In 1965, the first national election in Lesotho was held. The Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) was narrowly defeated by the Basotho National Party (BNP) and as such, became the main opposition political party. Perceived ideological differences between the two parties were subsumed by fights over control over state resources and local institutions. Parliamentary democracy based on debate and compromise on legislation, instead became a venue for the ruling BNP to centralise its power over its main rival. The BCP responded with polemical attacks as they realised that they possessed little power to shape policy. The BCP then attempted a brief alliance with the constitutional monarch, Moshoeshoe II, which resulted in political violence and restrictions placed upon the king. Ultimately, it was the BNP’s reaction to the BCP which contributed to the authoritarian actions initiated by the ruling party in abrogating power from the opposition.
keywords: opposition politics, Lesotho, elections, violence
In Angolan Portuguese, the word xinguilamento refers to possession by the ancestral Ilundu spirits whose manifestation is exhibited through dance. This paper examines the xinguilamento dance practiced at ritual offerings to the sea in Luanda (Angola’s capital), which are often ordered by public entities. Expanding upon the ambiguity of the word xinguilamento – which both refers to the spirit possession and to its imitation – the paper suggests that even the imitations respect some key aspects that insure ritual efficacy, rather than arguing about a distinction between these two kinds of actions. The ethnography of these offerings will indeed be a pretext to presenting a local theory that possession is less defined as a state of altered consciousness than as a potentiality inherent to genealogy. This genealogic potentiality also explains the political efficacy of the offerings themselves.
keywords: Angola, spirit possession, performance, heritage, personhood
Land ownership in southern Benin in the 18th and 19th century is often considered an exclusive prerogative of the king. However, religious and political dimensions of land control are strictly intertwined and show us a more fragmented reality than what ancient sources describe. Vodun deities were used both as a way to justify control over the soil and as markers in urban space. The arrival of missionaries and colonisers in Porto-Novo fitted consequently into a system where land ownership was more articulated from what is generally claimed. They finally relied on the royal figure to introduce themselves into this context and justify their settlement.
keywords: porto-novo, landownership, vodun, urban history, foundation myths
Kutuku: Anthropological Insights into the Nzema Gin
Based on fieldwork in south-western Ghana, this paper provides new perspectives on the contemporary socio-economic role of kutuku, a “gin” distilled from palm or raffia wine. It seeks to update and supplement the numerous historical studies which have focused on the liquor policy of the British Gold Coast (Ghana since 1957), and which have demonstrated the importance of alcohol during the struggles for independence. Kutuku is here analysed in its trading organization, one that is based on the systemic involvement of women in the role of intermediaries, and in its applications to the medical-therapeutic sphere through the mediation of local priests and priestesses and healers. The final section examines the future of the kutuku business through the eyes of distillers. It argues that the ongoing industrialization of this “gin” does not have only detrimental effects, but that it also presents new and unforeseen potentialities.
keywords: gin, market women, libation, healing, industrialization.
This article locates the deep roots of the contemporary “invisibility” of domestic workers in the transition from slavery to wage labour in the Gold Coast. An understanding of the present-day condition of domestic workers requires an examination of the legacy of slavery, especially what came eventually to be called “domestic slavery”. The ambiguities in defining domestic slavery and the claim of its supposedly benevolent nature contributed to the silence behind which exploitation has been hidden and forgotten. In this article, I focus on the absences, the unsaid and the women’s invisibility.
keywords: domestic worker, slavery, women, gold coast