Talk CISA – Spirit possession as historical consciousness in Nampula city, Northern Mozambique by D. Trentini

Centre for Indian Studies in Africa

Spirit possession as historical consciousness in Nampula city, Northern Mozambique

Dr Daria Trentini

Anthropology Department: Wits University

The paper analyses the spirit encounters (Majini) occurring in the city of Nampula, northern Mozambique. A  number of local women are possessed by two sets of spirits forcing them to become spirit mediums. On the one hand, there are the spirits coming from the mountains of the upcountry known as Majini O’ Mwako, described as black, African and speakers of the mainland languages. On the other, the women are beset by Majini Maka, spirits coming from the Indian Ocean that are Muslim, speaking an Arabic-like language, and compelling the possessed to embark on Islamic practices. The possession by these two groups of spirits results in divination and healing practices that combine, or alternate, herbal knowledge and ancestral worship with techniques and symbols borrowed from Islamic medicine practiced by male healers of the coast (walimu). In this paper, I interrogate what insights an analysis of spirit possession – here examined as a form of historical consciousness – may offer to an understanding of the history and identity of Nampula as a city located on the border between the Indian Ocean and the African mainland. By examining spirit performances in which these two sets of spirits manifest themselves, I show how spirit possession not only forms a symbolic text of the ethnic and religious dualism of the region but also embodies a very local discourse on the multifaceted relationships the people of the mainland have engaged in with the people of the coast.

Date: Thursday, May 14 2015
Time: 14.00-16.00
Venue: CISA Committee Room

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