‘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.
Two different types of stories emerge in the interviews with the elders. One tells of masculinized power and woman’s subordinate position in relation to male leaders. Yet alongside this, also another type of story materializes that speaks of women’s spiritual-political power in the Yaawo chieftaincies in precolonial times.
Focusing on some of the key narrators, this essay examines the continued coexistence of these competing historical memories in the present. These narratives importantly draw on different temporal ideas about gender and the relationality between masculinity and femininity. Interacting in the present time-space of oral history-telling—they shape the narratives that the male elders tell about the past and about gendered power.
* The Yaawo chiefly institution has changed much also in recent history. In the colonial period, chiefs were integrated into the system of colonial administration. Gaining state power at independence, Frelimo abolished chiefs. It is only since 2002 that the Mozambican state has recognized them as ‘traditional authorities’. Yet this disruption and change is glossed over in most narratives; instead, the current holders of these titles emphasize the continuity of the chiefly matrilineages since the ‘first chiefs’.
Continue to PART 3