Title: Hungochani: History of a dissident sexuality Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 2nd April 2007 - 12:00pm1175472000 Article: 1657 Rights
Hungochani: History of A Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa Marc Epprecht McGill-Queens University Press 2006 Given that takatapui have reclaimed this historic identity as a distinctly indigenous form of homosexuality in Aotearoa, what about its equivalents elsewhere - like Southern Africa? Hungochani is the Southern African equivalent. According to Zimbabwean gay academic Marc Epprecht, Africans were initially viewed as "lustful" and/or "violent" compared to their colonisers. There's a wealth of information about miner same-sex relationships during the colonial, South African apartheid and UDI eras, although historians debate its significance. Mine regulation, industrial relations, employment conditions and hostel housing rendered family formation difficult, and Christian missionary discourses adversely affected availability of heterosexual opportunities until the rise of greater female urbanism after World War II. In Zimbabwe, pre-colonial Shona societies emphasised family relationships, heterosexual prowess, celebration of fertility and limitation of young women's sexual options, although women's networks and midwives knew where to find herbal contraceptives and abortifacients. As for younger men, herding arrangements usually left adolescent males some time to themselves, so some same-sex sexual experimentation happened out in the fields. However, this sex play wasn't expected to last into adulthood, except if the consequence of "spirit possession," which tended to lead to gender-polarised versions of lesbianism and homosexuality, with their own descriptive terms. As is usually the case in tribal societies where this mode of LGBT social identity arises, 'masculine' spirit-possessed women were usually celebrated as warriors and had their own female 'wives.' On the other hand, Namibia had its own queenly shamans, who had potent abilities to affect the weather, crop or cattle fertility if a man had sex with them. As the colonial era approached, Zimbabwewean Shona and Ndebele male warriors bonded through same-sex male intercourse. In the eighteenth century, Dutch occupation and slavery were accompanied by gender imbalances and capital punishment under its draconian antisodomy laws. When they took over the Cape Colony, the British commuted this to imprisonment and flogging. As noted above, male mine homosexuality led to frequent assumptions about situational, "artificial" gay sex, but Epprecht notes that when mine administrators debated this with Africans, they coined self-described terms for the social roles involved, and the wives of these men usually got on well with their younger male partners, relieved that they weren't dallying with heterosexual female sex workers in the mining townships. In the case of unattached miners too, heterosexual sex brought problems if pregnancy intervened, acting as a disincentive for straight relationships within African mining communities. Due to the adolescence of "mine wives" or inkotshane, they were marked by equality and affection, unlike the violently polarised relationships that occurred in male and female prison environments. As noted in a previous article on 'sodomy' laws in Southern Africa,few whites were charged under Zimbabwean antisodomy laws, compared to Africans. As for modern Zimbabwe, Mugabe's Catholic upbringing, puritanical marxist-leninist moral policing from the USSR and MaoistChina,and rejection of western New Left sexual politics, all contributed to the rise of its current conflicts over violence against women and decriminalisation of abortion and homosexuality. Happily, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe continues to criticise Mugabe's repression of the Southern Ndebele communities, the Movement for Democratic Change Opposition and dispossession of white Zimbabwean farmers, as well as endemic government corruption, and has inspired movements in Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia, just as South Africa's ANC administration has been a progressive beacon for Zimbabwe itself. Craig Young - 2nd April 2007    
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