It is 1949-50.
Rebecca Hourwich Reyher is researching to write a book titled: The Fon and His Hundred Wives. Here she is interviewed by Amelia R. Fry.

Fry: Who was the Fon?

Reyher: He was an African hereditary chief of a section of the Cameroons.

Fry: Can you mention any of the problems of his wives and similarities between these and the problems of women in the United States? Anything different from what you had already observed in Zululand?

Reyher: What always strikes as as most absurd about the argument that African women are accustomed to polygamy, and therefore accept it, is that it is accepted that men in Africa murder out of jealousy, yet their wives and daughters are supposed to be free of it.

In both Zululand and in Bikom--or Laakom, they are used interchangeably--in the Cameroons, the wives ganged up on each other, formed cliques, and frequently resented their living conditions.

The land in Zululand is barren. Man went away to earn cash incomes; women stayed at home and eked out a subsistence crop. The Cameroons is high, lush grasslands. Wives were supposedly an economic asset, expected to produce surplus crops.

Zululand was small, by comparison. In the Zulu king's household there were a few notorious cases of run-away wives; in the Fon's household more than fifty-three known wives had run away out of a total of about four hundred, despite the fact that they knew they were subject to severe punishment.

Perhaps the polygamous wives had one thing in common with unhappy or disgruntled American wives. They had a deep both conscious and subconscious awareness that there was something wrong with their sex lives, that they had only a teasing attention from their husband, that he approached them from his desire for intercourse, and left them unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

In the polygamous relations I saw, only the favorite wife seemed content and happy, and she was singled out for a period of constant attention. There was always a favorite. Also though women were supposed to be faithful to their one husband, left alone and lonely, they, too, began to stray and find lovers.

I saw the Fon's wives some years after the Zulu ones. By that time even the Fon's men had gone to World War II--some served in Italy. There were more buses, cars, and transportation to and from towns--many wives had been in motor cars, and so running away was less of a problem. The world outside seemed less remote even on a mountain top.

When I asked the Fon's niece, "What is the best thing the European has brought you?" ("European" means "white" in Africa), she replied, "Oh, motor cars. They are so easy on the feet."

The Fon's household taught me that the long hand of Western Civilization had penetrated even the remotest part of Africa. The old ladies who never left the mountain top were aware of airplanes. They looked up and called them "motor cars in the sky."

Culled from:
Suffragists Oral History Project
Search and Struggle for Equality and Independence
by Rebecca Hourwich Reyher

Notice the comparison of Kom Kingdom and Zululand.
Something to think about.


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