Teaching African Culture
Two essential questions:
- What is culture?
- What are some ways to teach it?
DEFINE: patterns of values and behaviors that are commonly held
- Dynamic not static
- Not everyone agrees: dominant within a cultural group and dominant within a country
- Iceberg: we see the tip, which represents the whole but is not the whole
WAYS to teach: something I continue to wrestle with and redo
- Important: start with ourselves and US
- Why: BOTH because we’re inherently interesting!! AND because it helps avoid “othering”
- PROBLEM: it’s ABSTRACT, thus hard to teach so. . .
- Go for CONCRETE, especially with younger grades
- IDENTITY MAPPING: asking what does the class have in common
- CULTURAL OBJECTS: asking what does the class have in common
- PROVERBS (see attached list) and METAPHORS
Remind students of or introduce here the concept of “othering.”
- “Body Ritual among the Nacirema”
- “The Sacred Rac”
These first two are funny, short articles spoofing American cultural habits. They can be found online bygoogling their titles.
- Gila Monsters Greet You at the Airport by Byron Barton
- “I Am Not Just an African Woman,” by Bunmi Matory, published in the Christian Science Monitor. A fine article by a Nigerian woman on how people in the U.S. don’t see who she is. (available through BU African Studies)
Going for the concrete:
Proverbs: A short selection by country can be found at http://www.bu.edu/africa/outreach/tips/six.htm
Material objects from various African cultures. (Available from BU African Studies Center)
Literature: e.g., Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; picture books about families such as Fatuma’s New Cloth.
For a detailed database, by age, go to www.africaaccessreview.org
Film: e.g., do identity map of the captain of the soccer team in “The Leopards of Zanzibar” from National Geographic as one hour in their series “Africa”
Barbara B. Brown
Director, Outreach Program