to the U.S or to Europe to study or work and as a result have become somewhat Westernized in their attitudes. This has happened to Idefayo. There is, for example, a definite conflict between Idefayo's ideas of success and wealth and that of most Africans.

Residents of Idefayo's home town feel that a man's true wealth and status are determined by his open-mindedness and generosity. Idefayo's attitudes, on the other hand, had changed. He felt that friends and followers were nice, but one could not buy things with them. Similarly, he reasoned, if he shared all his income how could he pay his bills? How could he continue to live the life he had chosen, the life he had worked so hard for? He did occasionally have small social gatherings, but these were by invitation only to those who lived and thought much as he did. He rarely invited kinsmen to his home for food and drink and never invited villagers he grew up with. Visitors who appeared without invitation were not made to feel welcome.

In spite of his material wealth, therefore, he had very few supportive relationships. He was independent and was not held in high esteem by his many kinsmen or by those whom he had known from his earlier years. They felt that he was ungenerous. He did not share the fruits of his prosperity, and therefore was not really considered a wealthy man. To them, he was best described by a Yoruba proverb which states:

"I cannot know your wealth unless you share your wealth with me."

                        Adebise and His Friends

Adebise is a wealthy Nigerian businessman. He grew up and attended school in the town of Ilorin where he was an excellent student. After high school he spent five years studying in an American university, but this stay abroad did not greatly affect his values.

When he returned to Nigeria he set up a business in Abeokuta some miles from Ilorin, married, and began to have children. He hoped for a large family.

Adebise sought friendships and made friends easily. He often had social gatherings in his home where he shared food and drink with his family and friends, many of whom came from Ilorin to visit. In fact, it was known that Adebise had an open door policy to any of his friends and family. Often they approached him for small loans to pay school fees or for backing in a busi- ness venture.

Adebise took good care of his relatives. His uncle's two teenage boys lived with his family while they attended one of the good high schools in the city. There had been other relatives who lived with his family. He was held in high esteem and had many friends. He was considered a very wealthy and successful man, not because of his material wealth but because of the way he shared that wealth. Those who knew him thought he was best described by the Yoruba proverb which states:

"He who has people is richer than he who has money."

1. Summarize the first story in your own words. Do this without referring to the story.

2. Summarize the second story in your own words. Do this without referring to the story.

3. Africans believe that generosity is an important means of acquiring supporters and that a man who has many supporters is indeed a wealthy man. Both stories illustrate this belief but do so in different ways. How are the stories different?

How are the stories similar?

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.
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