‘Chiefs, grandmothers and other great female ancestors’ is the first photo essay in a three-part series documenting an ongoing oral history project on the historical changes of women’s political and spiritual power among the Yaawo people in Niassa, northern Mozambique.
Using both still images from interview videos as well as portraits of key narrators, it explores the ways that the time of our lives and deeper time (or the times of our ancestors) intertwine and interact in the oral history encounters.
The Yaawo have a long history of female chiefs (mweenye vaakoongwe) and other female figures of spiritual and political authority (known as biibi [pl. acibiibi] and angaanga, and later as rainha). And while the gendered system of chieftaincy and the shape of female power has undergone many significant changes through time—acibiibi still exist, and some communities have female chiefs.
These days the acibiibi are remembered in oral historical narratives of the Yaawo chiefly dynasties that emerged around the mid-nineteenth century but also in more personal family histories.
Continue to PART 2