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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The skull of Mkwawa and the politics of indirect rule in Tanganyika
Author:Bucher, Jesse
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies (ISSN 1753-1063)
Geographic term:Tanzania
traditional rulers
colonial conquest
colonial policy
About person:Edward Francis Twining Twining (1899-1967)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2016.1184835
Abstract:This article traces the history of a key symbol of colonial authority in Tanganyika - the skull of the defeated Hehe chief, Mkwawa. From the late 1890s through to the 1950s, officials in both the German and British colonial states wrote extensively about the skull, contending that it served as a linchpin of traditional authority amongst the Hehe people. At the same time that colonial officers attempted to reinforce the importance of the skull - through its removal or its restoration - they directly folded themselves into its history. While belief in the sacred importance of ancestors and their corporeal remains supposedly belonged exclusively to the political systems of colonized Africans, European colonizers also found themselves enmeshed in the construction of these very concepts. Nowhere did such engagement appear more evident than in the correspondence of the British Colonial Governor in Tanganyika, Edward Twining. Before officially returning the skull to the Hehe people in 1954, Twining wrote about his own encounters with the 'poltergeistic qualities' of Mkwawa's skull. While these interactions never found their way into official histories of the skull, this article uses their presence to offer a closer examination of the seemingly disparate realities that informed colonial governmentality. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]