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With this first comprehensive history of the Ndau of eastern Zimbabwe and central Mozambique, Elizabeth MacGonagle moves beyond national borders to show how cultural identities are woven from historical memories that predate the arrival of missionaries and colonial officials on the African continent. Drawing on archival records and oral histories from throughout the Ndau region, her study analyzes the complex relationships between social identity and political power from 1500 to 1900.
Ndauness has been created and recreated within communities through marriages and social structures, cultural practices that mark the body, and rituals that help to sustain shared beliefs. A sense of being Ndau continues to exist into the present, despite different colonial histories, postcolonial trajectories, and official languages in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. MacGonagle's study of ethnic identities among the marginalized Ndau sheds light on the conflicts and divisions that haunt southeast Africa today. This compelling interpretation of the crafting of identity in one corner of Africa has relevance for readers interested in identity formation and ethnic conflict around the world.
Elizabeth MacGonagle is assistant professsor of history, University of Kansas.