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Title:Shaving of a woman's head: 'isinmo' and the Igbo women's war on forced marriages in southern Nigeria 1900-1936
Author:Ojo, OlatunjiISNI
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies (ISSN 0008-3968)
Geographic term:Nigeria
marriage rites
gender relations
Abstract:How, when and to whom should a woman marry, what constitutes marriage and what rights has a woman to influence the selection of her spouse? These and other questions were subjects of intense contestation between young men and women and their parents, on one hand, and, on the other, between commoners and members of the traditional elite in the Western Igbo district of Igbuzo in southern Nigeria during the early twentieth century. Disputes over marriage rites centred on the politics of 'isinmo' or the shaving of a woman's head. 'Isinmo' gave the 'barber' exclusive and inalienable rights to the woman. Yet, in what amounted to reversal of tradition, women seeking to end or reduce parental and patriarchal control appropriated some of the rituals of 'isinmo' to contest its use and efficacy in the hands of its erstwhile beneficiaries. This article examines the rise of 'isinmo'and its linkage to power and gender relations in the 1930s. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]