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The Effects of Contact with Europeans on the Status of Pondo Women

  • Monica Hunter

The AmaMpondo are a Bantu tribe of the south-eastern group, living in a native reserve on the southern border of Zululand, and speaking a dialect of Xosa. They depend for their subsistence upon cattle farming and hoe culture. They have a typical Bantu ‘cattle complex’, cattle not only being of economic importance, but being a centre of men's interests and emotions and playing a large part in religion and marriage. They live in patrilineal kinship groups imizi (sing, umzi) which are scattered about the country at distances varying from some hundreds of yards to two or three miles. The average umzi now contains four to five adults, but formerly, when danger from man and beast made concentration necessary for defence, it is said that it was common for twenty married men, together with their wives and children, to live together in one umzi. Both chiefs and commoners practise polygyny, and a union is legalized by the passage of cattle from the groom's group to the bride's (ukulobola). Administration was organized on a territorial basis. There was a powerful paramount chief with district chiefs and sub-chiefs under him. Each sub-chief had a court, from which there was the right of appeal to his immediate superior and finally to the paramount. Cutting across the territorial groupings (amabandla) are patrilineal clans, iziduko (sing, isiduko). Iziduko are strictly exogamous, and the sense of difference between them, and oneness within them, is marked by the taboo on drinking milk, or eating sacrificial meat, of a strange isiduko, but the acceptance of either from a member of the same isiduko. Great emphasis is laid on the respect for elders, living and dead. Deceased ancestors, amatongo, are believed to have the power of blessing, or of sending sickness and poverty, and sacrifices of meat and beer are made to them. Besides being sent by ancestral spirits, sickness is thought to be caused by sorcerers, abatakati. Murder by sorcery is regarded as the worst possible crime, and was punished with torture and death. The fear of sorcery is ever present in the minds of AmaMpondo. The most powerful specialists in the society are the diviners, amagqira, who discover sorcery and who also treat sick persons.

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page 263 note 1 Africa, vol. v, no. 4, pp. 404-21.

page 275 note 1 Cape of Good Hope. Dept. of Education. Educational Statistics, 1930.

page 275 note 2 African Yearly Register. Compiled by J. D. Mweli Skota.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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