Kwandu law: the evolution of a juridical system among an Herero people of South-West Angola

Carlos L. Medeiros*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    1 Citation (Scopus)


    The Kwandu are an agro-pastoral people of about 2,000 persons who inhabit the area of semi-desert around the Serra da Neve near the MoÇamedes Desert. Kwandu law has largely evolved in the context of a particular notion of time held by this people for whom the past is alive in the present and history interacts with events of the moment. Among the Kwandu the past is one of the main subjects of daily conversation, a vital component of their oral traditions as well as an enduring feature of their re-enactment of the lives of ancestors, of religious ritual and of the symbolic and value-systems of the group. This study brings together data collected in 1970 and 1971 when I lived for fourteen months with the Kwandu. During this period I shared their daily lives and spent many hours listening to the telling and re-telling of past events, gaining, in the process, an insight into their way of thinking and feeling, the essential key to an understanding of their history. The oral history of the Kwandu is permeated by a concept of time which demands the constant revival and re-enactment of the past. Whenever a narrator evokes an ancestor he becomes that ancestor and transposes himself to the time of action to confront and re-live the events of the past. In this way all narratives, including many which go back several centuries to the most remote events in the collective memory, are recounted in detail, in the first person and in the present tense.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)80-89
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of African Law
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 1984


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