What lever of power do Ubakala women have when their society traditionally requires them to leave their birthplace to live among strangers in a situation which excludes them from formal political and religious decision-making? The answer is dance! And when the messages of the dance go unheeded, the women have been known to resort to less peaceful persuasion. The Nigerian Women's War of 1929, which I describe later, is the most notable case.
The Ubakala people of eastern Nigeria (now Imo State) trace family descent on the father's side. Women leave their natal home upon marriage to live among their husband's kin, many of whom may be strangers. Another indicator of apparent male domination is the exclusion of women from the formal, traditional political and ritual decision-making bodies. Most women's activities center on the domestic scene, agricultural fields, and the market network. However, Ubakala women are not merely subordinate domestic creatures of exchange and family alliances. They also provide men with mates, privileges in a new group (husbands gain special support from a wife's family), and labor. Ubakala recognize that female fertility and energies complement male virility and strength in human and economic production. Furthermore, women have prestige and power apart from that of their husbands: achieving wealth, developing persuasive verbal eloquence, and bearing many offspring are indicators of a woman's success. With these assets women past menopause may even attend men's political meetings if they choose. Women have their own groups and leaders which are considered powerful amongst both themselves and the men. Moreover, women may assert themselves and become especially visible in dance-play performance.