. Efundula: Women’s Initiation, Gender and Sexual Identities in Northern Namibia
representations of efundula have been invoked by different sections of the Owam – bo population in attempts to affirm claims to hegemonic defining power over local and national, gendered public culture.
Numerous recent studies, such as Cooper and Stoler (1997), have shown that colonialism was not a stable model, but subject to multiple internal tensions. Images of gender and sexuality were no exception to this. However, thus far the consequences of the contested colonial sexual and gender imagery for the colonised has been given precious little attention. While the ‘new’ colonialism studies have shed important new light on the sexual and gender politics of imperial cultures in metropolitan Europe and the colonies, I suggest that we need to turn and take a fresh look at the forms the refashioning of gender and sexual identities took among the colonised. The studies of ‘European’ gender identities and forms of sexual control in the colonies and in the centres of empire have demonstrated that, in all its contested forms, the very representation of colonial power rested on prior constructions of gender power. How then did the contested imperial authority and colonial mission, based on such prior constructions, reshape local gender and sexual identities? What about the agency of colonial subjects: which constructions of gendered sexualities did Africans appropriate in specific situations, which did they appropriate piecemeal, and which did they, perhaps, reject outright?