|Gervas Clay | sitemap | log in|
Extracts from "Economy of the Central Barotse Plain" by Max Gluckman.
Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, 1941
I found that some people knew less than four of these names, perhaps only one, according to the relatives with whom they had contact. A man was called by the chief patrilineal descent-name of the relatives with whom he was living or visiting, and if asked would first give as his descent-name either that of the descent-name of relatives with whom he grew up, or from whom he was getting help, etc, irrespective of the line of descent, whether through father's father or mother, or mother's father or mother. There was however a tendency when people had grown up in the homestead of matrilineal kin for them to be assimilated into the patrilineal line by, e.g. after some time treating their mother's brother as their father in their genealogy, or their mother as a man. This was easy since the same names were given to men and women.
Correlated with these decent-names was a widely extended system of kinship nomenclature, associated with reciprocal duties and rights. In it all cousins were classed with brothers and sisters and marriage was not only not allowed between cross-cousins, as in the neighbouring tribes, but with no-one to whom the _Lozi could trace genealogical relationship, which they could do as far as three or four generations only, owing to the _small size of homestead groups, Beyond that marriage could take place between people with the same descent-names but between whom genealogical relationship could not be traced. Hospitality and help were expected from a person with any of the same descent-names. Under the system of land-exploitation described above it was important for a man to have many "homes", and this is associated with a ban on marriage into any of them.
Moreover, among the Lozi we do not find the common Bantu institutions of levirate and sorrorate. It was a good thing if a widow with children arranged to marry into her dead husband's family where her children were, if she found a willing relative of his, but there was no compulsion on her to do so, and bride-wealth had to be given again for her. Thus too the sister of a dead wife might marry the widower, bride-wealth passing.
However, and here again the Lozi were unusual among Bantu, it was rare for a man to marry the sister of his still-living wife: it was said that they would quarrel far more than unrelated women, and to marry them both would be to spoil their family-group (ku sinya mukowa wa bona). It is true that easy divorce laws might have made difficulties where a man married two sisters. But these Lozi marriage rules, different from those of most Bantu, in my opinion were associated with the idea that it was redundant to be related by two relation ships to one person or group of people and that it were better to create ties with other people through a fresh person. The Lozi saying "mwaboyu ta mwaboyu" (true Lozi: in Kalolo, "wa habo mutu kaewa habo") was often quoted to me: it states that "the relatives of a man's relatives are his relatives." They usually gave as an example: A's father, X, had two wives, a (A's mother) and b (B's mother). X divorced b and she married Y by whom she had C; C was brother to B through b and also to A with whom he had no blood-connection whatever because A was B's half-brother through a common father, X. So too a man was related to the husband of his wife's sister; the two men called each other mufubalume (the same term as used between X and Y above) and a child could find a home with his father's mufubalume.
The unusual marriage bans, and the absence of the levirate and sororate, together with the rule mwaboyu ta mwaboyu (the relatives of a man's relatives are his relatives), increased greatly the number of people with whom a man could trace present genealogical relationship and therefore the number of people with whom he co-operated, exchanged gifts and help, and could settle. Associated with the economic need for a wide system of personal reciprocities And yet the impossibility of there developing a large kinship grouping based on one line of descent, is a kinship system in which all lines of descent were pushed as far as possible and extended by the rules described above, Mounds were the basis of relationship, as of the rest of the social structure, and present relationship with mound-owners of any line, rather than any single line of descent, was one of the main principles of social integration.
Nevertheless the Lozi bias was in favour of the patrilineal line of descent, and I have explained in the introduction that this possibly developed in the Plain. Here too, I suggest that the determining factor was the mounds. Even if the Lozi came to the Plain as a matrilineal people, the importance of mound-ownership necessitated inheritance within the resident group in any line, and gave the sons of dead headmen a chance to succeed them. A mound-owner could favour his sons and keep them with him especially if his wife's parents had no mound, whereas in the Bush matrilineal tribes, ownership of land conferred little authority.
In fact, mound-ownership enabled a man to attract to himself both his sons and uterine relatives. Richards has shown that the Bemba matrilineal system is associated with a matrilineal clan and the gardening services rendered by sons-in-law; no unilateral group was possible among -the Lozi, nor could a man work for one group of relatives only. He had to co-operate with all, and mound-ownership gave headmen a dominant position which they could use to claim their sons.
The princes had no men to carry the fish and men were chosen to do this. When the princes got home the people admired this and the big man of their mother's homestead - not the Ngambela (chief councillor) for there was then no Ngambela - called the people to confer and they decided to have a man as chief instead of a woman. Mbuyamwambwa heard of this by chance and was delighted; her son Mboo became the first chief and she became MaKoshi, mother of the chief, still a powerful position. The man who had proposed the male chieftainship became the first Ngambela (chief councillor). Mboo built a new capital; his mother's homestead, Makono, is where the king must spend a night before he can be crowned. Mboo was succeeded by his brother Inyambo, and since then the Lozi kings have been chosen from their patrilineal male descendants. Under Mboo the Lozi began to conquer outwards.
This tradition suggests several things. First, especially since Mboo was a son of God and not related to Kamumu, the first man, whose cleverness drove God from earth to the heavens, it suggests that the powerful Lozi chieftainship originated in the Plain and subsequently gave them the cohesion to become a conquering people. Second, it describes a change in the Plain from matriliny to patriliny. Third, the origin of male chieftainship is related to a particular form of economic activity in which property rights give rights to claim a share of other people's catch. Fourth, since Lozi chiefs were related to God by both lines of descent (and they still marry their classificatory sisters), while Kamunu the first man was not descended from God, the chieftainship is given a strong religious basis. Fifth, at the time the chieftainship developed, the Lozi were already co-operating with at least one another tribe, the Ndundulu.
It is chiefly relevant to this paper on Lozi economy that the myth reflects the position of the king in the economic organisation - his ownership of many rich land-sites and his tribute and labour rights, all of which arise from the oecological and economic pattern described above. The tradition that royal children are born with cattle horns may indicate that the chief owned most cattle. The problem: why was it the Lozi who became dominant in this region? is worth considering sociologically, though ultimately, for lack of data, it may prove to be non-empirical and incapable of scientific investigation as an historical process. However, in postulating the following argument, I analyse the structural functioning of the kingship, once established.
The economic factors making for the political dominance of the Lozi were of two types: first the internal cohesion they derived from residence in the Plain, and second, the relation of Loziland to the neighbouring regions.
Within the Plain, mounds varied in size and the resources exploited from different mounds varied in richness therefore individual ownership of mounds gave not only power over other people, but also varying degrees of this power to the owners of different mounds. The king and his family owned the most and the biggest mounds, and the richest of other resources, so that they had many immediate dependents. From these resources they got surpluses, which, traded for foreign goods, enabled them to distribute these to other Lozi. These Lozi themselves, in the conditions of varying production by individuals which characterised Plain economy, would get goods from the king and in return give him present i.e. tribute. Thus though the Lozi reached the Plain probably under a small female chief, with weak authority, the chiefly family's power could grow if it obtained possession of many and the largest mounds, since it could strengthen itself by the accretion of kinsmen and strangers who wanted land and goods.