Rituals as cultural coffins? Towards reintegrating divorced women into society : a pastoral theological study

Thabede, Hellen Nomusa (2020-04)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Zulu marriages are regarded as metaphoric funerals or even burials for many Zulu women. The symbolic kist that these women carry as a transitioning process from their father’s house to their husband’s family, signifies this death. The woman dies in the sense that the young maiden becomes her husband’s wife, symbolising an eternal binding. This event also signifies that she can never return to claim belonging to her father’s house even upon divorce or her husband’s death. This particular tradition and cultural practice is deeply embedded within the Zulu nation and has proven to be violent and extremely detrimental to the wellbeing of its women. The Zulu culture is androcentric in nature due to such traditional practices which only apply to women. The aim of this study is to highlight that cultural matters are a reality which affect all members of the Zulu society, whether secular or religious. Secondly, it seeks to advocate for the equality and fair treatment of divorced Zulu women through a pastoral care theological framework. In the first chapter, the researcher gives a general overview of the study regarding the issue of rituals in the institution of marriage within the Zulu context. In Chapter Two the researcher extensively explores different perspectives on the Jewish, Christian as well as Zulu cultures regarding the issue of marriage and divorce. The traditional Zulu belief systems are also investigated in terms of symbols such as the kist (the wooden marriage box), folktales and proverbs, to ascertain the points of departure of Christian and traditional isiZulu values. This is done to determine whether Christianity and our African cultures can accommodate and embrace each other for the sake of the gospel message. In this endeavour, the researcher discovers themes such as acculturation, inculturation, enculturation as well as social constructionism. This discovery indicates that the African way of living is not totally opposed to theological facts which affirm love and solidarity, and also facilitate justice and stability within communities. In Chapter Three the study employs post-colonial feminist perspectives to explore ways of dealing with issues of exploitation that result from patriarchal dominance within the Zulu culture. However, the researcher uncovers other kinds of social and gender injustices and systemic institutional oppression of women by male power structures, not only within the Zulu culture, but in life as a whole. Feminist theologians point to the constant portrayal of God as a “male” figure as the result of this social dilemma. They insist that this notion has a huge impact on escalating masculinity within our societies, since men believe that they should be honoured and revered the same way as God “the father”. In this regard, feminist theologians strongly suggest that these misinterpretations and misconceptions need to be corrected in order for the gospel message of love to be properly heard and for it to accommodate everyone. Chapter Four of this study seriously engages with the concept of resurrection theology as a strategy for bringing about restoration of divorced Zulu women. This indicates that culture may have declared them “dead” through ritualistic acts, but God promises a new beginning through the death and resurrection of Christ. This signifies that there is always hope for the suffering women in our society. Moreover, the researcher also explores the traditional Zulu methods of cleansing and purifying those who are believed to be ceremonially unclean, including those who have since passed on. The discovery poses a serious challenge for the Zulu nation in this regard. The study finds that there is absolutely no reason for the Zulu culture to reject or oust women and their children after a divorce because of they have cultural rituals that are designed to embrace everyone, including those who are departed. In addition, the classical concept of Ubuntu should be the fundamental value that is used to support and to empower divorced women.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Zulu-huwelike word as metaforiese begrafnisse vir baie Zulu-vroue beskou. Die simboliese kist wat hierdie vroue dra in die oorgangsproses van die huis van hul vader na die huis van hul man, dui hierdie dood aan. Die vrou sterf in die opsig dat sy nie meer ʼn jong meisie is nie, maar haar man se vrou word, wat ʼn ewige band simboliseer. Hierdie gebeurtenis dui ook aan dat hierdie vrou nooit kan terugkeer of aanspraak maak dat sy in haar vader se huis hoort nie, selfs nie na egskeiding of die dood van haar man nie. Hierdie spesifieke tradisie en kulturele praktyk is diep ingebed in die Zulu-nasie, en blyk om gewelddadig en uiters nadelig vir die welstand van vroue te wees. Die Zulu-kultuur is androsentries van aard aangesien hierdie praktyke slegs op vroue van toepassing is. Die doel van die navorsing is om te beklemtoon dat kulturele kwessies ʼn werklikheid is wat alle lede van die Zulu-gemeenskap affekteer, ongeag of dit sekulêr of godsdienstig is. Tweedens streef dit om gelyke en billike behandeling van geskeide Zulu-vroue deur middel van ʼn teologiese raamwerk vir pastorale sorg, te bevorder. In die eerste hoofstuk bied die navorser ʼn algemene oorsig van die studie oor die kwessie van rituele in die instelling van die huwelik binne die Zulu-konteks. In Hoofstuk Twee ondersoek sy breedvoerig verskillende perspektiewe op huwelike en egskeiding in die Joodse, Christelike sowel as die Zulu-kulture. Die tradisionele Zulu-geloofstelsels word bestudeer in terme van simbole soos die kist (die huwelikshoutkas), volksverhale en spreekwoorde om die vertrekpunte van Christelike en tradisionele isiZulu-waardes te bepaal. Dit word gedoen om vas te stel of die Christendom en ons Afrika-kulture mekaar kan akkommodeer en omhels ter wille van die evangelieboodskap. In hierdie proses ontdek die navorser temas soos akkulturasie, inkulturasie, enkulturasie en sosiale konstruksionisme. Hierdie ontdekking wys daarop dat die Afrika-leefwyse nie heeltemal teenstrydig is met teologiese feite wat liefde en solidariteit bevestig nie en ook geregtigheid en stabiliteit in gemeenskappe vergemaklik. In Hoofstuk Drie gebruik die studie post-koloniale feministiese perspektiewe om maniere te ondersoek om kwessies van uitbuiting wat voortspruit uit patriargale oorheersing binne die Zulu-kultuur, aan te spreek. Die navorser vind egter nie net verskillende soorte sosiale en geslagsongeregtigheid en ander sistemiese institusionele onderdrukking van vroue deur die manlike magstrukture binne die Zulu-kultuur nie, maar ook in die lewe in geheel. Feministiese teoloë wys op die voortdurende uitbeelding van God as ʼn “manlike” figuur as gevolg van hierdie sosiale dilemma. Hulle beweer hierdie begrip het ʼn groot impak op die toenemende manlikheid in ons samelewings, omdat mans glo dat hulle geëer en eerbiedig moet word op dieselfde manier as God “die vader”. In hierdie opsig dring feministiese teoloë daarop aan dat hierdie verkeerde interpretasies en wanopvattings reggestel moet word sodat die evangelieboodskap van liefde reg gehoor kan word en almal kan akkommodeer. Hoofstuk Vier van die studie betrek die konsep van die opstandingsteologie in ʼn poging om die herstel van geskeide Zulu-vroue te bewerkstellig. Dit dui aan dat die kultuur hulle moontlik deur ritualistiese optredes as “dood” verklaar, maar God belowe ʼn nuwe begin deur die dood en die opstanding van Christus. Dit beteken dat daar altyd hoop is vir die lydende vroue in ons samelewing. Verder ondersoek die navorser die tradisionele Zulu-rituele vir die reiniging en suiwering van diegene wat vermoedelik seremonieel onrein is, insluitend dié wat sedertdien oorlede is. Dit lei tot die ontdekking van ʼn ernstige uitdaging vir die Zulu-nasie in hierdie verband. Die studie bevind dat daar absoluut geen rede is vir die Zulu-kultuur om vroue en hul kinders na ʼn egskeiding te verwerp en uit te gooi nie, omdat daar kulturele rituele is wat juis ontwerp is om almal te omhels, ook dié wat oorlede is. Daarbenewens behoort die klassieke begrip Ubuntu die wesenlike waarde te wees wat gebruik word om geskeide vroue te ondersteun en te bemagtig.

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