Acknowledgements: These essays are based on research that I conducted in collaboration with Helena Baide and Domingos Aly. I owe them both my sincerest gratitude! Helena accompanied me in all the interviews and Domingos transcribed the interviews, also helping me with the translation from Ciyaawo to Portuguese.
‘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.
‘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.