Warding Off Danger:Protective Power of the Vulva

The Igbo novelist T. Obinkaram Echewa places his story-telling grandmother Nne-nne at the center in a fictionalized account of the Women's War. As a reviewer explains, “her stories all concern ‘oho Ndom, the Solidarity of Women’ and focus on the 1929 Women’s war against British colonialism. …Though many will pay with their lives, the women are the ones who possess the real “Ebube, the aura of power.” [I Saw the Sky Catch Fire  T. Obinkaram Echewa, 1992, in Magill Book Reviews. http://www.enotes.com/saw-sky-catch-fire-salem/saw-sky-catch-fire]

Ecravos, Niger delta region, 2002:
Nigerian women agree to end peaceful siege of oil facility. Jet magazine, August 5, 2002:

"Female protesters sing and dance on the docks at the ChevronTexaco oil facility in Escravos, Nigeria, after they heard news that the oil company will hire 25 villagers and construct schools, electrical and water systems for nearby communities. The peaceful, all-women protest was a first in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where bands of young men frequently resort to violence to demand jobs. About 600 unarmed, 30- to 90-year-old women recently took over the Escravos facility for eight days, demanding the oil giant to hire their sons and develop their impoverished communities. The women blocked exit routes from the river- and swamp-surrounded facility and trapped 700 American, Canadian, British and Nigerian workers inside-which halted the facility's oil exports.

"The women eventually allowed 200 workers to leave as an act of good faith. Representatives for the women said they would wait until the verbal agreement with ChevronTexaco was put in writing and signed before withdrawing from the Escravos facility. ChevronTexaco officials hoped to finalize the deal at JET press time. Oil-site takeovers are common in Nigeria, the world's sixth-largest exporter of oil, and the fifth-largest supplier to the U.S."

More on the social power of the Diola women’s religious group Usana:
"The moral strength which many Ziguinchorois granted to the women was such that rumours sprung up about a spell they cast on the daughter of a major official who supposedly died in Dakar, shortly after the events. The interviewees could not however agree over whose daughter had died --the governor's or the headmaster's. But it was not the details that mattered in this story; the point of the rumour was to demonstrate rhetorically the strength of the Usana; the morale of the story was its only point, and the morale was that there was no impunity from the women; no official, however high-ranking, could be safe from the women's magical revenge".
Foucher Vincent, Cheated Pilgrims : Education, Migration and the Birth of Casamançais Nationalism (Senegal). Dissertation, London, SOAS, 2002, pp 276-7.). This was one of the first events in the protests in Casamance in the late 1970s.

The power of female genitals infuses a woman's skirt-cloth, especially the ritual cloths of birth and womanhood initiations, but also her everyday wrapper. Mande people say that this female nyama has a stronger power than any ritual object. Men swear oaths by their mother's nyama. A woman who removes her cloth and shows her body to a man who insults or harms her has effectively placed a social ban on him, "unless he begs forgiveness and persuades the offended woman to revoke her oath." This power is considered to be especially strong for old women and those descended from slaves. [Conrad, David, pp 212-13, quoting Brett-Smith, The Making of Bamana Sculpture: Creativity and Gender, 1994]

rough wooden carving of a woman holding open her vulvaNepal
Just as sheila-na-gigs often appear in doorways, vulva-baring statues are commonly found at bridges and city walls, sometimes with male counterparts. They function as protectors at boundary spaces. At left, a sculpture at Magar Bridge in Nepal. The Akka in southeast Asia place female and male sculptures outside their villages.

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