African tribes are numerous and in general the continent has over 3000 tribes and Nigeria alone has 370 tribes sharing its territory. Let me start by giving a quick definition of what a tribe is and then getting a list of the top 10 tribes of Africa, best known around the globe.
A tribe is a group of people with similar ethnicity. They share the same tradition,beliefs, food and the same language e.t.c. It is rather similar to a larger family. From what I have learned, tribes emerged on our planet long before any states or governments.
There are larger tribes which may consist of many families and clans. The smaller one’s would include tightly related people. They also share same political formation and have their own tribal rulers or kings. Formerly people from one tribe used to share the same land and live in the same villages or cities they have founded.
Of course because of migration,colonization, technology and the ever changing world these tribes are not what they used to be. They are arguably not as strong and some are on the verge of extinction! These are some of out of the many interesting and diverse African tribes. Each of them has a unique history, language and background. They are part of the many things that make Africa amazing. Our list is based mainly on the Bantu people. Bantu is label given to roughly 300-600 ethnic groups that speak the same language across Southern and Central Africa. Look out for more of our Interesting African Tribes lists to experience the Beauty of African Culture!
Look out for Part 2 of the Famous African Tribes! You may or may not know them but, here are a few of the African Tribes:
Zulu is arguably the most popular tribe in Africa. The Zulu people mainly occupy South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The language which they speak is isiZulu their religion is now mostly Christianity.
There are two main reasons why this tribe is popular in Africa are; First, Shakaland, which is acknowledged worldwide as the birth place of the legendary chief, Shaka Zulu. Secondly, Zulu is also acknowledged for being the largest ethnic group in South Africa, with an estimated population of 11 million people.
Ubuntu is a popular concept these days (even in Western Society) meaning togetherness and humanity. It’s a Zulu word meaning togetherness in humanity towards each other. Nations and tribes across Southern Africa use the exact same word and philosophy (and many others) showing that their origins are in actual fact Zulu but because of migration (insert history class here) they have formed new kingdoms. Their roots are very much Zulu.
This tribe is super humane among all other African tribes. The tribe is rather modern in its style of life. People mostly wear regular outfits, but put on their traditional clothes for special cultural occasions. There are many notable people (politicians and scientists) that come from this tribe.
The Maasai are very deeply rooted traditions and culture. Mostly from Tanzania and Kenya. Their language is Masai and they believe in god who created cattle.
There are 16 different clans in the tribe with a population of up to 1 million people. Even though a great majority of African tribes are adopting a modern lifestyle, Maasai still live in Bomas and nomadically move around with large herds of cattle for a living. They mainly feed on meat and drink raw blood. They wear shukas and exceptional beaded jewels.
For a very long time people from this tribe did not understand what “private ownership” meant, as this concept was introduced to them by the western people. Interesting enough this tribe has no public execution and if someone is guilty, they settle things by paying the other side with cattle. Livestock is essential to their culture and survival.
You may have seen their cultural beads and an imitation in a famous magazine or on a runway somewhere abroad (Vogue we see you). Their traditional wear is definitely being appropriated in the western world a lot lately and we are glad we can show you just how beautiful this culture is.
First of all I’ll just start by saying, I don’t know what kind of rock you’ve been living under if you haven’t come across this tribe. Here’s a hint, the hilarious movie “The God’s must be Crazy” It is however, just plain disrespectful to reduce the beauty of these people and this culture to a westernized movie.
The San Bushmen are found in parts of Botswana that is Western Botswana and the Makgadikgadi pans, and a few are inhabited in South Africa, Angola, and Namibia. They have a population of over 100 000 and speak Khoe a language which has impressed many people around the world.
The San Bushmen worship animals and nature. They survive living in an arid area and depend on setting animal traps for their feeding. They also feed on tubers and roots.
Because they’ve lived for so long and survived in harsh desert area, anthropologists and now many companies have looked into their “secrets” and use these to create new diets and products for modern day consumption e.g the benefits of Aloe.
They dress in Loincloth and are usually spotted swinging bows and arrows on their shoulders. They make tobacco from Zebra dung.
Two Words: Nelson Mandela. Well, technically Three words: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela but I digress.
This tribe is settled in Southern Africa and has a population of 8 million people. They are commonly known as the Xhosa people. Xhosa has a number of sub tribes that encapsulate it; Mpondo, Xesibe, Mpondomise, Thembu, Bhaca and Mfengu, with Mpondo being the most popular among them. They speak with literal click sounds and their language is known as Xhosa. The Xhosa people place their faith in their ancestors although like many tribes some have converted to other beliefs and religions.
Nelson Mandela is one of the most famous people coming from this African tribal group. This tribe arrived to their current location back in the 17th century A.D. The tribe experienced serious pressure from Zulu people.
This tribal group is found in Northern Namibia – in a region known as Kunene. It is basically made up of semi normadic pastoralists that comprises of approximately 20 000 to 50 000 aboriginals. Their language is known as Herero.
They are famously known as the ‘Red people of Africa’ – since they use red paste called otjize, which is a mixture of butter and red clay to protect themselves from sun burn. They also braid their hair in intricate ways. Men also do the same thing.
This tribe is believed to be the “magic healers” of Africa and have faith in Mukuru.
The Chagga tribe inhabit the Eastern slopes of Mt Meru and Mount Kilimajaro. They are mainly concentrated around Moshi in Tanzania. They are regarded as the 1st tribe to embrace Christianity during the colonial times, which in turn gave them a better access to advanced wealth.
They have a population of around 700 000 people. Several Languages are associated with this tribe Kivungo, Kimarangu, Kirombo and Kingassa to mention a few.
These people are great herdsmen. They also make many amazing traditional music instruments out of wood. No wonder many African famous musicians come from the Chagga tribe. In the past they were the sun worshipers.
This tribe is found in the land of Swaziland and South Africa and has a population of around 700 000 people. They speak Swati and perform numerous public traditional ceremonies till this day. The main ceremony is probably the somewhat controversial (to outsider) one where the King chooses a bride almost yearly from a group of sometimes really really young women.
Till this day the tribe is ruled by a king. Present day monarch is called Mswati II. Their community is broken into different castes and in many cases people would follow the traditional marriage patterns. The groom has to pay the dowry for his bride.
The land: Limpopo Province, South Africa
Population: 0.9 million
Language: Tshivenda and Shona
Religion: Worshiping ancestors
One of the distinctive traits of this tribe is cross cousin marriages. Even though a large portion of population occupies villages, many youths are moving to the larger cities. Amazing, but just little over 40 years ago Venda people were the poorest in their country. However, an educational reform was introduced and the tribe has miraculously gotten transformed. People received free books and schools. Presently, as Yoruba in Nigeria, Venda in South Africa is among the most tech savvy and educated people. The tribe has a large number of famous people.
This tribe is found in South Africa and Zimbabwe and their population is about 2/3 of South Africa’s population.They speak Ndebele. Also known as the language with the clicks to the rest of the world. I’m telling you from experience, want to how to make your life difficult in North America? Get yourself a Ndebele name.
The tribe may call itself Manala or Amandebele. It is quite possible that in the past this tribe was a part of a larger Zulu culture, but they broke away from following King Shaka. The total area inhibited by this tribe covers over 400 000 sq. miles. In the past they practiced polygamy, but presently it is almost extinct. Presently it is one of the largest ethnic groups in South Africa.
These are some of out of the many interesting and diverse African tribes. Each of them has a unique history, language and background. They are part of the many things that make Africa amazing. Our list is based mainly on the Bantu people. Bantu is label given to roughly 300-600 ethnic groups that speak the same language across Southern and Central Africa. Look out for more of our Interesting African Tribes lists to experience the Beauty of African Culture! please comment below!