Gender and culture in the novel Ukuqhawuka kwembeleko

Finini, Cyntheria Nozipho (2003-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The objective of this study is to examine culture and gender in the Xhosa novel, Ukuqhawuka kwembeleko, which was one of the popular novels in the 1980s. The novel is about forced marriages, but the fact that such marriages are forced on educated children has disastrous ends. In as far as the Xhosa culture of forced marriages is concerned, the novelist makes a point that it is a soulless marriage, it dehumanises both the minors who are involved in it and it treats the woman being married as if she were an object that is sold. In the humiliating process the father of the young woman gets good cattle to his satisfaction. In the Xhosa novel, Ukuqhawuka kwembeleko, the fact that Zoleka resisted such a marriage to the end of her life shows that traditional Xhosa women used to be treated as objects of their patriarchal society that sees them as objects that should die at their in-laws. Because that is where they belong, their fathers need cattle with such an exchange. But Zoleka, as a modern educated woman, has been empowered to resist such dehumanisation. She rebels against hlonipha culture of her in-laws. She shows them that she is not their bought property, and also that she would not bow to the pressure of their patriarchal rules. She does everything possible in the book to flaunt the rules of their hlonipha culture, and eventually they feel she is a makoti not worthy their valuable cattle. She consequently leaves and claims her independence. Her rebellious acts are a feminist declaration that the educated women of the 1980s challenge the male dominated system by not obeying to its rules. Yet how her father tracts her down after her departure from her in-laws and chases her with a horse home, whilst he severely beats her up in public to the horror of onlookers, is an indication that the gate keepers of the Xhosa patriarchal system are prepared to go to all lengths, including using the cruelest methods, to defend the system that has, over the years, benefited them in all aspects of life. But the fact that Zoleka eventually wins and retains her independence and later commits suicide, is a feminist statement that the modern Xhosa women are willing to liberate themselves even if it means taking their lives.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doelstelling van hierdie studie is om kultuur en gender te ondersoek in die Xhosa novelle, Ukuqhawuka kwembeleko, wat In populêre novelle in die tagtigerjare was. Die novelle handel oor geforseerde huwelike, en die feit dat die afdwing van sulke huwelike op opgeleide kinders, rampspoedige gevolge het. Aangaande die Xhosa kultuurverskynsel van geforseerde huwelike, maak die skrywer 'n punt dat dit 'n siellose huwelik is, dit verneder sowel die kinders wat betrokke is, sowel as behandel die vrou wat in die huwelik tree as 'n voorwerp wat verkoop word. In hierdie vernederende proses kry die vader van die jong vrou beeste wat hom tevrede stel. In die Xhosa novelle, Ukuqhawuka kwembeleko toon die feit dat Zoleka so 'n huwelik teengestaan het tot die einde van haar lewe aan dat Xhosa vroue tradisioneel as voorwerpe behandel is van 'n patriargale gemeenskap wat hulle beskou het as eiendom van hulle skoonfamilie. Die vroue se vaders kry beeste in ruil hiervoor. Maar Zoleka, as 'n moderne opgeleide vrou, is bemagtig om sulke vernedering teen te staan. Sy rebelleer teen die hlonipha-kultuur van haar skoonfamilie en sy wys vir hulle dat sy nie hulle aangekoopte eiendom is nie, en dat sy nie sal buig voor die patriargale reëls nie. Sy gaan verder en daag die hlonipha-kultuur uit totdat die skoonfamilie eventueel dink dat sy nie 'n waardige skoondogter is nie en nie hulle beeste werd is nie. Zoleka gaan gevolglik weg en eis haar onafhanklikheid op. Haar handelinge is 'n feministiese verklaring dat die opgeleide vroue die mans-gedomineerde sisteem uitdaag. Zoleka se eie vader agtervolg haar egter en verneder haar in die openbaar. Hy dui daarmee aan dat die patriargale bewaarders tot enige uiterste sal gaan om die sisteem te beskerm. Die feit dat Zoleka egter haar onafhanklikheid behou en later selfmoord pleeg is 'n feministiese stelling dat sy haarself bevry het van die patriargale sisteem.

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