The ethnography of efundula
Cross-cultural surveys indicate that 50 to 60 per cent of societies initiate girls, compared to 30 to 40 per cent that initiate boys (quoted in Geisler 1997:125). A certain connection between matriliny and women’s initiation as cultural practice seems a possibility, as Audrey Richards (1982:160, 172, 185) noted, although the correlation is certainly not a direct one. There is insufficient basis for conclusive comparative studies, as anthropological studies of women’s initiation are a rarity.
The following overview of ethnographic information on Owambo women’s initiation relies on a variety of published and unpublished sources from the colonial era, written by colonial administrators, missionaries and, in the later period (1940s to 1960s), the odd South African or American trained anthropologist. As a rule, these observers were partial adherents to the notion of the otherness of African sexuality. This is especially the case with the mission-based texts, but also
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