University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer, Dr Henry Gumede, graduated with a PhD in arts for his research that analysed feminist discourse in four selected Zulu literary texts: ‘Beyond Woman As A Victim’.
‘The condition of women in Zulu patriarchal society as reflected in the selected Zulu literary texts is still intolerable. Some female and male authors tend to echo social tendencies and trends, wanting to maintain the status quo of the system of patriarchy,’ said Gumede.
His study surfaces the traditional patriarchal views on marriage, ukungena (taking over of the responsibilities of the late brother) and other gender inequities. Gumede’s research qualitatively examines these traditional issues and approaches in the four selected literary texts from a literary feminist discourse perspective.
The study portrays various situations in which women find themselves by focusing on the various major problems they have to face in the patriarchal society. The four literary texts analysed depict their women characters as victims.
‘For instance, the novels Ifa Lenkululeko and Umshado portray the widows’ world as a hybrid space characterised by forces of tradition and modernity. Both novels show how widows are usually trodden upon and least protected by society from patriarchal interpretations, and expectations of the tradition.
The plays, Ngiyazisa Ngomtanami and Ngiwafunge AmaBomvu, on the other hand, depict flaws and failures of the patriarchal system. Both plays expose these flaws and failures in a subtle manner that an inattentive reader may not be able to observe. They both reflect women’s maturity in challenging the stereotypes of the patriarchal system. These literary texts display some transformed approaches in the portrayal of their female characters,’ said Gumede.
He called for a change in mindsets from members of society who still endorse patriarchal stereotypes on women. ‘It is clear that, only by affording full consideration to women’s needs and contributions, can civilisation grow and mature.’