Web Resources for the Peoples and Cultures of Africa

The study of African peoples and their cultures can be richly supplemented by resources on the Web, but should be grounded firmly in published works. For a guide to print sources and a discussion of ethnic groups and languages of Africa, consult the research guide. Arm yourself with a list of all the possible variations on the name of the ethnic group and its language before you start searching in indexes. Being prepared is half the battle when it comes to research.

Ethnologue

Indexes

Bibliography of Africana Periodical Literature Database This English language database indexes over 33,000 articles from over 280 English language and multi-lingual journals and periodicals that specialize in African Studies or consistently cover the African continent. The titles were originally chosen from the library at California State University-Chico and that number were later expanded by using materials from Northwestern University and other major university libraries as well as the Library of Congress. Do not depend only on electronic indexes for research on African ethnic groups. Also look at the library’s array of print indexes and bibliographies as shown in the Research Guide: Peoples and Cultures of Africa.

Web Sites: a Sampling

General

Art

Culture

Languages

University of Pennsylvania K-12 Electronic Guide for African Resources on the Internet Despite its focus on schools, this site is also useful for other researchers.

African South of the Sahara: Languages

Columbia University Library: Languages

University of Wisconsin guide to selected language information and Web sites.

Languages of South Africa.

The Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures

Languages on the Web A commercial site highlighting self-selected Web sites on languages around the world, including a sampling of African languages.

Shona: Fortune Shona Sources. Contains materials on Shona and other southern African langauges.

Swahili The Kamusi Project Internet Living Swahili Dictionary An online dictionary

Zulu: IsiZulu.net – Zulu/English, English/Zulu Online Dictionary

Bisharat! A language, technology, and development initiative

African Writing Systems

Ethnologue Country Index (Africa)

Music

Photographic Collections

Search engines take the terms you type in the search box and match them with words somewhere in the text or underlying code of Web pages. The quality of the results will depend on where the engines look for matching words (do they look at the top page only? the top three? Headings only? full text?) and how the developers of the pages have used words in their text and coding.

Part of the behind-the-scenes code of Web sites is “metadata”, tags that can apply the equivalent of subject headings to Web sites. If the developers use these tags, it is much more likely that a search engine will capture their site and include it in your results. This can be very good – or really bad, depending on the skill or intentions of the site developers.

Google Putting the phrase in quotation marks ensures that the words will appear next to one another. Many of the sites listed above came from doing a search on Google, using the phrase African Languages. The phrase without quotation marks yielded a large number of hits; with quotation marks, it yielded much fewer.

Evaluating Web Sites

Library Research A research guide containing useful tips on evaluating and citing Web sites. Africa South of the Sahara provides a list of Web sites that advise on evaluating sites found on the Web. The five basic criteria are: Accuracy; Authority; Objectivity; Currency; Coverage. Questions to ask: Who is responsible for the Web site? Is it: an academic institution? an individual? a group? What is the purpose of the site. Is there a hidden agenda? Can the information be documented? Does the page provide sufficient information. How long will it be there? Can the information be verified? Let’s look at some sites found by using search engines and see how they measure up.