- Jul 22, 2023
DAR ES SALAAM UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF EDUCATION
RAMADHANI BARAKA SHALA
WhatsApp No: +255762301305
RAMADHANI BARAKA SHALA
WhatsApp No: +255762301305
Question: Referring to the theories of peopling of West Africa, Analyze how the peoples were classified.
The history of West Africa can be divided into five major periods: first, its pre-history in which the first human settlers arrived, developed agriculture and make contacts with peoples of the north. Second, the Iron Age empires that consolidated both intra-Africa and extra-Africa through trade. The third division is associated with the major polities flourished. Fourth, the colonial period in which Britain and France controlled the entire region and last was post-independence era where some Africans scholars rise to reconstruct the history of West Africa and Africa in general. This implies that West Africa is one of the oldest and complex region in Africa due to the facts that, people had dwelled more than 300,000 years ago. Furthermore, the archeological evidence indicates that West Africa early use iron technology which came from Nigeria. Due to this circumstance there’s no doubt that West Africa and Africa in general had their own level of development even before the arrival of Europeans.
By the 15th Century some Europeans nation discover various issues such as compass direction, ships and watch which enable them to move from their motherland into different parts of the world. For example, the Portuguese was the first European nation arrived in West Africa and later British and French take apart in Wes Africa. The arrival of Europeans in West Africa and Africa in general prompted the rise of various theories that tried to classifying people of West Africa by based in some criteria of race, migration and physical appearance. This circumstance welcomed the room for the rise of the two main theories includes; the diffusion theory championed by European scholars and the materialistic theory by Africans scholars.
The diffusion theory was the first theory to be used by European scholars on classifying the peopling of West Africa and Africa in general. This theory was championed by anthropologist on classifying the people of West Africa and Africa based on the physical features, race and migration. So, these scholars includes; G.P Murdock, C. G. Seligman, G. Huntingford and F. Stulhman. Some of the physical feature considered was the shape of the nose, skin color, size of the lips, color of the hair and height. So, this implies that physical features, race and migration prompted the colonial scholars to classify people of West Africa and Africa in general into three groups.
The first group was the group comprises Bushman. To them Bushmen was considered as the indigenous people of West Africa and Africa in general. Among the unique feature of Bushmen or Pigmies were short average about 60 inches with slightly well shaped limbs and small hands. The hair of the head is sparse but also, the head is mesaticephalic, low in the crown; the face is orthognathous and flat with prominent check bones. Furthermore, Bushmen had very flat nose, the eye are narrow. In addition, Anthropologist saw Bushmen were still under the primitive mode of life; no practice of trade, no domestication of animals to make matter worth the Bushmen did not engaged in agricultural activities. So, this means that these people was lived by hunting and gathering of vegetable and other fruits in other word Bushmen at a largest extent lived by depending on the nature. A part from that, Bushmen is seen wearing an ostrich feathers while stalking a flock of these birds. Again, they all sing through their tones which could not be possible for European to interpret. So, due to this circumstance of language to be unique among and impossible for other to understood the kind of language some of the European scholars decided to generalized that, Bushmen had no culture.
The second group was the group of hamites who were inhabitants from south West Asia. They were presumed to be immigrants or invaders from outside and it was agreed to be Asiatic, perhaps Southern or possibly an area farther east. So, due to this circumstance there is no doubt that civilization of Africa are the civilization of hamites. The historical record proves that, these people were diffused in North Africa. The hamites after migrated to Africa started to intermingle with the two primitive African stocks, the Negro and the Bushman whether this influence was exerted by highly civilized the Egyptians or by such wilder pastoralist as are represented at the day Beja and the Somali. In addition, the hamites played great contribution even in the case of language among the early people of Africa. The physical characteristic feature of this group includes; were light skinned, curly haired, they had think lips with dark eyed. The colonial scholars later suggested that hamites were categorized into two groups namely; the eastern hamites which comprise the ancient and modern Egyptians, the Beja, Nubians, the Galla, the Somali and Danakil. Another division identified by these by scholars is the northern hamites include the Berbers of Tripoli, Tunisia and Algeria as well as of Morocco, the Tuareg and Tibu of the Saharan, the Fulani of Nigeria. Therefore, the colonial scholars indicate that the hamites were skillfully on keeping of animals and had iron. So, the described above was the second classification of peopling of West Africa and Africa in general.
The last group identified by colonial scholar was the Negro group. Negro is one among the oldest stocks in Africa; no Negro skulls of any considerable age have yet been discovered indeed an accepted authority has written of the earliest appearance of Negroes in the history as taking place during the great period of Egyptian expansion approximately to be 1500 BC. The Negros were inhabitant in all country of south of the Saharan from the Senegal River to the Cameroon. Like other group also, the Negro possess the distinguished physical characteristic features such as; tall with dark skin and little body hair. The Negro’s head hair is dull-black and woolly with a flat broad nose, thick lips and an upright narrow forehead. Colonial scholars particularly Seligman proposed that everywhere in this vast area of West Africa and Africa in general, the Negroes carries Hamitic blood and where actually influenced by Hamitic culture. So, this notion welcomed the idea that, the Negroes are divided into two sub-groups includes; true Negroes who occupied the Guinea coast such as Nigeria, French Sudan and some parts of Cameroons and perhaps the Congo. The rest of Negro Africa consist of Negro hamiticized to a varying extent on the one hand the Bantu on other hand the Nilotes and “half hamites”. Generally, West Africa was described to be the home of true Negroes and may regarded as extending from the mouth of the Senegal River about 16o N to the eastern boundary of Nigeria. Furthermore, the Negro builds gable-roofed huts, musical instruments like wooden drums and peculiar form of guitar. Again, the literature indicates that Negro were very skillfully on making of clothing such as bark cloth, palm fibers and not animal skin. A part from that, the Negro domesticates animals (dog, goats, pig and hen) and their cultivated crops such as bean, gourds, bananas and perhaps earth-nuts. On the artistic side the true Negro shows a skill in plastic art that is hardly found elsewhere in Africa. So, the Negro is represented by Wolof, Bambara, Malike, Mande, Hausa, Semono (Fishermen) and Numu (Smith).
By the 1960’s when some African countries attained their lost independence from Europeans power a new theory known as a materialistic theory emerged. The materialistic theory was a second theory that analyzes peopling of West Africa and Africa in general as counter attack the diffusion theory. So, the materialistic school of thoughts emerged after colonial theory to be seen is insufficient on analyzing peopling of West Africa because the scholars were much based in racial and to make the matter worth their started to announce the civilization of Africa was the civilization of outside. Therefore, the African scholars came up with this school of thought to classify the peopling of West Africa based on the culture specific on their language. The prominent scholars of this school of thought includes; Joseph H Greenberg, M. Guthrie and Roland Oliver. All these scholars argue that, the peopling of West Africa and even Africa in general can be classified according to the language families and group in term of migration by consider a center of origin. So, on other word the best way of classifying the peopling of West Africa it’s better to find out how one language is resemble or similar to another language. Classification of African language was an attempt to group related African language together into meaningful categories by focusing through their historical origins and development. Therefore, according to the linguistic classification the peopling of West Africa can be classified into three major language families.
The first group is the Niger-Congo language family. Niger-Congo family comprised the language that spoken by all agricultural people of West Africa and all Bantu speakers of central and eastern and southern Africa. So, many West Africa tribes which depend on agriculture as their means of existence there’s no doubt that were fallen into this language group. In addition, many agricultural people of West Africa their tone and morphology on one way or another tend to resemble for example in case of noun for the singular and plural. On other word is to say many of agricultural people of West Africa morphology of their words tend to receives affixes by the process called affixation. For example, The Bantu language tend to receive affixes for both plural and singular this means that in case of plural mu and ba for plural for class of human being le-singular and ma- plural that come into pairs although in West sudanic group these affixes appear sometimes in the form of prefixes as in Bantu and language of the Benue-Congo in general as well as other sub-families. General, among the membership of Niger-Congo families includes West Atlantic (Wolof, Serer- Sin, Konyagi, Basari, Biafada, and Badyara), Mande (Sonike, Malike, Bambara, Dyula, Numu, Mano, Dan or Gio, Nwa), Gur (Foro, Tagwana, and Nafana), and Kwa (Lyala, Kukuruku and Sobo). 
The second group is Nilo-Saharan language family. This was on among the group proposed by the materialistic scholars on classifying the peopling of West Africa and Africa in general. The Nilo-Saharan language family was spoken by dark skinned peoples living in the eastern Sahara (for example the Kanuri, the Teda, and Zeghawa), in the valley of the Niger where it bends north the desert (Soghai) between the River Chari and the upper Nile (including Nubian, and Nilotic language such as Shilluk, Acholi and Nuer) and at the south ward this make indentation (Penetrate) into the Bantu countries in the dry lands of Kenya and Tanzania in the east of lake Victoria as our home land called Nilo-hamitic language such as Masai and Nandi. In addition, the characteristic feature of Nilo-Saharan language speakers is that; they are predominantly pastoralist. This means that the Nilo-Saharan family depends much on domestication of animals such as cattle, goats and sheep. But also the Nilo-Saharan family their languages at some point in case of tones tend to resemble. Generally, the materialistic scholars under the influence of linguistic theory there’s no doubt that all pastoralist societies found in West Africa and Africa in general were classified in the Nilo-Saharan language family.
The last group was Afro-asiatic language family. This language family which is also known as Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic and sometime also as Afrasian which includes ethnic groups such as Hausa which found in Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan. The Hausa language have a closely relationship with Arabic language that are spoken by the people form middle east and Asia. 
Generally, the African were the ancient human being to settle in African continent. It is obviously that when the European came into contact with the Africans in the early of 15th Century, the level of development attained by the Africans was low once compared to the level development attained by Europeans at that time of contact due to technological backwardness. So, such circumstance prompted the European scholars to propagate various theories like diffusion theory for the purpose of weakening the Africans people to felt inferior and also, to make the matter worth these colonial scholars started to use the biblical story on the Old Testament that specified the Africans were doomed to be the servants of the whites.
Anne, H. Outsiders and Strangers: An Archeology of Liminality in West Africa. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013
Carothers, J. C. The African Mind in Health and Disease: A Study in Ethnopsychiatry. Geneva WHO, 1953
Davidson, D. A History of West Africa 1000-1800. London: Longman Group Limited, 1965
Fage, J. D & Thordoff, W. A. A History of Africa. London: Routledge, 2002
Greenberg, J. H. The Language Classification of Africa. Netherland: Indian University Research Center, 1963
Roger, B & Matthew, S. Archeology and Language II: Data and Linguistic Hypothesis. New York: TJ International Ltd, 1998
Seligman, C. G. Race of Africa. London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd, 1930
Shillington, K. A History of Africa. United States. Red Globe Press, 2019
 MacGaffey, W. The journal of African History (New York, Cambridge University, 1996) pg. 1
 Seligman, C. G. Race of Africa (London, Thornton Butterworth Ltd, 1930) pp. 25-32
 Ibid, pg. 98
 Ibid, pg. 97
 Seligman, C. G. Race of Africa (London, Thornton Butterworth Ltd, 1930) pg. 54
 Carothers, J. C. The African Mind in Health and Disease: A Study in Ethnopsychiatry (Geneva, WHO, 1953) pg. 16
 Seligman, C. G. Race of Africa (London, Thornton Butterworth Ltd, 1930) pg. 55
 Ibid, pp. 57-62
 Greenberg, J. H. The Language of Africa (Netherland, Indian University Research Center, 1963) pg. 1
 Fage, J. D. A History of Africa (London, Routledge, 2002) pg. 23
 Greenberg, J. H. The Language of Africa (Netherland, Indian University Research Center, 1963) pg. 6
 Ibid, pg. 8
 Fage, J. D. A History of Africa (London, Routledge, 2002) pp. 22-23
Greenberg, J. H. The Language of Africa (Netherland, Indian University Research Center, 1963) pp. 42-48
 Anne, H. Outsiders and Strangers: An Archeology of Liminality in West Africa ( New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) pg. 38
 Davidson, B. A History of West Africa 1000-1800 ( London: Longman Group Limited, 1965) pg. 13
 Shillington, K. A History of Africa ( United States: Red Globe Press, 2019) pg. 174