Servitude and worldly success in the palace of Dahomey
According to this article, slave women are noted to gather considerable wealth and achieved a rise in positions of honor, power, and responsibility. Data from the kingdom of Dahomey shows that the most significant opportunities for worldly success for free or slave women occurred through membership in a complex institution at the heart of the royal household. In contrary, women who were seen to be slaves were assumed to play roles that were only limited to the performance of domestic tasks and childbearing. Notably, various studies indicate that women served as favored wives since worldly achievements and success accrued to men only.
The Dahomey palace had inhabitants who comprised of slaves and war captives purchased from abroad, girls and women recruited from all lineages, and the female descendants and daughters of the king of the Dahomean state. The article shows that all women in the palace were legal wives of the king and they were denied their rights to legal statuses as they lacked the power to divorce. However, various complex hierarchy positions were accessible to women within the palace. Women were given the opportunity to exercise authority and power, as well as gain wealth and honor. Although few women could reach the hierarchical levels, it is evident that slave women had access to high offices.
Worldly success for Slave women was massive since they had a high probability of resuming high offices as compared to men. The women in the palace performed various functions that were divided into three categories including the army, the elites, and the serving classes. The elite and the army controlled the reproductive and productive activities of the serving class. Similarly, the elites comprised of women who could become the king's physical wives and office holders. The office of the queen mother represented influence, wealth, and power that were available to slave women and their roles in the Dahomey palace and they had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
The Kpojito or "Queen Mother" Of Precolonial Dahomey
The authorship of this article state that during the pre-colonial Dahomey, women participated in the social, economic, and political life of the Dahomean kingdom. In this kingdom, women were seen to be equal to men, and this palace was among the few places where women could have their wealth, power, riches and even have their compound. The Kpojito happened to be women who were named to resume power by their prince as a reward for their success and effort in various struggles. The palace union was a polygynous family with various important queen mothers who held vast numbers of slaves, and they had the right to command and be obeyed and served by the slaves. Some of the vital queen mothers in the kingdom include Nae-Adoma, Nae-Huanjele, Nae-Khai, and Nae-Senume among others. Women who served as Kpojito existed in perpetuity through the founding of positional succession. The rest of the women in the Dahomey kingdom were used as domestic slaves, as chattel, and as plantation slaves where they become concubines and wives and others were employed in economic and industrial production.
Additionally, the article discusses the religious life of the people of Dahomey where there are priests and priestesses. The priestesses were more formidable than the rest of the members of the vodun si because they believed to be the one who brought vodun in the kingdom. Nevertheless, women helped in the acquisition of economic capital and surplus through their participation in the production and distribution process. Markedly, most women in the kingdom are believed to have the uncanny intelligence of economic realities in business, and they could predict the point of diminishing returns in business. Notably, the Yoruba speaking people and the European and the Afro-Europeans who were more regular in the king's court, as well as the Yoruba speaking people, had significant cultural influence from outside the monarchy that was related to the changes of the kingdom.
African women's history
Berger (2003) assesses the different perspectives on African women history and how literature on women in Africa has evolved over time. The author identifies that African women's history was previously ignored and instead most of the African literature focused on nationalism and unity as the continent was getting out of the bondage from colonialism which was a more pressing matter in the 1950s and the 1960s. The history of women in Africa according to Berger (2003) has taken a different approach to development compared to the history of women in Europe and the United States of America. In Africa, the literature on women took shape in the 1970s with most of the literature being inclined on establishing the role of women in the economic environment. Colonialism and imperialism themes dominated most of the African literature at the time. According to the author, three main themes can be identified in African women history development. The theme of women as the forgotten heroines was in particular in the 1970s since their role in the fight against imperialism has been overlooked, the theme of underclass actors and the gendered actors in the 1980s and 1990s respectively.
Most of the literature focused on the prominent women in the African society because the colonial rule had eroded the political and economic roles of women in the traditional African society. However, literature by Van Allen went against the tradition at the time and wrote about the role of women in the Igbo war of 1929 who revolted against taxation. Whereas Luise White speaks of the trivial matter about women in prostitution in Nairobi, Elizabeth Schmidt assesses how men and the colonial rulers in Zimbabwe collaborated to control the roles of women. Many authors according to Berger (2003) after the 1990s had different perspectives on the role of women in African societies.
Amadiume literature shows that African women experienced flexible roles in the Igbo kingdom whereas Nakanyike Musisi notes that in the Buganda kingdom women were at the bottom of the social hierarchy with men at the top as village chiefs. Recent years has led to a shift in African women literature which today focuses on motherhood, childbirth, and sexuality. In Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania women played more active roles and made independent decisions to support the armed struggle for independence as portrayed by women in Meru and Kikuyu ethnic communities in Kenya.
Dancing Women and Colonial Men
Bastian (2001) assesses the role of women in the Nigeria struggle for independence by studying how Nwaobiala "Dancing Women" who instigated and motivated women in the women's war and the author uses colonial documents to assess why Nwabiala as a women activity was ignored. The colonial records indicate that the women movement used the names Nwaobiala and Obanjili but details about this movement are minimal and highly reduced. The records indicate a strong relationship between the "Dancing Women" movement and the deity of land in their activities and approach of protest. The Nwabiala dancers went into the markets and colonial chiefs homesteads to carry out a purification exercise through sweeping which demonstrated that it was time for purification against external influence. During the sweeping rituals, women were able to make demands on men and households they visited insisting on the need to respect the old customs and insisted women had to walk naked without clothes until they had a first child and other traditional roles that were practiced in the society before the coming of the Europeans. The authors note that women in Nwabiala played a significant role in safeguarding customs and morals in the community and interpreted events in the community as secret communication from god on the pollution of the customs by Christianity and the Europeans. The author concludes that the Nwabiola dancers were against Christianity and colonial as they viewed it as a threat to the indigenous religions and political institutions. Therefore, Nwabiala dancer's activities was a unique approach by women to protest against the colonial rulers and Christianity in Igbo.
Bay, E. (1983). Servitude and worldly success in the palace of Dahomey. Women and slavery in Africa, 340-367.
Bay, E. G. (1997). THE KPOJITO OR "QUEEN MOTHER" OF PRECOLONIAL DAHOMEY. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 810(1), 19-40.
Berger, I. (2003). African women's history: Themes and perspectives. Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 4(1).
Bastian, M. L. (2001). Dancing Women and Colonial Men: The Nwaobiala of 1925.
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