The Berlin Conference Culturally, Africans are perhaps the most diverse of any continent’s inhabitants, with thousands of ethnic groups and more than 1000 different languages. With groups that often cross national boundaries and continual political upheavals, African national identity is not as strong as racial ties or local kin group meetings. Black Africans make up the majority of the continent’s population, but there are also large populations of Arabs, Asians, Europeans and Berbers. Communities range from rural cultures in which the foods, religions, dress, tribal roles, and daily life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, to modern city environments, which feature skyscrapers, Western styles of dress and commerce, and a diverse mix of cultural influences. Music, art, and literature are culturally important and distinctive throughout Africa, and have had considerable impact on other societies around the world.
During the period of Sudanic empires, the lives of most farmers and fishers remained virtually unchanged. Imported goods or luxuries were enjoyed only by the ruling classes: the farmers lived in subsistence economies, forced to periodic tax gathering and occasional slave raids. Islam was associated with the great urban centers and was the religion of some of the ruling classes and of the foreign residents. By the late 15th century, however, the Arabs began to invade, and during the mid-16th century the Qadiriyya establishment, began to spread Islam throughout the Western Sudan. Dynasties were overthrown, and states were founded that spread Islam to new areas. In the Hausa states, Shehu, a muslim teacher, led a revolt among the Fulani who between 1804 and 1810 overthrew the Hausa rulers and established new dynasties.