Many different traditional religions were practiced across Africa and continue today. These traditional beliefs are often practiced along with Christianity or Islam.

Although each African culture has its own beliefs and religions customs, there are several common elements found in many of these traditional religions. Here are a few general ones:

  • They worship many gods and ancestors.
  • There are many different places to worship: large shrines for the entire community to gather (maybe a part of the natural landscape, like a hillside), personal shrines in the family compound, shrines maintained by priests or priestesses, and places that are important to the gods or spirits -- like crossroads or the forest.
  • Priests learn a wide range of knowledge, much of which is kept secret. They are responsible for maintaining a harmonious relationship between the community and the gods. These religious specialists help people with moral, social, and medical problems.

Let's learn about a few aspects of African traditional religion. We won't be able to investigate these topics for all African cultures. So, we'll look at a few religious practices and the art objects that are created to serve them.

Click on the objects below to learn more!


© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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