The Quimbandas

The image of the quimbandas found on the homepage is derived from a watercolor painting of an Angolan quimbandas drawn by the seventeenth-century Capuchin missionary Padre Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi. During the 1500s and 1600s in kingdoms throughout central and southern Africa, Christian missionaries such as Cavazzi provided evidence of gender-blurring amongst the native people encountered. For example, James Sweet notes in Recreating Africa that Potuguese explorer Matias Moreira claims that he witnessed "cross-dressing...pagan Negroes" who "performed the roles of women" during his explorations of central Africa (Sweet 54). These human beings were referred to as jinbandaa. According to Malcom Guthrie, men such as Moreira may have been mistaken in their interpretations of the jinbandaa. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest cultural acceptance of such gender blurring (Mehra, et al. 6). 

The significance of the jinbandaa was not to be located in perceived sexual roles; the significance of the jinbandaa as relates their roles in the community was located in religious beliefs and practices. Still, the jinbandaa certainly signify on the fluidity of human identity and underscore the functions and purposes of the Journal––the explorations of human identities. The stem of jinbadaa––mbándá––means medicine man and throughout regions of Africa words similar to jinbandaa suggest religious power. The quimbandas––a Portuguese derivative of jinbandaa––encountered by Cavazzi were "a discrete and powerful caste in Angolan society" (Sweet 54). Moreover, the quimbandas were highly respected in their communities. For example, Cavazzi writes: "[T]here is not...a captain in war, or peaceful...village chief, who does not try to keep some of them [the quimbandas] to watch over him, without the counsel and approval of such, he will not dare to exercise any act of jurisdiction, nor take any resolution" (qtd. in Sweet 54).  Just the same, the quimbandas not only advised rulers, but performed burial ceremonies and exercized a wide range of spiritual duties.