oral historical narratives

‘“The rainha is the boss!”: On Masculinities, Time and Precolonial Women of Authority in Northern Mozambique’, Gender & History (2022)

This article focuses on the oral historical narratives about precolonial women of authority (or rainhas in Portuguese) to explore the deeper history of gendered power in northern Mozambique.

History-telling is a gendered practice, and nowadays male elders are usually the ones most knowledgeable in these narratives. Moreover, telling these tales – which in interview situations involves personal interpretations and comments – the men also story gendered temporal worlds. This article looks more closely at two seemingly clashing (and incompatible) storylines that emerge in the oral history material. One tells of women’s spiritual-political power in the Yaawo chieftaincies in precolonial times, while the other tells a narrative of masculinised power and woman’s subordinate position in relation to male leaders. The article focus’s especially on how the male narrators talk about masculinity and how different models of masculinity in turn shape the historical narratives they tell.

Read full article for free (pre-publication view): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/share/author/JGDPBTIBGSGJWXQSYDKB?target=10.1111/1468-0424.12590

PART 2: On men, gender and history-telling

‘On men, gender and history-telling’ is the second in a three-part photo essay 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.

History-telling is a gendered practice, and nowadays it is often the male elders that are the main narrators of the oral histories of the nineteenth century Yaawo chieftaincies.

This essay explores the different ways that these men remember female figures of authority of the past. Moreover, it looks at how men, when telling these narratives, also story gendered temporal lifeworlds.

Mapping names and tracing histories in landscape

The above map (still very much a rough draft!) shows some of the names (and stories) of the acibiibi I have managed to trace through my interviews over the past six weeks. Some narratives are more local, and their reach is more limited, while the fame of other acibiibi has captured the imagination of people more widely.

Acivaanjila is the most famous biibi (later recognized as rainha by the Portuguese colonial government). While the exceptionality of this woman is widely admitted, contradictory stories exist concerning the source of her power as well as her rise to fame.