Why African people don't swim?

African people. Do they swim? Why not? What is the problem for black people to go into the water? You’ll find out why African people don’t swim in this article right now!

swimmer in pool

This stereotype crossed the seas and the oceans. It is applies to African people and also their descendants. It focuses mainly on preconceived theories that cite some biological explanations (for example bone density, an additional layer of muscle etc.) or cultural explanations (‘these people just do not like it’). In fact, African people can swim. They swim, but for some reason they are not known as the swimmers and that is a reflection of the activities marred the history of inequality in economics and politics.

The African continent is truly blessed with a huge plethora of lakes, rivers, and also oceans. The African people who live by these water bodies may become very well-known world’s strongest swimmers. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to name at least one professional African swimmer. Unfortunately, a strong swimming culture was not supported on the continent because of the different social, political and economic factors. We need to explore how those factors have influenced the culture surrounding both professional and recreational swimming. Then we will have a chance to understand the stereotype and why Africa has not managed to produce a lot of competitive swimmers on the international arena.

Water is everywhere, but no place to swim  

stony beach

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We need to first observe recreational swimming in disposition to know why Africa is not making many of its recreational swimmers in to professionals. Historical events such as the enslavement of Africans prevented an established floating agriculture to remain to evolve. It is also documented that anterior to the slave trade African people living close to water had some traditions of swimming and they were good swimmers. Africans had a famous reputation for being the well-skilled and ‘best swimmers’ in the whole world. Africans were skillful watermen who had established ships fleets. Also African sailors were in extremely high demand during the connection with Europe. The sea began to represent danger in an era when the mass human trafficking through enslavement began. So African people started to avoid going to swim.

ocean cost

Parents always told their kids not to go by the water in order not to be captured or kidnapped.  Parents always make different superstitions about rivers, oceans and lakes being a site for ‘sorcery’, ‘sea monsters’ or instill fear of drowning – all of that keep the children from going by any water. After a lot of these superstitions were transferred. During this era the communities had some cases, when African slave ships escaped by swimming to safety. An estimated 80 percent of Africans, who could survive the slave trade and then reached the United States, could swim. A lot of Americans saw black people swimming. Then in the Americas enslaved African people were forbidden to teach their kids how to swim.

beautiful beach

Water is extremely important in all African cultural beliefs. It is always an integral part of any creation narratives. Traditional and cultural beliefs in water creatures and spirits can also affect discouraging some swimmers. Different water spirits exist in almost all traditional African religions. There are both good and evil ones. Some water spirits were supposed to exist and take the shape of different mermaids or snakes or even a combination of both. Mami Wata or Mamba Muntu is extremely popular. It exists in a lot of African traditional beliefs. This spirit is a mermaid. She or he is a pan-African water creature that also exists in the Americas (Caribbean, Latin-America and also African-American traditions). Mami Wata is believed to follow swimmers and travellers and tempt them with different materialistic stuff and ideals. She is a creature, that well-known to cause both positive and negative events in people’s lives.

A lot of people continue to pay tribute to this deity and ‘mermaid’ sightings continue to come. The Zimbabwe Shona is associated with the basin of this river. In 2012, the construction of the reservoir stopped in Zimbabwe, because a lot of people talked about this creature. Black and white workers refused to continue their work so close to the water. They asked the traditional rite to be performed. Though these beliefs nowadays are not so widespread, they are usually found with some skepticism. However these traditional beliefs still affect the reaction of people. In South Africa, people do not swim because they have been told that there is some presence of a huge ‘water serpent’ in the water.

african crocodile

Geographic proximity to any water also affects people’s lives. They need to have the access to any water basin, where people can learn how to swim.  A lot of African countries have a huge, vast coastline, others have wide rivers, which cross inland, but not everyone lives by the water basin.

African people, who are lucky to live by water bodies, are also often confronted with water, which is totally not conducive to any swimming.  Usually it is because of different strong tides or currents, which make swimming dangerous and difficult. In some calmer waters, there are different parasites like, for example, bilharzia. Also it happens that the water is totally inhospitable, it may inhabited with dangerous hippos and crocodiles. So the access to good water resources that are conducive to learning swimming can be problematic in Africa.

Swimming Out of Poverty

african swimmers

Passage to swimming pools and places for swimming still remains a key sense why Africans are not known for swimming. One can think that many of Africa’s strongest and gifted swimmers maybe live by the coastal lines or African lakes and rivers. Political economy fixes the passages that these possible Olympians would have. So sport requires frequent repetition, practice, skill, and time, talent, and also money prevents the participation of a lot of them. Partaking and result in sports is often viewed as a way out of any need. Some gifted athletes desire to revolve this interesting recreational activity in to a gainful professional career.

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