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American Sign Language: "Africa"

The sign for "Africa" has gone through a few political debates.  A long time ago, for many years Africa was signed by circling the face with an "A."

Then people started using a "loose C" handshape that uses a curved downward motion while changing into an "AND" handshape.
(Which was promoted by many as being politically correct and respectful since it was linked to the shape of the African continent and not linked to people's faces).

Some people go on a tirade if you don't sign things their way.  If people in your social circle sign it one particular way, by all means adopt that method but as for me, I tend to sign Africa using the shape based version. I'll post some notes further below as to why.


AFRICA (version 1)



AFRICA (older version)


Note: You may see an even older version of Africa that ends with the "A" on the nose.  Do NOT do that version.



A few more notes on the topic of the sign for Africa:

First of all I encourage you to discover how the local adult socially active Deaf native ASL signers sign Africa in your city or area and sign Africa how the local Deaf do it.

For what it is worth though I tend to lean toward the shape-based version of the sign for Africa for a few reasons:

1. It seems to have gained prominence on an international scale. H3 World TV is fairly consistent in their use of the shape based version (with the minor difference of often ending in an S handshape -- but it is obviously still the shape based version).

2. Spread the sign shows one version and only one version as of 3/7/2021 -- the shape based version.

3. Handspeak shows the shape-based version as the main entry. Jolanta relegates the face-based version to the status of a "variation" and states that it was used "until the other sign in the shape of the continent emerged in the 1980s or so."

Of the major online sign dictionaries that choose to show Africa using the face version as the main entry -- it is the two sites that are (as best I can tell) the most "Hearing" influenced (████████████ and ██████). Many of you know my feelings about the ████████████ site (Hearing-developed and run) and the way they sign many things is just plain strange, wrong, or not reflective of the Deaf Community. For example, the signer is ending the face-based sign by touching the nose. (The nose version was literally removed from the updated edition of ████████████████ -- which shows the shape-based version of Africa as their first entry and the face-based as their second entry). So being listed on ████████████ is actually a negative-vote for the face-based-nose version (in my opinion). ██████ shows both versions but does the face version using a counter-clockwise movement (from the perspective of the viewer—which is opposite of the way it tends to be done by Deaf natives who do that version); and ██████ shows a really weird version of the movement for the shape based sign for Africa (more of a horizontal movement than the traditional downward movement).

My point is that of the ASL sources out there that the Deaf-based sites are leaning toward the shape-based version of the sign for Africa.

In my surveys of existing online examples of Africa being signed I'm seeing a much greater than 10 to 1 ratio in favor of the shape-based version.

So, I'm going to stick with my original recommendation of the shape-based version. If you are going to stand up in front of a crowd of which you do not know the participants and need to choose a version I'd go with the shape-based version.

However, as I noted in a comment a bit lower in this thread I'm going to change my description of the face-based from "not-recommended" to simply calling it "a version."

I have more comments on this topic but when I switched windows for a moment Facebook posted my comment in an unfinished unproofed state so I need to finish this up and post it.




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