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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 406-415

Animals' Role in Proper Behaviour: Cheŵa Women's Instructions in South-Central Africa


Current affiliation: Centre for Rock Art Research + Management, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Leslie F Zubieta
Current affiliation: Centre for Rock Art Research + Management, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia
Australia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.197606

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The most common role of animals in the Cheŵa culture of south-central Africa is twofold: they are regarded as an important source of food, and they also provide raw materials for the creation of traditional medicines. Animals, however, also have a nuanced symbolic role that impacts the way people behave with each other by embodying cultural protocols of proper — and not so proper — behaviour. They appear repeatedly in storytelling and proverbs to reference qualities that people need to avoid or pursue and learn from the moral of the story in which animals interplay with each other, just as humans do. For example, someone who wants to prevent the consequences of greed is often advised to heed hyena stories and proverbs. My contribution elaborates on Brian Morris's instrumental work in south-central Africa, which has permitted us to elucidate the symbolism of certain animals and the perception of landscape for Indigenous populations in this region. I discuss some of the ways in which animals have been employed to teach and learn proper behaviour in a particular sacred ceremony of the Cheŵa people which takes place in celebration of womanhood: Chinamwali.


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