Great Essay About Slave Women in Central Africa

You will study Essay About Slave Women in Central Africa.In the nineteenth century, central and south-central Africa especially experienced unprecedented growth in the slave trade with the Indian Ocean in exchange for increasingly sought-after firearms and Western manufactured products imported by Arab and Swahili traders.

Insecurity caused by slave raids was even greater here than in the Sahel, where Baba of Karo described pillagers attacking women and girls first, with the despoiled husband owing high ransoms for them if he could find them. In the case Baba of Karo describes, the man paid 400,000 cowries for a woman, 400,000 for each of three children, and 400,000 for a child in the womb. Baba does not specify the price paid for the ten slaves taken at the same time or even if they were recovered.’

Prey to aggressive slave trading, people in these areas also began to use slaves much more intensively themselves. Men began taking slave wives. Among the Bcmba of what is now Tanzania and southern Zaire, matrilineal beliefs and low bride-prices explain the relative marital mobility of free women. Early colonial judges’ reluctance to approve the emancipation of women in the region whose “excessive freedoms” had to be repressed is instructive: “recently Chief Mporokoso, after touring his villages, told me that the women of the country were growing out of hand, and that the results were becoming apparent in a decrease in the birthrate.

Great Essay About Slave Women in Central Africa

The character of the Wemba woman must be borne in mind Always notably independent more or less a shrew—and prone to unfaithfulness… .”,0 Using slaves as wives meant stability because the women could not be taken back, since no bride-price had been paid for her. The vagaries of their status caused them to be sold in times of need and made them veritable walking hoes, with each protector getting the most from them every time.

. In such hard times, young men who were uprooted could find other paths open to them. New opportunities for work within the colonial world were theirs. Quite simply, they felt group pressure less because they had the power to found new lineages, albeit inferior ones. Women were denied even that modest freedom; staves or not, they always belonged to someone—their lineage, their husband, or their master.

We see this clearly in the life of Narwimba, who was born in the midnine-teenth century to a family of chiefs. Her noble birth did not spare her the common fate of women from her region. Her life, marked by extremes, began in the normal way of a chief’s daughter. She was married to a man to whom she gave six children, one of whom survived. Widowed when still young, she became the wife of her husband’s nephew Mirambo. Decades later, he became one of the main slave-trading chiefs in the area.

She again had six children, of whom two survived. Mirambo grew less interested in her as she grew older (she was about forty), and she came to be among the captives of a neighboring chief, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her. After making the rounds several times from man to man she was given back to Mirambo without her children, who remained in slavery. As an old, neglected woman, her social status became more and more delicate, and she could only marry her daughter to a slave- She managed with great difficulty to keep her granddaughter from being pawned to Mirambo as compensation for a peasant dispute. In despair, she took refuge in her natal village, where she was

Was Every Woman a Slave?

In practice, the distinction between the duties of a free woman and those of a slave was tenuous—to the point that almost all the first travelers, missionaries, and explorers referred to slaves as male. “True slavery”—servile work and lack of inheritance rights—was a male condition. Deprived of free ancestors, free wives, and children and thus unable to father a lineage, neither the manhood nor the adulthood of male slaves was recognized. They could even be required to perform female tasks such as carrying water. A slave man was an individual made to do a job that a woman would normally do.

There is no clearer way to describe the condition of women, slave or free, at the dawn of colonization.A slave woman’s status was usually defined as domestic.’’ She was more a member of the family or at least more able to become a member because of a certain ambiguity in the different tasks she was called upon to perform. For this reason, her position was far less difficult socially than the male slave’s. Among the Nuer,,J a free man asserted his superiority and independence by keeping a certain distance between his real needs and his role as master of production. For example, he controlled cattle, but women milked them. This allowed him to retain his prestige. Because of their function as providers of foodstuffs, women mediated between a man and his animals, between man and nature, and between a man’s social dignity and his physical needs.

Whatever has been written about them in the past, African women’s condition was hard in the nineteenth century, perhaps even harder than it had been before because of the political and social disturbances inside Africa. In the west, the dwindling Atlantic slave trade led to a glut of slaves, who were then used across the western Sudan by the new conquerors’ armies. These slaves also served there as tools of production in a slave system of cloth weaving and in the forest areas for the harvest of new export products, mainly palm kernels.

A parallel shift occurred in eastern Africa with the Arab and Swahili plantations encouraged by the Zanzibari sultans—clove plantations on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba and sugarcane plantations on the coasts of what arc now Kenya and Tanzania. On the eve of colonial conquest at the turn of the century, slaves probably were at least a quarter of the population of western Africa and even more numerous in eastern and central Africa. There is no doubt that female slaves were numerous if not in the majority, although the earliest Western observers showed little interest in them and traditional African sources remained silent on them. In fact, the trend until very recently has been to minimize the slavery of “domestic captives” in comparison with international slave trading.

As was true of free people in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, Cape white families had far more children than slaves did, according to population studies done using the core of French Huguenots present. It was white families’ custom to marry off girls very young, between fourteen and eighteen, and to use black wet-nurses to feed white ladies’ young; therefore white women did not benefit from this natural form of contraception.

Between 1700 and 1808, the average number of children bom to white women increased from 5.3 to 6.2. Slave fertility was low for many reasons ranging from malnutrition to venereal disease, abortion, and infanticide (probably more common than the historical record indicates). Marriage between slaves was not officially recognized: where two slaves lived together, the woman at best could be called wiifie, which meant simply ‘female.” Thus slaves developed their own ceremonies, which were not recognized by white settlers, especially with the spread of Islam in the nineteenth century. In 1823 the colony began to recognize Christian marriages only, but eight years later, only three “legal” marriages in a population of 35,000 slaves were noted.

This long history of slavery clearly shows why South Africa is the African society in which the various peoples mixed the most, to white nationalists’ great chagrin.

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