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The value of animal skins in Africa

18.06.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Africa is a home for nature and Africans are definitely making maximum use of this home advantage in all aspects. The most widely harvested and easily accessible of all gifts of nature in Africa are animals; for food, medicine and one of their skins used in diverse ways. Though many species are extinct, there still exist millions more, over 5000 whose skins are of great value to Africans especially those with strong and thick skins.

Animal skins also known as hides or pelts are sometimes used in their natural state or after processing by drying under the sun or on fire and treated with chemicals depending on the purpose for which they will be used. The use of animal skins can be seen more seriously in West, East and Southern Africa especially in nomadic, hunting and forest communities.

The most useful skins are taken from snakes, cows, crocodiles, goats, sheep, deer, monkeys, donkeys, lion, tiger etc. However, the use of skins has been and is still being debated upon because those in charge of animal protection argue that the use of animal skins should be abolished because thousands of different species of animals are killed daily in Africa; proposing a possibility of limiting skin extraction to domestic animals and synthetics as a possible substitute.

Uses in Africa

After natural or artificial processing, animal skins are used in multiple ways in Africa;

Clothing/Furniture/Packaging

Animal skins are used in Africa especially by those in dry Northern and Western zones such as the Hausas, Arabs and Bororos who practice nomadism/animal husbandry own herds of cattle, goats and sheep and use their skins for clothing; bags, shoes, jackets, seat covers, water bags because they do not radiate heat and prevent possible evaporation and also to make knife/dagger/sword sheathes, shoes, caps and horse/donkey/Carmel saddles.

Food

Animal skins also serve as affordable food complements in many African communities when boiled, dried or roasted. They have been given different names across Africa; “pomo” in Nigeria, “kanda (canja)” in Cameroon, “wele” in Ghana, “Babute” in the Democrtic Republic of Congo and are used to make different flavours of soup Sub-Saharan Africa.

Symbol of Royalty/Bravery/Inherited Leadership/Trophies/Souvenirs

In some African traditions, skins of animals such as Tigers, Leopards, Crocodiles and Lions are transcended from parents to children as proof of bravery, souvenirs and trophies because their parents fought and killed animals that used to terrorize remote African communities some decades back. Those who could standout, fight and kill them were considered heroes and the animal skins given to them as trophies/souvenirs.

In the Zulu and Ndebele tribes in Southern Africa, Animal skins of Leopards, Tigers and Lions are worn by the Royals, clan leaders and elderly women as a sign of Authority, might and influence. In this same light, some Royals in West Africa use animal skins to place their feet when sitting or to walk on in their palaces or homes since traditionally they are considered pure and should not trample on soil.

Music Instruments

Animal skins are also used in Africa to create parts of or music instruments such as drums, traditional guitar strings and bagpipes which are the most commonly used instruments to make music during ceremonies in Africa. For example; the Kora string used in Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Senegal, talking drum used in Nigeria and the Djembe used in South Africa.

Used as medicine/”Spiritism”

Somehow, Africans have managed to develop local and natural less costly ways of processing many natural resources one of which are skins and the fur from them to produce talismans/medicines/substances for “spiritism”, magic, sorcery and curing of diseases; in the case of animals to which extraordinary powers have been attributed. This can be done by drying with heat from fire or the sun, parboiling to extract the liquids from them and salting. The African pangolin, porcupine, rhinoceroses and buffalo skins are used both by the Chinese and Africans to make a brand of traditional medicine called “ejiao” used to treat anemia, skin diseases and insomnia.

Decoration and Construction

Animal skins when well processed and dried up, serve as roof covers, ceilings, door/window covers of typical traditional and local forest houses. The pigmies in South East Cameroon use animal skins for this purpose. Tanned leather made from animal skins is used by artists to make house decorations and to paint on.

Animal skins are now being exported out of Africa to China and Eastern Europe and used as raw materials for medicines and clothing. This is a bi-product which now has a high market value of $885 per Kilogram (Kg), an important raw material for textile companies both in Africa and abroad. Although still neglected in many parts of Africa to the local and under-developed industries especially in Cotonou the economic capital of Benin, Bamako in Mali, Dakar in Senegal, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Ngoundere/Maroua/Garoua in Northern Cameroon, this could be a great source of income.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image : google image/illustration

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