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Article

Sandra Swart

Animal history in Africa—the multi-species story of the continent’s past—as a separate subdisciplinary “turn” is both recent and tentative, but as an integrated theme within the broader historiography it is both pioneering and enduring. Historians of Africa have long engaged with animals as vectors of change in human history and, of course, at the same time, understood that humans were a key agent of change in animal histories too, especially in the long-lived and extensive writing on epizootics, livestock farming, pastoralism, hunting, and conservation. African animal histories should resist the imposition of intellectual paradigms from the Global North.

Article

Omotayo Jolaosho

Miriam Makeba (March 4, 1932–November 9, 2008) was among the first to popularize African music on a global scale. Nelson Mandela named her South Africa’s first lady of song; she was also nicknamed Mama Africa. Makeba has been credited with inaugurating the “world music” movement, a designation that she did not like as it marginalized music from a so-called Third World. Already renowned in her native South Africa as a sophisticated and highly sought-after performer in her own right, Makeba’s arrival in the United States in 1959 transformed that country’s music scene. She was a contemporary of Nina Simone and Odetta, with the three women credited for a resurgence of folk music in the United States as they drew songs of everyday life onto the concert stage. South Africa’s apartheid government revoked Makeba’s passport in 1960, when she sought to return home to bury her mother. She was a vocal critic of apartheid in exile, appearing before the United Nations (UN) on at least four occasions (including twice as a delegate of Guinea) to urge sanctions against the apartheid regime and mobilize support for Black South Africans caught under apartheid’s yoke. She supported US civil rights movement organizations and activists, and through her activism embedded US struggles for civil rights within a continuum of African liberation struggles, including anti-apartheid and anti-colonial liberation movements on the continent. She was a cultural ambassador who bore witness to the independence of many African countries through song, with countries for which her performances contributed to the ushering in of independent regimes including Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. She was the only performer at the inaugural conference of the Organization for African Unity. As South Africa’s apartheid government began transitioning power, Makeba was able to return home in 1992 for a brief visit and subsequently decided to permanently return. Under South Africa’s democratically elected regime, Makeba was appointed an FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Goodwill ambassador for the UN. She continued performing in her later years, but in November 2008 she collapsed following a performance in Italy and died from cardiac arrest. Her legacy continues through the work of the ZM Makeba Foundation.

Article

Iris Berger

Lilian Masediba Matabane Ngoyi was a passionate anti-apartheid and women’s rights advocate and one of the most prominent woman leaders during the 1950s. Born in Pretoria in 1911, she attended primary school through Standard 6 and trained as a nurse for three years before becoming a seamstress. Her marriage to John Ngoyi ended with his death in an automobile accident. In 1945 Ngoyi began working in a garment factory and joined the Garment Workers’ Union of the Transvaal. Her union activism led her to take part in the Defiance Campaign against apartheid laws. Ngoyi’s arrest in 1952 for standing in the whites-only line at the post office in Pretoria changed the course of her life. From this time onward, while still struggling to support her family, she devoted herself to anti-apartheid activism. A passionate speaker, she was elected to the top positions in the Federation of South African Women and the African National Congress Women’s League and became the first woman elected to the ANC Executive Committee. In 1954, as a delegate to the World Congress of Mothers, she traveled widely in Europe, China, and the Soviet Union. Upon returning to South Africa, Ngoyi was a key leader of the historic demonstrations against passes for women in 1955 and 1956. But her political prominence also made her a target of state repression. First arrested in the Treason Trial in 1956, she was among the anti-apartheid leaders detained after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. Between trial appearances and imprisonment, she continued her political activities. In the last two decades of her life, she suffered from a series of banning orders that restricted her to her Soweto home. She died on March 13, 1980.

Article

Meghan Healy-Clancy

Apartheid, the system of racial and ethnic separation introduced in South Africa in 1948, was a gendered project. The immediate goal of the white Afrikaner men who led the apartheid state was to control black men: to turn black men from perceived political and criminal threats into compliant workers. Under apartheid, African men would travel to work for whites in towns and on mines, but their homes would be in rural ethnic “reserves,” known as “homelands” or “Bantustans.” This vision depended on the labors of African women: while their men migrated to work, women were to maintain their families in the increasingly overcrowded and desolate countryside, reproducing the workforce cheaply while instilling a sense of ethnic difference in their children. “Coloured” (mixed-race) and Indian women were similarly charged with social reproduction on a shoestring, in segregated rural and urban areas. White women uniquely had the franchise and freedom of movement, but they were also constrained by sexually repressive laws. Apartheid’s gendered vision of production and social reproduction faced continual resistance, and it ultimately failed. First, it failed because African women increasingly moved from rural areas to urban centers, despite laws limiting their mobility. Second, it failed because some women organized across ethnic and racial lines. They often organized as mothers, demanding a better world for a new generation. Both their nationally and internationally resonant campaigns—against pass laws, educational and health care inequities, police brutality, and military conscription—and the fact of their collective organization gradually undermined apartheid. Officials generally underestimated the power of women, and their contributions have continued to be under-appreciated since apartheid ended in 1994, because women’s political style emphasized personal and familial concerns. But because apartheid was premised on transforming how families lived, actions of women in fact undermined the system from its core.

Article

Mariana P. Candido

European colonial powers established the contemporary boundaries of Angola during the Conference of Berlin (1884–1885). However, colonialism dates to the 15th century, when Portuguese merchants first contacted the Kingdom of Kongo along the Congo River and established early settlements in Luanda (1575) and Benguela (1617). Parts of the territories that became known as Angola in the early 20th century have a long history of interaction with the outside world, and as a result European primary sources provide much of the information available to historians. The reports, official correspondence, and diaries were produced by European men and are therefore problematic. However, by reading against the grain scholars can begin to understand how women lived in Angola before the 20th century. Some, such as Queen Njinga, had access to political power, and others, such as Dona Ana Joaquina dos Santos e Silva, enjoyed great wealth. Kimpa Vita was a prophet who led a movement of political and religious renewal and was killed as a result. Most women never appeared in historical documents but were fundamental to the economic and social existence of their communities as farmers, traders, artisans, mediums, and enslaved individuals. The end of the slave trade in the 1850s led to the expansion of the so-called legitimate trade and plantation economies, which privileged male labor while relying on women’s domestic contributions. The arrival of a larger number of missionaries, colonial troops, and Portuguese settlers by the end of the 19th century resulted in new policies that stimulated migration and family separation. It also introduced new ideas about morality, sexuality, and motherhood. Women resisted and joined anticolonial movements. After independence, decades of civil war increased forced displacement, gender imbalance, and sexual violence. The greater stability at the end of the armed conflict may favor the expansion of women’s organizations and internal pressures to address gender inequalities.

Article

Scott Rosenberg

During the pre-colonial period, women were valued for their productive and reproductive abilities. When women married, their parents received bohali (bridewealth) from the man’s family. During the colonial period women became increasingly responsible for running the household while men were away. Although this gave women more power on a daily basis it also led to increasing domestic violence. In order to support themselves and their families, women have sought out domestic economic opportunities as well as participating in migrant labor. Historically, beer brewing and sex trafficking were two of the economic opportunities available to women in Lesotho and South Africa. Today, women make up the overwhelming majority of labor in the textile factories. Although Lesotho is a patriarchal society, women have made gains in terms of being elected to parliament and serving as regents, yet they are still not allowed to serve as a chief in their own right. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has hit women in Lesotho especially hard.

Article

Liazzat J. K. Bonate and Jonna Katto

Mozambique is divided into matrilineal north and patrilineal south, while the central part of the country has a mixture of the two. Both types of kinship organization have important implications for the situation of women. Women in matrilineal societies could access land and political and decision-making power. They had their own property and their children belonged to their matrikin. In patrilineal societies, women depended on their husbands and their kin groups in order to access farmland. Children and property belonged to the husband’s clan. During the colonial period (c. 1890–1975), women’s position in Mozambique was affected by the Indigenato regime (1917–1961). The native African population (classified as indígenas) were denied the rights of Portuguese citizenship and placed under the jurisdiction of local “traditional habits and customs” administered by the appointed chiefs. Despite the fact that Portuguese citizenship was extended to all independent of creed and race by the 1961 Overseas Administrative Reform, most rural African areas remained within the Indigenato regime until the end of colonialism in 1974. Portuguese colonialism adopted an assimilationist and “civilizing” stance and tried to domesticate African women and impose a patriarchal Christian model of family and gender relations. Women were active in the independence struggle and liberation war (1964–1974), contributing greatly to ending colonialism in Mozambique. In 1973, Frelimo launched a nationwide women’s organization, Organização da Mulher Moçambicana (Organization of Mozambican Women, OMM). Although women were encouraged to work for wages in the first decade after independence, they remained largely limited to the subsistence economy, especially in rural areas. The OMM upheld the party line describing women as “natural” caregivers. Only with the political and economic liberalizations of the 1990s were many women able to access new opportunities. The merging of various women’s organizations working in the country during this period helped to consolidate decades-long efforts to expand women’s political and legal rights in independent Mozambique. In the early 2000s, these efforts led to the reform of the family law, which was crucial for the improvement of women’s rights and conditions in Mozambique.

Article

Heike Becker

Women have had a significant role throughout Namibian history. Prior to colonization men were generally dominant, but certain women of high rank attained powerful positions. Namibian societies and politics became thoroughly gendered during the German and South African colonial periods. After independence the postcolonial Namibian state drew on the intensive involvement of women in the liberation struggle and adopted a legal framework and policies that emphasized gender equality. Nonetheless, little real improvement has been achieved for the majority of women in postcolonial Namibia. The country’s high level of social inequality continues to be profoundly gendered. Namibia’s independence in 1990 followed prolonged colonial rule by South Africa, which ruled the country, named “South West Africa,” as a de facto fifth province. Post–World War II South Africa retained the full range of apartheid legislation and policy in Namibia until about 1980, when the apartheid state’s colony became a laboratory for social engineering geared toward limited change. Namibia was divided into two distinct zones in 1907 and throughout the South African colonial period. Southern and central Namibia were governed similar to South Africa and the northern regions experienced colonial rule more akin to the British doctrine of indirect rule. Both colonial projects were profoundly gendered. Thus anticolonial resistance was both varied and gendered, including its defiance of apartheid.

Article

Women have played complex roles in the history of Southern Africa, a vast region that comprises diverse local histories as well as social and cultural forms. The diversity of the region has been both integrated and fragmented through historical connections, which have centered on South Africa as a subimperial power. Prior to colonial conquest and the impact of Christian missions and European trade, gender relations varied, partly due to an array of social and kinship systems. Overall, however, the position of women in southern African societies deteriorated after colonization. Economic, political, and cultural dynamics impacted on gender relations through the interaction of European and indigenous patriarchy, colonial rule, and capitalist modes of production, which reinforced and transformed one another, evolving into new structures and forms of domination. The paradox of similarities due to settler colonialism and differences in respect of timing and pathways to decolonization impacted upon the trajectories of postcolonial gender politics and the representation of women in the postcolonial political structures of southern Africa. Despite initial differences regarding legal gender equality, everywhere that liberation movements in power established themselves in the region, discourses of “African culture and tradition” became pertinent. Colonial customary laws and powers given to traditional leaders remain at the heart of contemporary battles over gender equality and social justice.