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Title:Written narratives as an avenue for Swazi women to debate marginalization and inconsistencies of patriarchy
Author(s):Mkhatshwa, Telamisile Phumlile
Contributor(s):Barro, Mainouna A; Wright, David
Department / Program:Center for African Studies
Discipline:African Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:M.A.
Genre:Thesis
Subject(s):Swazi women
Folktales
Marginalization
Written narratives
Patriarchy
Abstract:Swazi women face numerous socio-economic challenges as a result of patriarchal customs like polygamy, forced or arranged marriage, levirate marriage, and bride price. Marginalizing cultural norms push Swazi women to the periphery of decision-making, and this exposes them to sexual abuse, physical abuse, poverty, and HIV infection. Nonetheless, the place of Swazi women seems more complicated than just subservient wives or victims of patriarchy. Swazi women are at the center of the traditional education system. They shoulder the responsibility of educating the youth and instilling Swazi values through folktales. The women exclusively compose traditional oral narratives, and remain the key storytellers. Despite the pervasive patriarchal ideology that essentializes Swazi women as inferior, I argue that oral narratives (folktales) and modern written narratives indicate the fluidity of Swazi women’s status. I show how Swazi oral narratives and written narratives present the inconsistencies of patriarchy. This includes outlining the dissonance and similarity between the portrayal of gender roles in Swazi folktales and Swazi modern stories written by women. Beyond that, I indicate that although women compose oral narratives, Swazi patriarchal norms influence and control the storyline, which creates an uncomfortable space for storytellers to adequately critique gender inequalities. Swazi written narratives, however, are a comfortable space in which women debate or even challenge their thoughts and feelings about their place in Swazi society. Therefore, I hypothesize that the portrayal of Swazi women’s gendered problems is more nuanced in written narratives than in traditional oral narratives. That is, written narratives allow Swazi women to redefine their status and unravel more inconsistencies within patriarchy. To elucidate the shift of gender roles, I focus on narratives composed by Swazi women but set in different time periods. I discuss two folktales, “The Woman and the Monster” and “Dumba,” both set in ancient Swaziland (Kamera, Swazi). The modern works are a novel, The Amaryllis, set in the early 1970s, and a short story, “Dirt to Dirt,” set in the 2000s, both written by Lucy Z. Dlamini. I ground my research in feminist and deconstructive theoretical approaches. This study will contribute to the ongoing dialogue about the gender stereotypes etched in the minds of Swazi society and Swazi women in particular. By giving preference to written narratives, I hope to motivate oralists to allow Swazi oral narratives to develop beyond the canon of traditional folktales and style. Women composers may have to compose new tales that articulate contemporary problems through innovative methods. I hope that the constructive criticism from this study will incite the growth of both Swazi oral and written narratives.
Issue Date:2015-04-28
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78668
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Telamisile Mkhatshwa
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015


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