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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Female over Male of Left over Right: Solving a Classificatory Puzzle among the OvaHimba
Author:Crandall, David P.
Year:1996
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Volume:66
Issue:3
Pages:327-348
Language:English
Geographic term:Namibia
Subjects:cognition
symbols
Himba
rituals
ritual objects
Women's Issues
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1160956
Abstract:This article presents a structural-symbolic analysis of the Himba sacred ancestral fire ('okuruwo'). It puts forward a resolution to a curious circumstance, namely, why the left, and not the right, appears to be preeminent among the Himba, a Herero-speaking people dwelling in two adjoining provinces of Angola and Namibia. Himba arrange gendered, domestic and ritual space, their own bodies in ritual contexts and, to an extent, time, strongly in favour of the left. The fact that in their language 'left' connotes weakness while 'right' connotes strength adds to the puzzle. The author argues that, to understand this apparent contradiction of the near-universal classificatory ascendancy of right over left, one must assess the Himba dual symbolic system while drawing upon the principle of symbolic parallax which allows a single referent, in this case the sacred ancestral fire, to be viewed from differing spatial perspectives. By following this procedure the puzzle is resolved, as the human direction from which the primary referent is viewed is merely the mirror image of a transcendant view. The article is based on the author's fieldwork among the Himba of Kaokoland, Namibia. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.
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