Grace and The townships h Housewife : excavating South African Black women's magazines from the 1960s

Louw, Nicolette (2009-03)

Thesis (MA (English))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Grace and The Townships Housewife, two black women’s magazines published in South Africa between 1964 and 1969, have slipped into obscurity. This thesis aims to write them back into the history of the black press, black journalism and literature in South Africa. The study is significant in that no research has as yet been conducted on these two magazines. The first chapter excavates Grace and The Townships Housewife from obscurity by providing information on the magazines’ publication, staff, editors, content, target audience and writers. A salient characteristic of both magazines’ content that the study discusses is the ambiguous attitude of readers and writers towards modernity and tradition (and the negotiation of new identities) as they move from the country to the city. Some readers’ embrace and others’ rejection of early signs of feminism and womanism in the magazines also display this ambiguous attitude. The chapter foregrounds the various ambiguities and often colliding voices that infuse much of the magazines’ content. The absence of explicit reference to apartheid in Grace’s and The Townships Housewife’s content provides another focal point of this chapter and is discussed in relation to the concepts of ‘minstrelsy’ and ‘mimicry’. Considering specifically the position of the black woman in apartheid South Africa, the second chapter compares the representation of white women in South African white women’s magazines Die Huisgenoot, Sarie Marais and Fair Lady to the way in which black women are represented in Grace and The Townships Housewife in the 1960s. The role of the latter two magazines in positively representing black women during apartheid South Africa, and thus standing in direct opposition to the identities ascribed to black people in colonial and apartheid ideology, is a primary focus of this chapter. The representation of black women in the 1960s is elaborated on in the next chapter which explores the shift in the representation of black women from Drum magazine (during its heyday in the 1950s), with its predominantly male staff, to the representation of black women in Grace and The Townships Housewife (in the 1960s), with their predominantly female staff. I hypothesise on the possible agencies at work within this shift in women’s representation. Despite the magazines’ adherence at times to white standards of beauty (an aspect which the thesis engages with throughout), the ‘creation’ of black women within the pages of Grace and The Townships Housewife (as the previous two chapters articulate), often resonates with Black Consciousness’s philosophy of black pride. This last chapter explores the possible connection between Grace and The Townships Housewife, on the one hand, and the early beginnings of an emergent black consciousness in South Africa in the late 1960s, on the other hand. It also discusses the sexism associated with black consciousness philosophy in relation to these two magazines, but the focus falls on how black female readers of Grace and The Townships Housewife negotiate imposed ‘female identities’ (for example, mother, housewife and supporter) towards greater agency.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Grace en The Townships Housewife, twee tydskrifte gemik op swart vroue en wat in Suid-Afrika gepubliseer is tussen 1964 en 1969, is vandag onbekend. Die doel van dié tesis is om hierdie twee tydskrifte terug te skryf in die geskiedenis van swart joernalistiek en literatuur in Suid-Afrika. Dit is ’n waardevolle studie aangesien geen navorsing oor hierdie twee tydskrifte nog gedoen is nie. Dit is ook ’n ingewikkelde proses wat gepaard gaan met baie spekulasie, aangesien dit alreeds te lank gevat het vir hierdie tydskrifte om ontdek te word – dit is nie meer moontlik om die meeste van die bydraers tot hierdie twee tydskrifte op te spoor nie. Die eerste hoofstuk ‘grawe’ Grace en The Townships Housewife as t’ ware weer ‘op’ deur inligting te voorsien oor hierdie tydskrifte se uitgewers, personeel, redaktrises, inhoud, teikengroepe en skrywers. Die dubbelsinnige houdings wat lesers in die tydskrifte toon teenoor tradisie en moderniteit soos wat hulle beweeg van plattelandse gebiede na stedelike gebiede, is kenmerkend van hierdie tydskrifte en word in hierdie hoofstuk bespreek. Hierdie dubbelsinnigheid word ook weerspieël in lesers en skrywers se ambivalente houdinge teenoor die bemagtiging van vroue. Die verskeie dubbelsinnighede en dikwels botsende stemme in meeste van die twee tydskrifte se inhoud is ’n belangrike punt wat hierdie tesis uitlig. Die afwesigheid van direkte verwysings na apartheid in beide tydskrifte is nog ’n kenmerkende eienskap van die tydskrifte wat in hierdie hoofstuk ondersoek word. Met die fokus op die posisie van die swart vrou in apartheid Suid-Afrika, vergelyk die tweede hoofstuk die voorstelling van wit vroue in Suid-Afrikaanse wit vrouetydskrifte (Die Huisgenoot, Sarie Marais en Fair Lady) met dié van swart vroue in Grace en The Townships Housewife in die 1960s. ’n Primêre fokus van hierdie hoofstuk is die rol wat Grace en The Townships Housewife speel in die positiewe voorstelling van swart vroue tydens apartheid, in direkte kontras tot die voorstellinge van swart vroue in apartheid ideologie. Die volgende hoofstuk brei verder uit op die voorstelling van die swart vrou in die 1960s: hier word gekyk na die skuif wat plaasvind in die voorstelling van swart vroue van die Drum-tydskrif in die 1950s met sy hoofsaaklik manlike personeel, na die voorstelling van swart vroue in 1960s Grace en The Townships Housewife, met hoofsaaklik vroulike personeel. Die moontlike faktore verantwoordelik vir so ’n verandering in voorstelling word oorweeg. Alhoewel die inhoud van Grace en The Townships Housewife gereeld ‘wit’ standaarde van skoonheid ondersteun, toon die voorstelling van swart vroue in hierdie twee tydskrifte ook dikwels ooreenkomste met swart bewustheid filosofie se fokus op swart trots. Hierdie laaste hoofstuk ondersoek die moontlike verbintenis tussen Grace en The Townships Housewife, aan die een kant, en die vroeë begin van swart bewustheid in Suid-Afrika in die laat sestigerjare. Die dikwels seksistiese houdinge wat met swart bewustheid filosofie geassosieer word, word in hierdie hoofstuk bespreek aan die hand van voorbeelde uit Grace en The Townships Housewife. Dit is egter nie die fokus van hierdie studie nie: die fokus val op hoe swart vroue lesers van Grace en The Townships Housewife opgelegde rolle van moederskap, huisvrou en ondersteuners stuur tot posisies van groter mag.

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