Okom, Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké. “African Women and Power: Reflections on the Perils of Unwarranted Cosmopolitanism.” Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies 1:1.
This article explores African women’s positions of power in the pre and post-colonial eras. The author first argues that it is incorrect to describe pre-colonial African women’s roles as “traditional,” as they had been steadily changing for centuries. Not only that, but they varied dramatically from people group to people group. The author focuses on one particular people group, the Yorùbá of Southern Nigeria, to demonstrate the rights and power exercised by women in the capacities of mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, political officials, owners of capital, monarchs, deities and religious leaders. The author shows how women’s anatomical role as child-bearers was a position of honor in pre-colonial Africa. Of particular interest was the rigid power structure within each clan of the Yorùbá people group. Women belonging to the clan actually had authority over men that chose to marry into the clan. Although the clan still operated as a patrimony, being a clan insider trumped sex.
As it relates to Xala, this article gives several real examples of how women in Africa can and do exercise power. In Xala, we saw this in the way El Hadji’s first wife explicitly pointed out her superiority to the second and third wives both to her husband and to the other wives. She could essentially hold her husband’s treatment of the second and third wives in check, and demand respect and submission from the other wives. The author would also argue that many cultural “traditions” claimed by the males in the film were actually much less traditional than they claimed when one examines Africa’s history, which is very interesting.