African culture is a combination of several, with Africa being the umbrella. The idea that there is an “African culture” that is entirely separate from the Arab cultures north of Africa is exaggerated. I like to think that Arabs and Muslims in Africa share the land with the rest of the continent and their culture or religion is just as “African” as any other.
The issue of an identity crises facing Arabic nations in Africa only exists because of the mainstream understanding of “African Culture”. When you mention “African culture” it is immediately associated with tribal practices common mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. This excludes most of our northern counterparts making people more inclined to finding a distinction where there shouldn’t be one.
But the issue begs this question; do the nations north of Africa want to be considered African? They look different, and speak different languages. In addition, being African undoubtedly carries a stigma based in the roots of slavery and racism. I won’t go into a history lesson here. What I’m getting at is this; having lighter skin and soft curly hair plays into their identity and the great, vast Sahara desert divide doesn’t do much to help. It is human nature to identify more with those who share one’s beliefs and customs. As such, Northern Africans gravitate more towards their middle eastern neighbors than they do with their brothers South of the Sahara.
So, how do you include someone who doesn’t wish to be included?
The answer is the Map. Africa was drawn they way it was for a reason. If we are to exclude the northern countries from the African culture, we would have to re-draw the map and make them part of the Middle East.
Yes they look different, talk different and act different. I say we embrace it! This difference only goes to enhance the beauty and diversity of the -in my opinion- highly coveted continent. The Saharan-divide between north and south should be a unifyer and not a divider. We can help each other and learn from each other.
North + Sahara + South = 1 Africa. The future of a unified and thriving Africa depends on this concept.