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African Women in Music, Theater, and Performance  

Adedayo L. Abah

While women in certain regions of Africa have always enjoyed relatively equal access to view performances and perform publicly, many have not always enjoyed the same access to public performances of their craft. The role of women in music, theater, and performance in Africa has been diminished often by its demotion to the lyrical performances of women to enliven life’s transitions, from celebration of births to rites-of-passage ceremonies, marriages, and funerals. However, African women have always instigated social and political protests through songs and musical performances, imitation, and meaning-charged lyrics. The record and achievements of women as individuals or band-associated public performers were available mostly from the middle of the 20th century. Many African women have broken barriers in the categories of music, theater, and performance through exceptional demonstration of their crafts and talents. Some of them, like Sonah Jobarteh and Jalil Baccar, mostly wielded influence within a specific region of the continent, while some, like Miriam Makeba and Cesária Évora, were well known throughout the continent and globally. These African women compelled the continent, and sometimes the world, to stop and ponder on their talents in the arts of music, theater, and performance.

Article

Mia Couto  

Irene Marques

Mia Couto (b. 1955) is a contemporary Mozambican writer and biologist. Writing in Portuguese, Couto is the most prolific writer from Mozambique, and his works have been translated into more than thirty languages. He is the author of over thirty books, including, poetry, short stories, chronicles, creative essays, novels, and children’s and young adult books. His works have won several national and international prizes and have been adapted to film, theater, and television. His topics cover Mozambican culture and religion, ontologies and epistemologies, orality, Portuguese colonialism, anticolonial resistance, wars of liberation, personal and collective identity, postcolonial nation building, civil war, memory, trauma, violence and amnesia, neoliberal international agendas of development, cultural syncretism, African “authenticity,” corruption, women’s oppression and agency, and gender fluidity. He is considered a highly innovative writer, known for inventing a plethora of neologisms; his literary creations show an intrinsic link between orality, poetry, and an evolving and dynamic language that draws heavily from the multiple cultural and linguistic realities of Mozambique. This creative linguistic manipulation is primarily present in his earlier work. However, Couto’s script is far from being a mere play on aesthetics—it is a literature fundamentally preoccupied with political, cultural, historical, and pragmatic matters, reflecting important aspects of Mozambique’s past and present historical and sociopolitical contexts.

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Socialist Politics in Lusophone Africa  

Michael G. Panzer

From the 1950s through the 1970s, several liberation movements emerged in Lusophone Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the Cape Verde Islands) that fought for independence from Portugal. One of the most significant ideological frameworks that informed the political orientation of these movements was socialism. In Lusophone Africa, several liberation leaders gravitated toward the economic and political potentialities inherent in the discourses and practices of pan-Africanism and Afro-socialism. The liberation movements in Lusophone Africa that most identified with a socialist paradigm were the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA of Angola); Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO of Mozambique); Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands); and Comité de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe (CLSTP—later, MLSTP—of São Tomé and Príncipe). These groups suffered the burden of Portuguese colonialism and actively fought for independence from colonial rule. Although several other liberation movements also emerged in the Lusophone colonies, these four movements most espoused the hallmarks of Afro-socialism to challenge Portuguese colonial rule. All four liberation movements maintained networks with international actors opposed to colonialism, as well as diplomatic connections with sympathetic socialist and communist nations. Most notable among these bases of support were the Conferência das Organizações Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguesas (CONCP) and the governments of Tanzania, Egypt, Guinea, the People’s Republic of China, East Germany, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Cuba.

Article

Witchcraft in Liberia  

Henryatta L. Ballah

In Liberian cosmology, the spirit world influences and regulates all aspects of daily life, for good and evil. Liberians of various religious backgrounds—Indigenous faiths, Christianity, and Islam—believe in the supernatural abilities of witches to cause misery to and even kill their victims. Throughout Liberia’s history, most accused witches have been women and people with physical disabilities. Since the 1990s, Liberia has witnessed a surge in violence against women and children, boys and girls, accused of witchcraft. Scholars see this surge as a reaction to mass violence and socio-economic uncertainty—the country’s fourteen-year civil war, massive unemployment, state corruption, lack of adequate health care and educational infrastructure, and more. Many accused witches in this period, like in precolonial Liberia are from low socio-economic backgrounds, and they are often attacked physically and sexually, with impunity. And yet, while Liberian national laws criminalize violence against women and children, efforts to combat witchcraft violence through legal means have been minimal and ineffective. This is partly the result of how laws and policies were conceptualized and implemented in Liberia by international organizations, such as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and Amnesty International, during post-civil war reconstruction of the country (2003–2010). Lack of funding and Liberians’ persistent belief in the power of witchcraft, including politicians, help to explain why little has been done to eradicate witchcraft violence against women and children.