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Dress Codes and Prestige Staffs: Constructing Political Authority with Staffs in Tanzania

Fadhili Mshana


Staffs come in different materials and forms and most examples in Africa are made of wood and are most commonly used for walking, though some staffs serve as ritual items and as symbols of authority. For example, chiefs, diviners, and linguists own staffs connected with their obligations. This is not to say that such types of staffs are used on a daily basis. Rather, these items are employed during special events and for performing specific tasks. These include chiefs who display them to legitimize their title, and to represent their realm and power. Healers and diviners also utilize staffs in their activities, as do linguists, orators, and leaders of associations (fig.1). To cite an example, in Ghana, major Ashanti chiefs have an okyeame or public spokesman who holds his staff as he speaks to underscore his authority and message.

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Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editor: Nkiru Nzegwu; Film Review Editor: Phyllis J. Jackson; Exhibition/Curator & Book Review Editor: Azuka Nzegwu

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