From being seen as a generation or two ago as a continent full of “tribes,” Africa has more recently been re-examined in light of Western theories of ethnicity and nationhood. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s “tribes” have been replaced by “ethnic groups” in the literature, while at the same time a burgeoning literature on ethnicity and nationalism in Africa has emerged. Much ink has been spilt on the colonial and post-colonial periods, and there have even been some attempts to rethink the origins of ethnic groups in the pre-colonial period.
This research seeks to discuss the significance of cultural symbolism among the Ashanti and Zulu ethnic groups; touching on the background history of the people, their culture, aspects of their culture within which these symbols can be located in their philosophical, educational and the socio-cultural significance. The Ashanti and Zulu cultural symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Western and Southern parts of Africa.
Some cultural symbols that were portrayed in the enclosed study depict a constant search for a cultural identity from historical events, human behaviour and attitudes, animal behaviour, plant life forms and shapes of objects. These symbols have so many lessons and wisdom to be learnt. Some other items are a presentation and discussion of new findings. Actually, this research revealed that, there are many symbolic animal forms within some aspects in the culture of the Ashanties of West Africa which have many lessons to teach. Most of these animal forms have not received considerable attention. It was also observed that, lack of detailed study on these animal forms has resulted in the lack of knowledge on the teaching and learning of it. People are not willing to learn these symbolic animal forms from the elders who are the custodians of these animal forms. Yet, many West and South African people are ignorant about them and this problem can be linked to urbanization and the influence of foreign culture, in addition to over dependence on oral history, for so long a time without proper documentation.
The researcher therefore seeks to identify and categorise the various aspects of culture within which these symbols can be found, discuss them and explain in detail-codified meaning, socio-cultural and philosophical meanings inherited in them. Descriptive research method, coupled with clarified scepticism is to inquire into where did these symbols come from? And which civilisation or external factor affected such symbolisation for a perpetual embodiment of African cultural identity?