Legends are a simple way of transmitting teachings. While it is very useful to explain some complex concepts to children, they also become treasures and legacies of culture by themselves.
African culture has much to teach the world. Its worldview is full of a deep human sense, of the importance of collectivity and of the connection of the human being with nature.
The creation of the world
On the African continent there are many legends about the creation of the world. Because there are multiple tribes, each has its own version and it is difficult to unify them. This legend about the creation of the world is from the Boshongo tribe.
The legend says that in the beginning there was only darkness, water and the creator god Bumba. One day the god had a great stomach ache and threw up. That vomit was the sun and with it, the light and heat that in turn generated dry land. Some days later, Bumba vomited again and the moon and stars appeared. After a third discomfort, the animals, lightning and human being appeared.
Bumba's godchildren began to finish their father's work, but the lightning began to cause many problems and Bumba decided to lock him up in heaven. Then they ran out of fire, but Bumba taught them how to create fire using wood. Bumba told them that all this belonged to them now and that they should never forget that he had been the creator.
The Legend of the Baobab
The legend of the baobab is a story about pride. It is also a way to explain to children the reason for the shape of these typical trees of the African savannah. The legend begins by explaining that a long time ago, the baobab was the most beautiful tree among all the trees in Africa.
All were captivated by its strong branches, its soft bark and the flowers, which had a beautiful color. The gods had also granted it longevity, and the baobab took advantage of this to grow more and become stronger. But this made its branches cover the sun and the rest of the trees grew in darkness.
The baobab challenged the gods by telling them that it would grow up to the sky. But then they realized his arrogance and punished him. From that moment on, this tree grew upside down, with its flowers down and its roots up to the sky. That's why the baobab has such a strange shape.
The elephant and the rain
This legend about the elephant and the rain is a story to remember how important water is. It also has a teaching about sharing. It is said that many years ago, an elephant told the rain that he was probably very happy because thanks to the rain, everything was green and flowers appeared.
But after that he challenged her by asking her what would happen if the elephant started pulling out the plants. The rain got upset and warned her that if she did, she would stop sending water to the earth. The elephant did not listen and began to trample the flowers and cut down the trees until nothing was left standing. Then the rain stopped sending water.
One day, the elephant began to get very thirsty. He was so thirsty that he talked to the rooster to ask him to go talk to the rain and ask for water. The rain agreed. He sent water over the elephant's house and a puddle formed, but the elephant did not let any other animal drink the water from it. Many thirsty animals arrived, but the rooster, whom the elephant left as guardian, would not let them drink.
The lion did not listen and told him that he would drink water from the puddle anyway. When he did, the other animals decided to do the same. When the elephant returned, there was almost no water left. But he didn't get angry, and instead realized how selfish he had been when everyone needed water.
The rain realized this and decided to send water back to the earth, which made everything come back. Since then everyone knows that water should be cared for and shared.
The Origin of Death
This legend about the origin of death belongs to the Zulu tribe. It is a story, which unlike others, does not speak about life and creation but about death and destruction, which are also part of life.
This legend says that after the creation of man, he did not know if he was eternal or not. So Unkulunkulo, the creator deity, gave him immortality. To warn man that he had this gift, he sent the chameleon Unawabu. But on the way he stopped to eat and for this reason it took longer to get the message across.
Unkulunkulo was waiting to receive the thanks for granting them immortality, but since he did not receive any message he thought that men were ungrateful and decided that humans would die. He sent the lizard to give them the message, which without any distraction went to deliver it. For this reason we humans are mortal and our destiny is to die.