The Cultural Legacy of Africans on the West Indies

(1) Language - The variety of West African languages brought to the Caribbean by the man tribes of West African slaves, forced the slaves to invent a common tongue or creole language which included many African words relating to religion, customs, food and folk tales. An example of such African words that are still used to this day are: yam, eddoes, okroe, obeah, Shango, Anancy and limbo

(2) Food - Food plants from West Africa are yam and cassava. Dishes include: callallo, cou cou, pelau, okroe and rice stewed meat.

(3) Social Relations - West African family was based on kinship. The paid respect to blood ties and ancestral spirits. This had its legacy in the West Indies extended family structure and a respect shown for elders.

(4) Religion - West African religions were highly sophisticated and polytheistics (worshipped many gods). They paid respect to spirits of the ancestors, spirits of the seasons and the elements and nature.Some examples of these were the Akan tribe thanksgivings of harvest (still practiced in some caribbean islands today), the Yoruba tribes worshipped a God of Thunder and lightning called Shango still worshipped in african inspired religions today such as Orisha in Trinidad. In Jamaica, the Maroon people developed a religion called Kumina which was based on spirit worship. In Cuba there is still a relgion called Santeria based on African spirits. Pocomania was another African based religion practiced in Jamaica.

(5) Medicine - Slaves brought traditional herbal medicines to the Caribbean. Some were used to heal and some were used to poison slave masters. Obeah men and Myal men and medicine dostors were trained in the use of these herbs and were sought out by other slaves for their expertise.

(6) Music - African music placed heavy importance on the drum and other related percussion instruments such as the xylophone, clappers, rattles, scarppers and the tambu bamboo invented in Trinidad. African influenced music to this day is infused with alot of drumming and percussion. Other elements of West African music still seen today are polyphony, complicated rhythms and speech tunes.

Related Past Paper questions

Read the passage below and answer the questions that follow.

Africans who were brought to the Caribbean lost much of their culture during the period of slavery. Nevertheless, many African religious practices and beliefs continued in the Caribbean throughout slavery.

(a) Give TWO reasons why Africans "lost most of their culture" during slavery.

(b) Give TWO reasons why some A frican cultural forms continued in the Caribbean throughout slavery.

(c) State THREE African practices and beliefs found in the Caribbean during slavery.

(d) Give FOUR examples of African musical instruments that were used in the Caribbean up to 1838

(e) Describe THREE features of Caribbean culture, other than religion which show African influences.