Independence comes to the chief’s daughters: a Gabonese family story of marriage and decolonization

This essay explores Gabonese understandings of decolonization and marriage through oral narratives about Flicien Endame Ndong (ca. 1890-1971), a Fang-speaking Gabonese chief. Many historical studies of marriage in Africa have focused on the colonial period, but Ndong’s failed efforts to arrange marriages for his daughters indicate how drastically gender relations could change in the 1960s, after the achievement of national independence. These changes are particularly striking in Gabon, where scholars have contended that France’s continued influence ensured continuities between the colonial and postcolonial era. This case illustrates the challenges of interpreting oral narratives. Endame Ndong’s daughters noted how their father had forced their mother to marry him, but their presentations of his later life reflected their individual concerns: one daughter presented him as the victim of corrupt officials and deceitful family members; the other contended he was a tyrant who had forced her into an unhappy marriage. Such different portrayals denote women’s agency through the resistance of Endame Ndong’s daughters, and how differently sisters with similar experiences present their lives. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]

Title:Independence comes to the chief’s daughters: a Gabonese family story of marriage and decolonization
Author: Rich, Jeremy M.
Year:2009
Periodical:Africa Today
Volume:56
Issue:2
Pages:27-42
Language:English
Geographic term:Gabon
About person:Flicien Endame Ndong
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/africa_today/v056/56.2.rich.pdf
Abstract:This essay explores Gabonese understandings of decolonization and marriage through oral narratives about Flicien Endame Ndong (ca. 1890-1971), a Fang-speaking Gabonese chief. Many historical studies of marriage in Africa have focused on the colonial period, but Ndong’s failed efforts to arrange marriages for his daughters indicate how drastically gender relations could change in the 1960s, after the achievement of national independence. These changes are particularly striking in Gabon, where scholars have contended that France’s continued influence ensured continuities between the colonial and postcolonial era. This case illustrates the challenges of interpreting oral narratives. Endame Ndong’s daughters noted how their father had forced their mother to marry him, but their presentations of his later life reflected their individual concerns: one daughter presented him as the victim of corrupt officials and deceitful family members; the other contended he was a tyrant who had forced her into an unhappy marriage. Such different portrayals denote women’s agency through the resistance of Endame Ndong’s daughters, and how differently sisters with similar experiences present their lives. Bibliogr., sum. [Journal abstract]