The argument that a process of “making tribes” has invested Africa from early colonial times has been used to explain the emergence of some ethnicities which appear not to have existed before colonialism. This emergence was often accompanied by the creation of written records of male historical discourse, thus not only giving them undue prominence but also suppressing female historical discourses which were not considered pertinent to “history.”
Yet whenever history is recounted orally by either men or women, it contains messages directed to a “gendered” audience (i.e., an audience composed of people of both genders) whose participants perceive messages differently and reproduce separate but interacting discourses. Such diverse perceptions result from certain aspects in oral genres as well as small, coded markers which can evoke immensely potent but gender-specific experiences. Such instances may become public symbols and, along with more obviously historical narratives, greatly influence how people relate to their past. Thus men and women in the same audience, hearing the same story, can make connections between elements of a narrative which are obscure to outside researchers.
Recently, it has become quite common for historians of Africa to deconstruct written historical sources on the basis of the agendas of both the original writer and his informants. These agendas are rarely explicit and thus hiddenly selective. Such deconstruction is a legitimate scholarly procedure; however, as female voices have rarely been recorded—the resulting analysis reinforces the omission of women's roles in the process of remaking history and creating identity.