Margi society, like 75% of all African societies, is patrilineal and patrilocal, that is, decent is reckoned through males only, and when a couple marries they make their home with or near the husband's paternal kinsmen. In addition, like 97% of African societies, polygyny is preferred--a man may marry more than one woman.
Theirs is certainly a male oriented society. But men do not perceive that as privilege; rather they feel the heavy burden of responsibility. It is surely relevant that, after having spent lives in which they were the competent masters of their world, they could, with the changing circumstances of post-colonial Africa, sense that their former world was rapidly disintegrating as regional and national regimes usurped village tradition and authority. They knew that change was in the offing, and that was unsettling to them.
Ptil Yarkur, 58 in 1960, was the 23rd ruler of Gulagu. Although un-schooled, he was a wise ruler, and a skilled politician. Of his six most recent predecessors, four had been victims of regicide or attempted regicides from which they had escaped by flight, one had been imprisoned by British Colonial administration, and one--his immediate predecessor--had committed suicide.
Gwashi Wagala, 42, was our nearest neighbor, and his children were the playmates of ours. Once when Gwashi had a heated argument with one of his wives, my children proved to be the best informants of the event. Over time, Gwashi's eyesight failed, and by 1973 he was blind and living with a daughter, his sons both having migrated far away.
Makarama Thlama, at 88, was the oldest man in either Kirngu or Humbili. Makarama is the title for the Ptil's first minister. However, in Thlama's case it was merely honorific, perhaps because he once was offered the ptil-ship but refused because it was too dangerous to hold. For a time his position in the royal village puzzled me: he was clearly both the oldest and in terms of descent the most senior man, yet his advice was rarely sought, though it was politely considered when he offered it. I finally came to realize that his status was fatally diminished because he had not fathered a child in a number of years. It was presumed that he was no longer a functioning man.
Thlifu is a title bestowed upon the senior member of the oldest commoner clan in the kingdom. Thlifu Lagu was a member of Ptil's Council where he represented commoners in both legal and ceremonial matters. His residence in Kirngu, the royal village, was required by tradition. There he could always present the commoner's view to the ptil. He was the only male resident of the village who was not either a member of the royal clan or a servant. As this picture suggests, he was an unfailingly cheerful person.