When most people outside of Africa think about the Continent, there is tendency to lump all of the tribes together. This is unfortunate because the truth is, each tribe in Africa (and there are more than 3,000 of them) has its own rich traditions, language and culture. While modern society has affected their way of life to a significant degree, tribal affiliation still remains a great source of pride for the natives. With that in mind, here is a look at 10 of Africa’s most notable tribes.
The largest ethnic group in South Africa with around 11 million people, the Zulu tribe is perhaps the most famous in all of Africa. Tourists can even visit the cultural village of Shakaland and get a taste of Zulu tribal life!
The Maasai are hands-down the most famous tribe in Kenya. While the majority of its people have adopted a modern lifestyle, they haven’t forgotten their roots, often displaying their traditional Shuka plaid sheets and beaded jewels. They also continue to live in Boma huts and herd cattle.
The Oromo tribe is made up of people who live in southern Ethiopia, northern Kenya and parts of Somalia. It is also the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, comprising 35% of the country’s population.
With a population of 35 million people, the Yoruba are by far the largest tribe in all of Africa. Most live in Nigeria with the rest situated in southern Benin.
You might not think you’re familiar with this tribe, but if you follow long-distance running even at a casual level, then you should know that the famous elite Kenyan racers who seem to win every marathon are Kalenjins.
Another large tribe, what separates the Hausa from the others is just how racially diverse and spread out they are. You can find Hausa tribespeople in Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and Ghana. Both men and women adhere to a strict dress code with colorful attire featuring striking embroidery.
The Himba tribe in northern Namibia consists largely of semi-nomadic pastoralists. They are known as the “red people of Africa” due to a red paste made up of clay and butter that they paint themselves with. They are also notable for the holy fire (okuruwo) that burns 24 hours a day in honor of their ancestors.
8. San Bushmen
Probably the hardiest tribe in Africa, the San Bushmen of western Botswana are notable for being featured in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. They somehow manage to live in extremely dry and arid climates in which water is scarce.
Living along the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Chaga people are believed to have been the first African tribe to embrace Christianity, and as a result they were granted better access to education and healthcare compared to their colonized counterparts in other African countries.
The Xhosa live in South Africa and technically consist of several sub tribes. If you have ever heard of tribesmen speaking with the distinctive clicking sounds, then there you go. It’s the language of the Xhosa.