Diversity and Cultural Richness in Africa
This is a blog by Justin, a student in the Graduate School of Education at UPenn who is getting his M.S.Ed in Intercultural Communication. Justin’s post explains how his experience traveling to several countries in Africa opened his mind to diversity and cultural richness that different African countries offer.
Africa. This word means a lot of different things to different people. As an American, when I meet someone from “Africa”, they are usually surprised when I ask them what part of the continent they are from. After teaching in South Africa for several months and traveling to four other southern African countries, I now ask this question almost instinctually. However, before I made my own trip to Africa, asking this type of question was far from my mind. The fact that this continent has nearly 50 countries, each with distinct languages and customs, often flies below the radar for many non-Africans.
One of the most enlightening experiences during my trip to Africa encompassed traveling overland from Cape Town to Victoria Falls via Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Each country, and region within each country, carried with it a unique fingerprint clearly unlike the next. After this experience, ironically, I thought it was really interesting how people from New Jersey distinguish their state as having north, central (just if you are from this region) and south areas. To group these areas together as one general location would be a grave error when speaking to someone from Jersey.
However, on a much greater scale, Americans often commit a similar act of ignorance when it comes to talking about a continent that has over one billion people. Due to the fact that most Americans will never traverse the various regions of Africa themselves, I think it is indispensible for people from these various regions, who find themselves in America, to share their local cultures and customs with their neighbors. Learning about the various foods, sports, languages, customs, and so on can help many Americans begin to see the African continent in a whole new light. Local ambassadors from countries throughout Africa can be the greatest tool to helping others see their continent as they themselves see it!