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Introduction: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Based on a True Story: Women's Life-Storytelling as Memory, Oral Tradition, and History

We're stuffed with famous men's lives; soft with the habits of our own. The quest to discover another's psyche, to absorb another's motives as deeply as your own, is a lover's quest. But the search for facts, for places, names, influential events, important conversations and correspondences, political circumstances—all this amounts to nothing if you can't find the assumption your subject lives by.

—Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

One day, when you have time, we'll talk, and I'll tell you the story of my life. Because there are people here who might tell you lies about me, and if you want to know the truth you must hear it from my mouth.

—Rosalina Malungana, Facazisse

Ungahleki xikoxa.
Do not laugh at the old woman.

—H. P. Junod, The Wisdom of the Tsonga–Shangana People



RosalinaToward the end of Anne Michaels's novel Fugitive Pieces, the character Ben is thinking about his father, who escaped from a Nazi internment camp before Ben was born and whose everyday adult life remains a monument to that harrowing passage. Ben is remembering being scolded as a child by his father for throwing away a rotten apple—"You throw away food?" When I read those words for the first time my grandmother, my father's mother, was suddenly in the room with me, a stooped old woman poking her finger into someone's throwaway chicken bones, chewing hurriedly on them when she thought no one was looking, her hands shaking, unable to let those bones lie. But this ghostly image was quickly surrounded by the other memories I have of her—the times when she tried to tell me her stories and I was too obstinate to listen; when she would talk endlessly on the phone in hushed, velvety Russian so all I could do was imagine the secret other life she led, I felt, behind our backs; when I would ask my father later on to repeat his mother's stories and some of his details would be vague (details not being the point anyway); when I saw her for the last time in her hospital bed in Windsor, Ontario, and she whispered "Go away," not knowing how inept I felt at that bedside, finally wanting to hear more and then the last thing she ever says to me, "Go away." She died, Jean (once Johanna) Sudermann, when was it—sometime in early 1993? Even this date is uncertain for me, although I have written it down somewhere, and I remember the drive from Minneapolis to Windsor, and the funeral with cousins and aunts and uncles suddenly restored, vividly enough.


Like my father, I remain vague about many of the facts of my grandmother's life. Yet the images from her stories—the ones I have clung to, though I tried so hard to stay aloof through their telling—have "branded" me, as Michaels would put it, and sent up "sharp green shoots" 1 of their own: the tales of servants and splendor, of a father's violent death at the hands of Bolsheviks in Berdiansk (south Russia), recalled not as a loss but as a turning point, a condition of exile, the beginning of a transatlantic adventure that ended up in Windsor, of all places. Here my grandmother eventually met my grandfather, an exile himself: two penniless immigrants driven by violence to an unwelcoming new world. My father and his elder brother and sister still explain their present lives in part by sorting fragments of this remembered past, in which they figure as children with overeducated parents and underclass lives (not to mention German names) before and during the Second World War. The story, as they tell it, is a parable of hardship and triumph, of persecution endured and (painfully, with sacrifice and suffering) overcome. When I knew her, my grandmother's life was ruled by the belief that no circumstance, no politics could take away her birthright, her essential betterness than everyone else. Even her stories of endless suppers of boiled potatoes or flour dumplings, of sending her children to school in cardboard-soled shoes, of being scorned by lowly Jews and Catholics in that working-class border town, were offered as evidence tempering the steel core of her aristocratic inner self. I remember hating those stories, yet feeling bound to (or by) them at the same time, just as now I feel bound to retell them, not as an ethnographic confession 2 but as an illustration of Michaels' point about the relationship between biography and history—and as a way of acknowledging, before I present the life stories Magude's women told me, the assumptions about old women's storytelling I carried with me to Mozambique.

Looking back, I think my grandmother's death had as much to do with how I approached women in Magude as their tellings of their lives had to do with the state of their world when our interviews took place. Still feeling remorseful about the history I had squandered during my grandmother's lifetime, momentarily forgetting all I had read about the historicity of memory itself, I fussed at first over what I perceived as gaps and inconsistencies in women's recollections, determined to record their pasts as they understood them yet at the same time concerned (without realizing the irony) that these stories meet certain positivist standards of history. I was convinced that women who had lived through the better part of Magude's twentieth century would narrate memories that would both capsize the sturdy ship of southern Mozambique's historiographic orthodoxy and offer a compelling counternarrative—counter but still analogous in kind to the master narrative I knew from academic texts. I therefore listened to Magude's "old women" with an intensity that must have seemed strange to Aida and Ruti, who sometimes had trouble concealing their impatience with women they thought of as grandmothers, versions of whose stories they had heard many times before. As an audience, fortunately, we developed a corporate identity within which the more extreme edges of our respective autobiographies were blunted and balanced out, transforming us into a harmless trio of young(ish) women with endless amounts of free time for listening to elderly women reminisce about their pasts. And though we may have appeared odd to many people in the communities we visited, our priorities made perfect sense to the women themselves. For as we became a more familiar feature of the precarious postwar landscape, these women made it clear that there were things they wanted and needed to tell us. "Say, say, what you want!" Valentina Chauke urged us suddenly one day. "If you have questions, ask me! I won't hide my mahanyelo [way of life] from you, because you are my granddaughters." 3

In the act of claiming this fictive bond, Valentina was reminding us of the limits—defined by gender, generation, and kinship—not only on what we were permitted to ask about her past but also on what she would admit to remembering in our presence. Yet she was also articulating, if obliquely, the importance of life-storytelling as history for women her age, especially in the circumstances under which they came to know me: after the war but not quite into the peace, not quite home, not quite sure what the coming years or months would bring them. The stories these women told about their pasts were, to a great extent, stories they had already told (or wished to tell) to their biological daughters and granddaughters, stories whose form and function they had learned by listening to the life-storytelling of generations of women before them. Driven, however, by a heightened sense of urgency in the wake of the war, and looking back on more than a century of changes they insist they did nothing to bring about, these women saw themselves at a critical juncture when memories of life before the "scattering," the series of upheavals associated with kululeko (independence) and the Renamo war, were the precious foundation on which the postwar world would be rebuilt. Change, then, was not the moral of their story. Instead, the purpose of women's life-storytelling, and the driving force behind their memories of the past, was continuity: keeping the world the same, or at least returning it to the way it used to be.

Yet in narratives of continuity and persistence, of lives lived allegedly in humble deference to the laws of long ago, Magude's elderly women also voiced evidence of innovation and relentless agency—of adaptations, negotiations, and challenges that showed their refusal to let change simply happen to them; change had to be something they at least helped to bring about. Memory, of course, can be an ornery, vengeful companion. My grandmother, for example, for all her claims to upper-classness, could not keep herself from those chicken bones, because she remembered, in spite of herself, the hunger of the uprooted life that came afterward. But such apparent contradictions—the discrepancy between the self my grandmother conjured up through her stories and the self I witnessed, like the discrepancies within the life stories of Magude's women (and between the stories they tell about themselves and the stories others tell about them)—does not make women's self-narrated lives any less historical or any less true. Nor, I would argue, does it make them mythical, as some Western oral historians, trying to understand tensions they identify in oral sources between objective and subjective experience, have come to view self-told accounts of individual lives: as memory's strategy, through narrative, for reconciling or making sense of the contradictions between what really happened to the teller and what his or her society dictates should have happened, what that person's experience ought to have been. 4 Where women's life stories in particular are concerned, mythical elements are sometimes said to reflect women's efforts "both to conform to and oppose the conditions that limit their freedom," because "part of what it means to be 'womanly' is to submit to a social system which often does not uphold women's interests." 5 But no one is master of her memory, and life stories are about more than gaining interpretive control over real experience. Life stories are memories that selves make, but they are also truths that situated subjects cannot help but express, truths that are voiced through the cultural and cognitive resources available to their authors and the myriad discourses, interactions, and material conditions in which those individuals have taken (and are constantly taking) part. Life stories, then, are not only no more partial than any other type of historical account; they are also, and more powerfully, constitutive of a complete "social world" 6—a true history—in themselves.

Life-Storytelling: Memory, Oral Tradition, History


To appreciate the historical meanings of women's life stories, however, we must first understand their status and function as a narrative genre—or, following Elizabeth Tonkin, as a "[convention] of discourse through which speakers tell history and listeners understand them." In Magude, life-storytelling is a feminine form of oral tradition, a narrativized interpretation of the past—a way of "doing history"—that is governed by gendered rules and expectations of authority, audience, language, occasion, and objective. 7 Women's life stories should be told, or are told to greatest effect, by the eldest women in a community, referred to in Shangaan (in the singular) as xikoxana or nsungukati. Although generally these terms are applied only to postmenopausal women, and masungukati in particular are described as women who have become "like men" and no longer "worry about" sex, reproductive or sexual status is not always the defining criterion for inclusion in this category. Rather, it is a woman's advanced age and vutlhari (wisdom), measured in terms of the quantity of her experience (what she has "seen") and her knowledge of the mahanyelo (customs) and milawu (laws) of khale (long ago), that give her the authority to share personal recollections.

This authority, however, is restricted to certain settings, typically feminine social spaces—the xitiko (cooking area), the swept yard in the middle of the homestead (ndyangu), the interior of women's huts (in locative form, ndlwini), the ndzhuti (shade) of a large tree at home or in the fields—where women of varying ages gather on an informal, everyday basis and where female voices command at least as much respect and attention as male ones, sometimes more. Aimed explicitly at unmarried young women and children, the stories old women tell about their pasts are prescriptive models intended to teach their audience how to live well (kuhanya—i.e., to live in good health) and how to avoid "suffering" (kuhlupeka or kuvaviseka). This ideal links social and physical well-being 8 and lays especially heavy stress on the need for listeners to behave with xichavo (respect), striving throughout their lives to fulfill society's expectations of them. Where young women and girls in particular are concerned, this narrative counsel focuses on their future duties as wives and mothers, drawing stories from the elder women's knowledge and experience and using them for the purposes of kulaya: instructing listeners in the rules of proper behavior. Women must follow these rules if they are not to suffer in their marital household—and if they are not to endanger the vutomi (life or health) of the tiko (land/country).

Yet women's life-storytelling accomplishes a good deal more than socializing girls into gender roles defined by domestic service and wifely obedience within patrilineal marriage. 9 First, in addition to conventions of authority and audience, women's life stories share certain properties of structure, content, and style—common plots and lessons, stock characters, patterns of language and performance—that reveal their generic role as a learned template for transmitting history, women's interpretation of their pasts, from one generation to another. Many of these properties bear a strong resemblance to those of women's minkaringana (fictional tales), and in fact women often use the term minkaringana for stories they tell about their "real" pasts. This fact both highlights the constructed, imaginative quality of women's life stories and compels us to ask why they prefer this narrative form of remembering, what they can convey through it more effectively than through another. As the stories in this chapter illustrate, elements of narrative style themselves express truths about the past. For example, a teller's choice of subject pronoun in accounts of events in which she took part (we or I, the didactic you) speaks to the meaning of her actions vis-à-vis social norms, the possibilities for individual agency, and the relational networks in which her actions were embedded. The use of present-tense verbs to narrate memories of long ago, the extensive reliance on dialogue (allegedly recalled verbatim, even when the storyteller did not witness the conversation), and the use of analogies from the present to explain something from the past—these stylistic choices create the impression that the narrator is describing scenes that are still very much part of everyday life but in which she may be both actor and omniscient observer, central to the outcome and the accepted meaning of remembered events. 10

Second, when the content of women's life stories is examined closely, it becomes clear that narrators are not merely seeking to teach listeners a timeless notion of conjugal respect. These stories contain a diverse cast of female characters, including but ranging far beyond dutiful wife, mother, subsistence farmer, domestic "beast of burden," and the other usual stereotypes for women in rural southern Africa. 11 The array of selves portrayed in one woman's collection of narratives is as manifold and varied as her collection of personal names, and it presents the young women in her audience with a pluralistic model for living well according to the needs and opportunities of their particular circumstances. Most importantly, this narrative model locates women's historical identity within multiple, female-centered affective communities in which both the rules women must follow and the avenues available for cushioning, circumventing, or defying those rules are mediated, in everyday practice, primarily by other women. Yet if women's life stories reflect their responsibility for individual and collective well-being, ultimately their behavior is held accountable to no higher authority than the impulses of their mbilu (heart). At the same time, the source of historical legitimacy for a woman's narrated actions is often a female character from the same cohort as she—one of the wise swikoxana who preserve and hand down the laws of the ancestors and whose teachings define what a woman's heart will allow.

In other words, if older women through their life stories construct past experience with an eye to shaping the present and future of younger women, the gendered history set forth in these stories is one in which female hierarchies and affiliations, knowledge and power occupy central stage. The interest of their listeners—their interest in avoiding "suffering"—is presumed to lie in their reproducing precisely this aspect of the world of their foremothers. While this message is obviously intended to enhance the authority of elderly women in the present, it has broader significance for what it suggests about the relationship between gender and historical memory: What is (or should be) constant in women's lives—what, of the past, women must be sure to remember—is respect for the feminine attachments on which their survival and influence are based, given their role as custodians of the life and health of rural society.

As in the naming narratives of chapter 2, women in their life stories show relatively little interest in the sequential chronology of events, preferring instead to tell anecdotal, episodic stories either set in the timeless past of long ago or skipping back and forth across time according to a different (nontemporal) pattern of mnemonic association. Nor do these narratives show much concern with establishing specific geographic locations for recounted experience or even for the proper names of characters whose actions they describe. As the interview transcripts plainly show, I was initially far more intent on establishing the exact when, where, and who of women's life stories than were either the interviewees or Aida and Ruti. In the texts presented in this chapter, it is that type of detail that accounts for the vast majority of bracketed amendments to women's words. Women focused the weight of their narrative attention instead on situating themselves (along with legions of supplementary characters) within kinship networks rooted in their collective experience on the land. My efforts to pin down factual details of time or place typically drew a dismissive response—"Who knows when!" "Who knows where!"

Just as striking as the patterns in what women remember and narrate of their pasts is how women understand and "do history" through life-storytelling. Generally unconcerned with dates, Magude's elderly women sort experience according to a temporality that is calibrated in terms of female life-stages, climatic and agricultural seasons, and crises of agrarian survival—famines, floods, illness, natural and supernatural threats to community well-being. Casual and frequently uncertain about anchoring episodes in their memories to named points on official maps, these women chart their experience in space according to ka mani (whose place) provides the setting for remembered events, and they plot their narratives in generic sites such as the muti or kaya (home), nsimu (cultivated field), combe (river), ndlela (footpath), khwati (woods), and in the less public places where the dramas of birth, illness, healing, and death are played out. Indeed, what women stress most consistently in their life stories is not when or where but with whom things have happened, and how the characters in a narrative are related to one another and/or to kinship networks beyond the storyteller's own.

Moreover, the experiential trajectories of the individuals accompanying the teller in any given story seem to matter just as much as what happens to the teller herself. A woman's account of a particular episode in her own life will be interrupted with the appearance of every new character, at which point she will offer a brief narrative of that person's life as well: "Lucia, she married so-and-so. She's the mother of that woman, you know, who married so-and-so. They're living in Motaze now. She's well now, but she was sick last year." The effect of such moves is to make the subject of women's life-storytelling less the heroic, ego-centered achievements of one individual than the collective experiences of a number of women, the affective community through which a particular woman has been able to balance her responsibility for the life and health of the community against the private, often contrary assertions of her heart. A woman's life stories, in other words, are concerned less with "what I have done, what has happened to me," than with how, with whom, and under what circumstances she has successfully sustained "life," as in bodily and emotional well-being—her own but also that of past and present kinfolk, friends, and fellow residents of her tiko. It is this theme more than any other that distinguishes and cements women's life-storytelling as a narrative form of historical remembering, one that documents and explains the past in no more (and no less) partial a manner than the written evidence examined in chapter 1.

The Women


In this chapter, I present a selection of life stories told to me, Aida, and Ruti by Rosalina Malungana, Albertina Tiwana, and Valentina Chauke, three women in Facazisse I was able to get to know especially well. To a great extent these women were self-chosen as interview subjects. Through their regular invitations for us to "visit" (kupfuxela) and their storing up of recollections that occurred to them between sessions, they indicated their eagerness to "talk" (kubula). Their enthusiasm sprang, I think, from two related sources: their sense of personal solititude, which after the war was greater than any they had experienced before, and their shared concern about the deplorable state of the postwar world, particularly about the lack of respect that young women had for the teachings of their elders. Although of the three only Valentina had biological children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of her own, all were, in keeping with Shangaan kinship rules, considered mamana (mother) or kokwana (grandmother) by a wide circle of younger women for whose education in correct living they felt partially responsible.

Yet in all the time I spent with them I can remember barely a handful of occasions when I witnessed or heard of these women sitting down to speak to daughters or granddaughters as they spoke to us, as solemn authorities on the lifeways of the past, "teachers" (in the pointed words of Cufassane Munisse) in the now empty classrooms of the "school of long ago." Perhaps the most telling commentary of all came at the end of our first interview with Valentina, when after I apologized for stealing so much of her time she laughed and said, "Oh! It's not hunger! I'm happy, because today I've grown fat. I've grown fat from talking! When you go home, I'll just sit here, eee [slumps her shoulders, crosses her wrists in her lap]." 12 What made these words especially poignant is that Valentina had spent much of the previous two hours recounting how visiting, talking, and food exchange among girls in her childhood—and between women and valungu 13 merchants during the colonial period—had made maxaka (relatives) out of strangers and contributed to a "healthy" life. She explained how the refusal of children to listen or give food to their grandmothers was symptomatic of the un-wellness of the postwar present. Visiting, eating, talking, and kinship—Valentina was not alone in implying that these cornerstones of well-being were all, literally or metaphorically, enfolded in women's life-storytelling. Nor was she alone in portraying as a kind of bodily impoverishment a woman's inability to speak her knowledge of the past. As the saying goes, Xaka ra munhu i nomu (a person's relative is her mouth), 14 and to live without "mouth" (i.e., talk or speech) is to experience the worst kind of kinless solitude of all.

Yet not all solitary "old women" were equally enthusiastic about being interviewed. Nor were elderly women who were surrounded by kinfolk necessarily less interested in talking to us. The attitude of one of my two closest neighbors, Juliana Kwinika, offers perhaps the best illustration of the circumstances that made a woman more or less likely to feel that her life stories contained knowledge or history that we needed to hear. Homebound by a broken hip that had mended badly the previous year, a retired nurse whose tentative efforts to obtain her pension were easily defeated by an unsympathetic (and bribe-hungry) district bureaucracy, a widowed junior wife whose children were either dead or for various reasons unable to support her, Juliana was without doubt the most isolated and destitute xikoxana I knew in all of Magude. I probably spent more time with her than with any other woman. She was the first person I greeted every morning and the last person I spoke with at the end of every day. We suffered through scorching summer afternoons under the same patch of shade. Together we watched the horizon for signs of rain, huddled through thunderstorms, planted corn in the tiny field behind her hut and monitored its daily growth, raging at the schoolchildren, herdboys, and swintlewana (polecats) who threatened her meager food supply.

During the countless hours I spent with her, Juliana "taught" me (as she laughingly called it) on every subject from farming to marriage laws to animal behavior, yet when we sat down with a tape recorder, she either giggled or mocked me as I tried to ask her about her life, insisting that she didn't know anything worth telling because "my mother died when I was very small, I didn't see my grandmothers—who could make me know these things?" 15 When it came to life-storytelling, in other words, Juliana was crippled by narrative uncertainty because of the absence, in her experience, of the key relationships within which this form of remembering is customarily practiced. While every woman we interviewed was capable of speaking in an interesting and informative way about her past, Juliana exemplifies how authoritative historical knowledge among women is embedded within feminine relational networks to which all women do not have equal (or unchanging) access. In the end, I selected Rosalina, Albertina, and Valentina for this chapter partly because they are "good storytellers," but ultimately because they consented to speak for long enough with my tape recorder switched on that I began to understand both the unique complexities of each woman's life and the many ways in which their experiences resonate with the life stories I heard from other women in Magude.

Just as in chapter 2, where I argued that women's historical identities could not be captured in a single name, the narratives in this chapter are organized in a way that I hope reflects how women used life-storytelling to construct historical notions of a female self not as a fixed, isolated subject who always occupies center stage in remembered events, but rather as a composite personality tied into and constantly moving among a number of intertwined relational networks. Preceding the stories of each woman is a brief introduction in which I explain our relationship and identify some prominent themes in her narrated life. Each woman's stories are presented in roughly chronological order. They begin with tales of grandmothers and mothers, which provide glimpses into the experiences of rural women in the Magude area between circa 1880 and the 1930s. Next are stories about girlhood, a time of life these three women, like all interviewees, recalled with enormous pleasure and energetic detail. A mutsongwana (child) becomes a ntombi or nhwanyana (girl) as soon as her breasts begin to develop, and it is when she is a ntombi yikulu (big girl) that she is ready to marry. For women of this generation, marriage typically occurred between the ages of 20 and 25.

Although the girlhood stories of these women cover a relatively small portion of their histories in temporal terms (circa 1910-35), the large amount of time Rosalina, Albertina and Valentina devoted to these stories—and the distinct narrative qualities they displayed—warrants that they be given comparable weight in this chapter. I also present girlhood stories somewhat differently from the others. Instead of combining each woman's many stories about this period of her life, I have clustered the narratives according to the themes that dominated girlhood recollections across the entire group of interviewees: work, schooling, travel, trade, dancing, and courtship. Elderly women represented their girlhood as a timeless era in which, while they may have had to work very hard, they also had endless opportunities to play, fight, learn, and visit. They described these activities and the multiple identities they inscribed in remarkably similar ways from one end of Magude district to another.

Stories of courtship mark the critical transition out of girlhood into adult (married) life, and so conclude this section. From this point on it is more difficult to separate the stories thematically, for in their recollections of adulthood women's narrative identities narrow and merge, to a certain extent, around a core self defined by their roles as wife, kinswoman, worker, caregiver and spiritual actor. These stories also convey a sense (largely absent from stories of girlhood) of the passage of time, a much wider and complexly interrelated cast of characters, and a sequencing of episodes, plotted in space and affective community, through which women's life trajectories become both more individualized and more interdependent as they move into old age. In the conclusion, I discuss the overarching themes, narrative meanings, and historical implications of Rosalina's, Albertina's, and Valentina's life stories, in the context of stories we recorded among their peers all over Magude district. My purpose here is to demonstrate that however exceptional or idiosyncratic these three women may appear, their accounts speak from and to a gendered historical consciousness that women of their generation broadly share—a memory of their place in history that is both the product of an indigenous epistemology and a powerful feminine critique of androcentric stories of their past.

Introduction: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces (New York: Knopf, 1997), 218.  Back.

Note 2: Cf. Kamala Visweswaran, "Defining Feminist Ethnography," in Fictions of Feminist Ethnography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 21-30.  Back.

Note 3: Interview with Valentina Chauke, 24 February 1996, Facazisse.  Back.

Note 4: See, for example, Ralph Samuel and Paul Thompson, eds., introduction, The Myths We Live By (London: Routledge, 1990).  Back.

Note 5: Alexander Freund and Laura Quilici, "Exploring Myths in Women's Narratives: Italian and German Immigrant Women in Vancouver, 1947-1961," BC Studies 105-6 (1995): 179. See also Kathryn Anderson, Susan Armitage, Dana Jack, and Judith Wittner, "Beginning Where We Are: Feminist Methodology in Oral History," The Oral History Review 15 (1987). For a more penetrating study of the relationship between "mythical" narratives and women's life stories, see Julie Cruikshank, Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990).  Back.

Note 6: Ruth Behar, critiquing much of the literature on women's life histories, suggests the following: "Even as they occupy the role of central protagonists in their own life history narratives, women tend to be cast as Adamic fragments, part-people and part-societies, with limited and slanted views of their world. Certainly we need to go beyond this view of women's social action as supplementary, as reacting against a male world, rather than as creatively constructing a complete social world." See Ruth Behar, "Rage and Redemption: Reading the Life Story of a Mexican Marketing Woman," Feminist Studies 16, no. 1 (1990): 229.  Back.

Note 7: I am drawing here on Narrating Our Pasts: The Social Construction of Oral History, by Elizabeth Tonkin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 2-3.  Back.

Note 8: Women used kuhlupeka and kuvaviseka interchangeably to talk about suffering. But kuvaviseka conveys more fully the sense that a person's physical welfare depends on the quality of his or her behavior in society. This Shangaan term comes from the verb kuvava, meaning to feel hurt, to be sore or painful in body and/or spirit. Kuhlupheka, on the other hand, is of Zulu origin, derived from the root -hlupha, meaning worry or trouble. There is a separate word in Zulu (-hlungu) to denote physical pain.  Back.

Note 9: Much writing on rural women in Africa has portrayed female responsibility for the socialization of children as a key site for the reproduction of oppressive gender ideologies and patriarchal institutions. See, for example, Elizabeth Schmidt, Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870-1939 (London: J. Currey, 1992). For important exceptions, see Barbara Cooper, Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger, 1900-1989 (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1989), and Lila Abu-Lughod, Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).  Back.

Note 10: Cf. Alessandro Portelli, "The Time of My Life: Functions of Time in Oral Narrative," in The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991).  Back.

Note 11: For an overview of this literature, see Iris Berger, "'Beasts of Burden' Revisited: Interpretations of Women and Gender in Southern African Societies," in Paths Toward the Past: African Historical Essays in Honor of Jan Vansina, ed. Robert W. Harms, Joseph C. Miller, and David S. Newbury (Atlanta: African Studies Association, 1994).  Back.

Note 12: Interview with Valentina Chauke, 27 June 1995, Facazisse.  Back.

Note 13: The term mulungu (plural, valungu) technically means a person of European descent. However, people in Magude also used it to refer to all non-Africans with light skin, including South Asian (or Banyan) traders. According to Patrick Harries, these were usually "Portuguese Indians from Goa, Diu, and Damão . . . [who] were generically called 'Banians [the name for the Hindu trading caste],' although [they were] often Muslim or Christian." Banyan merchants played a critical role in the precolonial ivory trade in Mozambique and in the spread of colonial commerce throughout the southern Mozambican countryside. See Patrick Harries, Work, Culture, and Identity: Migrant Laborers in Mozambique and South Africa, c. 1860-1910 (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1994), 14 and passim.  Back.

Note 14: Henri P. Junod, The Wisdom of the Tsonga-Shangana People, 3d ed. (Braamfontein: Sasavona, 1990), 241.  Back.

Note 15: Juliana was orphaned as a child and raised by the nuns at the Catholic São Jerónimo Mission in Magude town.  Back.


Binding Memories: Women as Makers and Tellers of History in Magude, Mozambique