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Negotiating 'Plainness' and Gender: Dancing and Apparel at Christian Weddings in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, 1913-1944

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This article analyzes the phenomena of dancing and wedding apparel in weddings of rural members of an unusual Protestant denomination of Anabaptist origins in Matabeleland, colonial Zimbabwe. The focus is on gendered aspects of African Christian adaptation of mission teaching amongst Ndebele members of the Brethren in Christ Church. The church in North America was firm at home on the matter of dancing (it was forbidden), and internally conflicted regarding men's garb. In the decades preceding World War II, African members of the church embraced fashionable dress for grooms and dancing at wedding feasts as common practice at BICC weddings. However, in a gendered pattern reflecting Ndebele, colonial and mission ideas of women's subjection, African women's bridal wear adhered to church teaching on Plainness, while African men's did not.

Affiliations: 1: The Master of Arts in Teaching Program, Bard College, PO Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504, USA


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