chapter  11
Polished violence
Changing notions about the spirituality of the todↄlε 1 (vagina) in popular Nzema 2 indigenous religious philosophy
WithGenevieve Nrenzah
Pages 12

The todↄlε (vagina) is a venerated part of the female body among the Akan Nzema of Western Ghana. In their indigenous religious thinking, the Nzemas perceived the vagina as the entrance to a mother’s womb, which is where humanity originates and is the gateway to this world or “ewiase." The sacredness associated with the vagina demands that females should always conceal it from public view. It also imputed a sense of sacredness to the female body. However, in modern Nzema society, the vagina has lost the sense of sacredness and become the target of forms of verbal abuse, especially from males. The chapter proposes that the decline in the respect associated with the vagina and its polished violence in modern Nzema society parallels the decline in the viability of indigenous religious ideas about women’s spirituality and the consequent loss of the sense of sacredness associated with women in modern Akan Nzema societies. Using empirical data as well as qualitative content analysis, the study identifies ideological and structural shifts such as colonialism, Christianization, Islamization, and the emergence of modern states as contexts within which the shift in understandings of the power of women took shape.