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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Revival of Nyau and Changing Gender Relations in Early Colonial Central Malawi
Author:Kachapila, HendrinaISNI
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:Malawi
Subjects:secret societies
gender relations
colonial period
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Women's Issues
Cultural Roles
Sex Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27594390.pdf
Abstract:This paper demonstrates how 'nyau' (a male secret society) redefined relations in Chewa matrilineages in central Malawi in accordance with developments that the Chewa witnessed from the mid-nineteenth century. Thanks to 'nyau' and the relatively hands-off approach the colonial State adopted towards its activities, the Chewa matrilineal system survived the effects of the slave trade, Ngoni and Yao invasions, the spread of Christian missionary teachings, the imposition of colonial rule and the development of capitalism. 'Nyau' accomplished this by ensuring that relations between Chewa men and women remained ambivalent and negotiable. Allowing men to ritually gain increased importance in 'nyau' and indeed in Chewa communities at large not only gave power to men but also ensured their continued involvement in the matrilineages. So, while female prestige declined, as evidenced by the debasement of women by 'nyau', some important aspects of the matrilineal system, such as matrilocal marriage, were preserved. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]