Africa is a treasure trove of interesting customs that have developed independently from the way both Western and Asian societies have organized things.
I thought this might be a good place to create a collection of some of the things that amuse or surprise us about African culture.
To start off, here is an interesting tidbit that I heard on the radio today, where the traditions of Madagascar were being discussed.
There is apparently a saying: Femme de l'ainé, jouet du cadet (wife of the elder, plaything of the junior)
In the culture of Madagascar, the younger brother is allowed to sleep with his older brother’s wife while the older brother is away for work or business. In practice, this sometime causes some bad feelings when certain precautions are not respected. The older brother is supposed to advise of his return ahead of time, to give the rest of the family enough time to return appearances to the way they were before. There are also times when the wife decides that she prefers to stay with the younger brother.
Once the younger brother is married, he loses his privileges.
Throughout Southern Africa, boys are often circumcised around the time they reach age 11 or 12, right around the onset of puberty. It's believed that pubescent circumcision was used by some ancient cultures to mimic the genital bleeding experienced by girls.
Death isn't uncommon in South African puberty rituals, when boys are separated from the village and effectively starved as part of their initiation. Though most survive this separation, some others die from infection from the circumcision ceremony that follows.