5 taboos across Africa that modernism failed to take away

These beliefs still influence our response and views about these action, irrespective of our level of education.

Some actions that are categorized as taboos have a social or religious explanation which restricts people from engaging in them. As a result, some of these taboos still influence how many African communities handle certain issues.

Here are 5 African taboos that people have refused to let go.

1.    Consummating with relatives

Having sex with one’s relative is a taboo considered as the worst form of sin in most African communities. As such, people that were known to have engaged in this act are usually outcast. The level of modernization in many communities have not stopped this practice.

In Africa, it is believed that engaging in such act attracts many tragedies to the family and the community. Poverty, epilepsy, stunted progress and occurrence of epidemics were cited as consequences.

For some communities, both individuals found culprits are killed to conciliate the gods or ancestors.

2.    Disrespecting the elderly

One of the core fabrics of African customs is ‘Respect’. Hence, disrespecting an elder is considered misgivings to the young person.

It also is a common practice that young people are not allowed to shake hands with an elderly person, or for opposite sex (either married or single) to hold hands or display any romantic display in the presence of an elderly person.

3.    Family and staying In-laws

In many communities in Africa, there are taboos as regards relating to one’s in-laws or marriage relatives. For instance, it is unacceptable for a father-in-law to visit while the husband is not around.

Also, some communities disallowed not naming a first child after the groom’s father or mother – based on the sex of the new baby.

4.    Pot breaking – Accidental or intentional

Pot breaking is still considered a great taboo in many parts of Africa, including Southern Nigeria. This object made of clay is generally considered the uterus of women which have to be handled with care.

Among the Gikuyu tribe (the largest ethnic group in Kenya) and Igbo tribe of Nigeria, a special ritual is performed to appease the god and cleanse a woman who broke a cooking or water pot.

5.    Food taboo

Food taboo is also one practice that modernism has failed to take away from many communities in Africa. For instance, consumption of some fruits is strongly discouraged for women during pregnancy.

In some Central African countries, eating of eggs is forbidden for children.


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