chapter  3
44 Pages

Rituals of Childbirth and Womanhood

WithBrian Morris

In rituals, and more generally in social life, there are symbolic associations between certain objects and attributes and the gender division. Bruwer suggests that such a child is a source of ‘menace’ to others, and thus subject to taboos. Bruwer concludes that up to the time of the kutenga mwana ritual, the child was mwana wa khanda, a baby, and thus not looked upon as a full member of the community, a person for whom funerary rites would be conducted. That wild animals play a significant role in religious rituals has long been attested. Sleeping with a woman too quickly after childbirth is also seen as leading to kanyera, which, in a sense, is a physical manifestation of mdulo. Hunting and childbirth are described as the great ‘procreative’ powers associated with men and women. Sex, too, is vital for human wellbeing, and is positively affirmed, by Malawians - which creates problems in an era of sexually transmitted ‘diseases’ like Aids.