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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Excavations of Southern African farming community sites have yielded two figurine types. The first comprises coarse clay figurines found in clusters in central areas in homesteads. These clusters contained anthropomorphic and animal figurines that resemble material culture used in twentieth-century southernmost African initiation schools. The second figurine type, associated with domestic areas, is finer and included toys and stylized human figurines. The stylized human figurines resemble historical figures that embodied ideas about male ownership over the female body, procreative powers, and spirit. The decorations on the stylized female figurines resemble body scarification that might have been used to express personhood. This chapter suggests that the production and use of these clay figurines were enmeshed in ideas about sex and gender, and that figurines materialized ideas, in both ceremonial and domestic contexts, about the adult body as sexed and gendered.

Keywords: embodied ideas, gender, initiation, personhood, scarification, Southern Africa, stylized female figures

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