The Migration of Bantu-Speaking Peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa
The typical concept of a migration is a large mass movement of a group of people at a particular point in time. This idea of migration is not transferable when discussing the migration of the Bantu-speaking peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. “Bantu” translates to “people” but this term is used to refer to an incredibly large language family. This paper will provide background information as to the lifestyle of the Bantu-speaking people during this time, possible reasons for their migration, and the effects their migration had. Furthermore, it will discuss the Kingdoms that arised from the increasing network of trade.
Before going into a discussion about the migration of the Bantu-speaking people, it is helpful to understand who these people were and their way of life. The Bantu-speaking people originally lived in the area of present-day Nigeria and Cameroon. More specifically, they were in the eastern part of Nigeria and southern Cameroon. The Bantu-speaking people were settled mostly along riverbanks in this region prior to their migration. The Bantu-speaking societies were strongly patriarchal. Chiefs headed the Bantu-speaking villages. The chiefs conducted different rituals as well as represented their communities when interacting with the neighboring villages. The layout of the Bantu-speaking villages is reflective of their clan basis. Cattle were an incredibly important part of tribal society. In the tribal societies of the Bantu-speaking people, cattle were the principle form of wealth and a man’s most treasured possession. Cattle were so highly regarded that the geographic and social center of village life was the cattle kraal. The huts would be clustered around the cattle kraal. The huts would form either a full or semi-circle around the kraal. The central hut in the village belonged to the chief wife.
An important aspect of the Bantu-speaking peoples lifestyle is they were largely agricultural. The Bantu-speaking peoples survival was heavily dependent upon agriculture. Their settlement near rivers provided a sustainable amount of water that would be necessary for an agricultural society. The Bantu-speaking people were mainly subsistence farmers. Subsistence farmers focus on only growing enough food that will feed themselves and their families. Every family in the Bantu-speaking peoples village had to produce enough for themselves and by their own labor. Individual ownership of the land was not a part of this agricultural society. The land belonged to the tribe as a whole but certain areas were delegated to certain families to use. The Bantu-speaking peoples cultivated a variety of crops. These included yams, gourds, castor beans, black-eyed peas, and the Voandzeia groundnut. While farming and agriculture was a predominant focus in the lifestyle of the Bantu-speaking people, they also hunted and gathered. A few Bantu-speaking tribes also fished. Hunting not only provided meat for the Bantu-speaking people, but it was also a form of sport and entertainment. The Bantu-speaking people would gather a variety of foods including caterpillars, mushrooms, and roots. Bananas were also introduced to the Bantu-speaking people prior to their migration. The bananas were quite beneficial to the society because it decreased the amount of labor required to support this product. The cultivation of bananas would eventually provide a more viable way of life away from the rivers for the Bantu-speaking people. The agricultural lifestyle of the Bantu-speaking people will become a factor in their eventual migration through sub-Saharan Africa.
The Bantu-speaking peoples were also involved with a variety of craftsmanship trades. The Bantu-speaking peoples created pottery, baskets, and made their own clothes. Each family was responsible for creating what they needed for themselves, just like with supplying their own food. An interesting aspect of clothes making was that this...
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