Creation myths vary among African ethnic groups highlighting similarities and differences in belief systems and societal constructs. There are many factors that contribute to creation myths for each individual group. Survival issues dominate many my ths, suggesting the origins of land, the ability to cultivate land, and the benefit of existing off of what one has cultivated. Questions of where land came from, the purpose of man, and the relationship between the creator and the created are evaluated. The important issues of each African ethnic group became the focal point of their creation and origin myths.
A predominant theme among African creation myth is the people's relation to the land, as a means of survival and origin. The shilluk myth, "An African Story of the Creation of Man" and the Yoruba people's myth, "The Creation of the Universe and Ife" state that man was first made from clay. Both creation myths indicate an awareness and a need for explanation of the physical differences among human beings. The Shilluk myth claims that there are different colored people because of the varying colors o f clay that Joak, the creator according to this myth, encountered as he wandered the world. The Yoruba people's myth explains the differences in the shapes of humans as a result of the god Obatala being drunk when he shaped man out of clay. In both myth s, the action of the creating god caused the variation in man's physical characteristics.
The Shilluk myth attempts to explain why man's body is designed as it is. Each part of the body is designed, according to this myth, to fulfill a purpose related to survival. The legs, arms, eyes, and mouth all work toward man being able to survive off the land by growing crops and eating what he has grown. The ability to dance, speak, sing, and shout, through the use of a tongue, is provided after man can survive off the land. The order of creation indicates the importance of certain aspects of the body to societal standards of importance.