Learning through practise: Cheŵa women’s roles and the use of rock art in passing on cultural knowledge

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Abstract

Stereotypes that confine women’s roles to duties within the domestic sphere, such as food preparation and child care, have been challenged in the last 40 years by the introduction of gender as an analytical tool. To advance knowledge of the range of female activities and capabilities, I explore the role of Indigenous women in the creation and use of rock art for girls’ initiation ceremonies in south-centralAfrica. Rock paintings are no longer employed during these ceremonies. Instead, objects created for this occasion are used to pass on specific knowledge. I find that the analysis of the actions behind the production of ritual objects in present-day girls’ rites of passage provides a common ground to understand the past uses of rock paintings. Rock art served as visual prompts to convey intergenerational cultural knowledge exclusive to women participation and use. Some aspects of the ceremony are restricted to initiates and only permitted material is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume43
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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women's role
Rocks
art
Painting
child care
ritual
learning
stereotype
religious behavior
food
participation
present
gender
Rock Art
Cultural Knowledge
Ceremony
Rock Painting

Cite this

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title = "Learning through practise: Cheŵa women’s roles and the use of rock art in passing on cultural knowledge",
abstract = "Stereotypes that confine women’s roles to duties within the domestic sphere, such as food preparation and child care, have been challenged in the last 40 years by the introduction of gender as an analytical tool. To advance knowledge of the range of female activities and capabilities, I explore the role of Indigenous women in the creation and use of rock art for girls’ initiation ceremonies in south-centralAfrica. Rock paintings are no longer employed during these ceremonies. Instead, objects created for this occasion are used to pass on specific knowledge. I find that the analysis of the actions behind the production of ritual objects in present-day girls’ rites of passage provides a common ground to understand the past uses of rock paintings. Rock art served as visual prompts to convey intergenerational cultural knowledge exclusive to women participation and use. Some aspects of the ceremony are restricted to initiates and only permitted material is discussed.",
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