God is neither male nor female. God is a combination and balance of male and female forces. Many West African peoples have different names for God. The Edo of Nigeria, call God, Osa. The Kpelle of Liberia, call God, Yala. God is too great to behold and therefore is assisted by a pantheon of more accessible lesser gods and goddesses. These gods and goddesses are autonomous, yet interdependent. They are personifications of natural phenomena. Thus, West Africans have goddesses of the lands, gods of lightning and thunder; and, goddesses of the streams and rivers.
The Yoruba goddess of the waters and love is oshun. The Igbo goddess of the lands is ani, and the Fon goddesses of fertility and harvests is legba. Moreover, the West African world view is reflective of a balance of male and female principles, meaning that when there is a male god, that male god is served by a female priestess. Likewise, when there is a female goddess, a male priest serves the goddess. Underneath the gods and goddess are the oracles.
Oracles in West Africa can be both male and female. They are forces that explain the past and predict the future. Ibiniukpabi also known as the Arochukwu Long Juju by the British was an oracle in whose power was felt throughout the Nigerian Niger Delta region. And so powerful was she that the British ordered a series of patrols to attempt to destroy her. Ancestors are the dead, who have come back to life. They represent the never-ending cycle of life.
When West Africans pour libation, they do so to invite their ancestors to be present during important times. In many West African nations, ancestors assume the physical form of masquerades or masked spirits. The human West African world is essentially made up of two types of societies—centralized and small-scale societies. Kings and queens queen mothers rule over centralized societies; and male and female elders rule over small scale societies.
In West Africa men and women take titles to demonstrate their achievement. Warriors in West Africa can be both male and female, including the Amazons warriors from ancient Dahomey kingdom. The work ethic is extremely important in West Africa. All able-bodied men and women work; and as such, there are no stay-at-home West African mothers. Those able-bodied men and women who choose not work in West Africa are considered useless people because they are not contributing to society. So disregarded are they that they feature at the very bottom of societal hierarchy; even more disregarded than West African slaves.
In West Africa, religion and politics have always been interconnected. This is reflected in the fact that most West African rulers—kings, queens, and chiefs—have ruled by divine right. Many are able to trace their ancestry back, through oral histories, to a semi-divine figure. The Nigerian Yoruba for instance believe that Oduduwa began life as a deity and then became the first King, or Ooni of Ife. This section investigates the central and evolving place of West African women, as well as the female spiritual principle in precolonial politics by exploring the complexities of female political action in precolonial West Africa.
It does this by dividing male and female politicking in precolonial West Africa into two broad analytical categories, namely, the human political constituency, and spiritual political constituency. The human political constituency is further divided into two complementary categories: female government and male government. Likewise, as discussed above, the spiritual political constituency is also divided into two: female government and male government.
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Leadership and power were not alien to West Africa women in pre-colonial society. Their position was complementary, rather than subordinate, to that of men. Political power and authority was divided between West African men and women in what has been described as a dual-sex political system in which each sex managed and controlled their own affairs. West African societies recognize two political constituencies, the spiritual and the human.
The spiritual political constituency in West Africa consists of divinities, male and female functionaries who derived political power from an association with spiritual world. The human political constituency in West Africa is made up of executives who achieve political potential as human actors in physical realm.
The female spiritual political constituency in West Africa of medicines, goddesses, priestesses, masked spirits or masquerades, and diviners figured as political heads in Igbo communities.
Female masked spirits featured prominently as judicial courts and judges of moral conduct. They were the dead who had come back to life in the life of the community. For instance, among the eastern Nigerian Igbo, the female night masquerade, Abere , came out only at night and was said to carry all good luck and curses in her market pan. At the dead of night, she moved about acting as a night guard.
Her presence was detected by a myriad of gruesome sounds—disagreeable music, screams, screeches and curses—that accompanied her wherever she went. No secret was safe from Abere. In the precolonial era Abere operated as an integral part of the legal system and actively functioned as an agent of social control.
She had the power and authority to order humans without challenge and her decrees and punishments were uncontestable. She was a strict disciplinarian who handed down tough sentences and visited anyone whose activities were considered a threat to community wholeness with sickness—chronic sores and mental illness—and if necessary, death. Abere also functioned as a community court, pronouncing judgments in cases brought before her and collecting retributions from offenders. Government and politics in Asanteland was organized along a complimentary basis between the sexes. Some scholars have called this a dual-sex political system.
Therefore, the Asante, had male and female government. Queen mothers were women co-rulers of Asanteland.
They derived their power from the matrilineal nature of social organization. At the very top of the centralized government were the Asantehemma or queen mother, and Asantehene or king. Under these leaders were the queen mothers and kings of the paramounts, the female, Ohemaa and the male, Omanhene. The Ohemaa was the co-ruler who had joint responsibility with the male chief in all affairs of the state.
Under the divisional areas are the towns, which are governed by their own queen mother called Oba Panin , and male chief Odikro. Under the towns are the eight clans of Asanteland, which are governed by sub female chiefs called, Abusuapanyin. Asante Queen Mothers exercised authority in many domains.
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The most important duty however was her responsibilities with regards to the king. First and foremost, the Asante Queen Mother elects the king. She is the royal genealogist who determines the legitimacy of all claimants to the vacant stool. She has three chances to nominate a candidate who must be approved by the traditional council. The Queen Mother guides and advises the king, in all matters of state, tradition and religion.
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She ensures that taboos are not breached, and she is the only one who has the right to criticize and rebuke the King in public. The Queen Mother also had judicial responsibilities. She has her own separate court in her palace where she was assisted by female counselors and functionaries. She hears all judicial cases involving the sacred oaths of the state and has independent jurisdiction over all domestic matters affecting women and members of the royal family.
If she accepts them, then her judgment is final. As Queen Mother, she is in charge of female governance, and brought women together to, for instance, clean the village. She performed important rituals for the community and was present during important ceremonies like funerals. It was the Queen Mother who performed all initiation rites; and all young women had to be brought to the queen mother once they started menstruating.
Unlike most women, the Queen Mother married has right to have affairs with men in the kingdom.
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The Iyalode , like the male chiefs of Yorubaland, was a chief in her own right. She had her own special insignia of office which consisted of a necklace of special beads, wide brimmed straw hats , and a shawl. The Iyalode had her own personal servants , special drummers, and bell ringers to call the women of the kingdom to attention. The Iyalode title was all embracing. She was given jurisdiction over all women. Her position was achieved, not inherited. The Iyalode office was an elective office that had to have stamp of popular approval.
She controlled vast economic resources and was popular. Once appointed, the Iyalode became not only voice of women in government, but also, the queen who coordinated their activities. As spokeswoman of the women, the Iyalode was given access to all positions of power and authority within the State. She exercised legislative, judicial, and executive powers with male chiefs in their council.
She had her own council of subordinate female chiefs who exercised jurisdiction over all matters that pertained to women. The Iyalode also controlled the markets in the kingdom. A great deal of what the Iyalode could achieve depended on the qualities of the Iyalode , her personality, dynamism, and political astuteness. There were two arms of government in the human political constituency in Igboland, the male and the female. Female government in Igboland was further divided into two arms, the otu umuada and the otu iyomdi.
The umuada included all married, unmarried, divorced, and widowed daughters of the lineage or community.
Their meetings were held on rotational basis between the communities in which they married. The result was the creation of communication networks of women throughout Igboland. The otu inyomdi were wives of the village. Their leader, anasi , was the most senior wife in the community. She was the wife who was married longest in the community. The anasi was the medium through which the women could voice their concerns and protect their interests as wives, mothers, farmers, and traders. Age grades were groups of women of same age, who came together in order to provide incentives toward ambition and hard work.
They performed religious, social and political functions within the community; provided training for young people in group life; and provided avenues for socialization and companionship which were very useful and integrative factors in society. In Igboland, unmarried lineage daughters formed themselves into various ogbo associations. Igbo women could improve their social standing by taking titles. These titles included the ikenga, inachi and inwene. Titled women were accorded a lot of respect and those who showed leadership capabilities could often hold political office.
The omu and her cabinet of titled women councilors, ilogu, were charged with take care of the female section of the community. It was held every four days. The omu and her cabinet oversaw the market and defined its rules and regulations. The omu and her cabinet fixed the prices of market goods and defined market prohibitions. They acted as a court in the judging of cases and persecuting of wrong doers.
The omu appointed a police woman called the awo. The awo implemented the fixed price regulations in the markets. She made sure market taboos were observed, and arrested wrongdoers and brought them before the omu court. Market taboos included, no fighting in the market, palm produce should not to be sold in bunches, but separated first; and last but not least, peppers should be boiled first before being sold. In the precolonial era, West African women gathered together to vocalize their feelings about situations that affected them. These meeting grounds also served as support networks that women could depend upon to exact punishment of offending men.
What exactly would women do? First, they would request that whatever objectionable behavior stop. Strikes and boycotts often meant that West African women would ignore their household or marital responsibilities. Harris reports on a case when a community of Igbo women repeatedly asked their clansmen to clear the paths leading to the market.
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When they did not, all the women in the village refused to cook for their husbands until they did. The boycott worked because all the women of the village cooperated. Husbands could not ask their mothers or sisters for food. They could let out a traditional cry of grievance which would echo the village over. All the village women would gather at a common ground, the market place or the village square. Palm twigs would be passed around from woman to woman a symbol of the war to come. The women would dress in war gear, their heads bound with ferns and their faces smeared with ashes.
Once there, they would dance and sing derisive songs that outlined their grievances. Some of the songs called the manhood of the offender into question. On some occasions the women would destroy the house. I think it is going to be different when I leave on the Hajj. After that i have to croos a waterless desrt and I just hope I don't die. However there is good news and that is that it is rainy season so I just hope that it is going to rain enough for me to not get dehydrated amd die. When I was in the town I was amazed by the trading that was happening, I saw some guy named Blacks and a guy named Berbers trade their goods and it was pretty cool to see.
I have been looking at the map so I could see how many miles we are traveling, I learned that from Niani to Walata is about miles, also from Walata to Taghaza is about miles, and from Taghaza to Tuwat is about miles, finally from Tuwat to Cairo is about miless. While I was listening there were questions about the route up north and I think one of the questions were aren't there other ways across the Sahara?
I was thinking about that question and I think there is but it was going to take a longer time and I dont think that the king is going to like it. However there is a city made of salt and I mean salt, but I am kinda intimidated and fascinated about the idea of a city literally made of salt.
I think that so far the route that we have taken is good so far because we haven't ran into any trouble yet but the idea of crossing the Sahara is pretty damgerous. I also thought to my self that why would Mansa Musa choose a route to Mecca that took throuh Taghaza? Then it just came to me that they went to Macca to restock on supplies and also to trade. Today I was looking at the map I just notice that I have been traveling for about miles with the caravan and that means that I have been walking for about miles with not ridinh anything.
I heard that we are about to journey over several pilgrims so I had to read the Qur'an, so I can see how people do they duties that Muslims must perform.
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