FEMINIST AESTHETICS IN NESHANI ANDREAS’ THE PURPLE VIOLET OF OSHAANTU AND BINWELL SINYANGWE’S A COWRIE OF HOPE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Women in the society
Feminism in Africa
Theoretical frame work
Biography of Neshani Andreas
Biography of Binwell Sinyangwe
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
Review of existing literature
CHAPTER THREE: FEMINIST AESTHETICS IN THE PURPLE VIOLET OF OSHAANTU
Plot of The Purple Violet of Oshaantu
Image of Womanhood in The Purple Violet of Oshaantu
Feminist tendencies in The Purple Violet of Oshaantu
The Modern Female Character
CHAPTER FOUR: FEMINIST AESTHETICS IN A COWRIE OF HOPE
Plot of A Cowrie of Hope
Image of Womanhood in A Cowrie of Hope
Motherhood in A Cowrie of Hope
The Modern Female Character
Man has often been the very type of humanity that is recognized.
Every society sees woman as relative to man. The patriarchal system gave rise to the term feminism. From time immemorial women have been subjugated, oppressed and humiliated. Women have been seen as a second, a wife and rearer of children and nothing more.
Feminism as an advocate for the emancipation of women from oppression comes in to loosen the grip of culture and political norms restricting women. It portrays womanhood in a struggle for self-liberation, independence and courage for self and societal growth. Through feminism the societal roles imposed on women are brought to light. These roles have restricted women from discovering their true selves and potentials. However, Neshani Andreas’s The Purple Violet of Oshaantu and Binwell Sinyangwe’s A Cowrie of Hope work hand in hand with the ideology of feminism in examining the oppression and the struggle of the African woman and promoting the awareness of female educational development as a tool for the enhancement of the socio- political and economic empowerment of the African woman. African cultures have
always subjected women to oppression, depression, undue victimization and suppression. Feminism makes explicit the idea that African culture is the platform on which patriarchy manifests. It aims at identifying the loopholes in African culture and the society at large.
WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY
The role of women in the society has always been the focus of study, and is now better understood. In recent times, women were seen as wives who were to take care of the kids, clean and cook. They were not to vote or get jobs. These were the roles the men had to play. After a period, it dawned on women that they should have a bigger role than what people think women should have. This is referred to as gender role. Gender role is a societal norm dictating the behaviour of the sexes. The World Health Organization (W.H.O) defines gender role as ‘socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women’ (2015:2).
Gender roles have always been centered on the conceptions of femininity and masculinity. In Hofstede’s view, masculinity and femininity differ on the roles socially constructed for each. He posits:
Femininity stands for a society in which social gender roles overlap. Both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life.(297)
Masculinity stands for a society in which social roles are closely distinct. Men are supposed to be assertive, tough and focused on material success, Women are supposed to be more modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life.(297)
Women are expected to seek the best of life but not the things in life while men are to display manliness and authority, focused on getting the best out of life.
These roles have often segregated the sexes especially the women, assigning to them roles which are oppressive. Because of these roles,
women were excluded from voting in many parts of the world until the 19th
and 20th centuries. The society has constructed women as subordinates to men as a social leader and since the society has always associated money with power and authority, the person who brings the money had the power. The man makes the final decision on matters in the home. The woman was just the property that has to live to its fate. The society has tagged the woman one without a voice.
During the World War II, women were exposed to jobs outside their home when the men were fighting the war. After the war, women had their roles back as house keepers. At the period (1960s and 70s), the social and ideological environment began to transform, women started showing acts of independence. They worked outside their homes in different sections the society could allow them to work at that time. This had given rise to women seeking for the legal implementation of other rights. Although, women are believed to have gained significant legal rights, but women still do not have equality with men.
Feminism is a theory that women and men should be equal politically, economically and socially. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘feminism as the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. An organized activity on behalf of the women’s right and interest’.
The term feminism can be traced to English women’s activism in the 19th century which is divided into three waves, each with individual aims. First
Wave feminism of the 19th and 20th centuries was focused on erasing legal inequalities. The Second Wave (1960s -1980s) was concerned with fighting cultural inequalities and bringing out the role of women in the society.
Third Wave feminism (1990s-2000) is an extension of the feminist movement. It is a continuation of the second wave.
The early supporters of gender equality had contributed to this movement before its existence as the feminist movement. Around twenty four centuries ago, Plato, according to Hoffman Baruch (1973:207), “(argued) for the total political and sexual equality of women, advocating that they be members of his highest class… those who rule and fight”. French writer Christene de Pizan (1364-c.1436) the author of The Book of the City of Ladies and L’Epistre au Dieu d’amours(1399) is cited by Simon de Beauvoir as the first woman to write about other sexes. Other early dender equality advocacy include Heinrich Cornelius, Agrippa and Modesta
di Pozzio di Forzi who wrote in the 16th century and the 17th century writer Hannah Woolley in England and many others.
The term feminism does not pertain to hatred or love for women. It examines the experiences of women as object whose meaning of existence is neglected. It comes as a result of social and psychological restraint placed on women. It is an attempt by women to free themselves from the society that allows the male to exercise domination over the female.
FEMINISM IN AFRICA
African feminism was a response to Western feminism. According to Showalter (1988), African feminism allows relationship with men but disallows oppression and relationship of master and slave. African feminism examines African society for laws that subordinate women. Thus, it respects the African woman’s status as mother. African feminism emanated because the African experiences were excluded from western feminists’ vision. Therefore, the desire for a feminism that embraces African cultural background and experiences in the different countries of the African continent was created. Noami Nkealah writes that African feminism “strives to create a new liberal productive and self-reliant African woman within the heterogeneous cultures of Africa. Feminism in Africa, ultimately aims at modifying culture as it affects women in different societies” (2006:133)
African feminism includes many strains of its own including Motherism, Snail-sense feminism, Womanism, Nego-feminism, Stiwanism and African womanism.
i. Motherism: In the early 1990s Catherine Acholonu proposed “motherism” as an Afrocentric alternative to feminism. Motherism
places motherhood, nature and the respect for the environment at the center.It is maternal and sees women as the key to nurturing the society.
ii. Snail-sense feminism/ Nego-feminism: Obioma Nnaemeka in 2004, proposed this alternative as a feminism of negotiation. In that, for women to be free, there would be collaboration with men.
iii. Womanism: This concept was first used by Chikwenkye Ogunyemi as an appropriate term to describe feminism in the African sense. It was popularized by Alice Walker in her publication in 1983. It was later transformed into African Womanism.
iv. Stiwanism: In 1994 Omolara Ogundipe Leslie introduced the terminology ‘Stiwanism’. STIWA being an acronym for Social Transformation Including Women in Africa. Stiwanism insist on the involvement of women as equal partners in the social transformation in Africa. Stiwanism is rooted in the experience
and realities of Africa.
There exist differences in religion, ethnics and politics that work together to paint feminism to African women. While African women
from Egypt, Algeria, Morrocco, for example, will have a common view on gender struggle, the women in Nigeria will have a different view of gender struggle. These cultures alter the way African women see the world with one common factor; freedom from male dominance. Omolara Leslie, in discussing the Nigerian situation, says “the woman as daughter or sister has greater status and more rights in her lineage. Married, she becomes a possession, voiceless and often right less in her husband’s family except for what accrues to her through her children”(1994:12). Importantly, African women in Nigeria would view feminism in an entirely different way.
Feminism had been part of African history and society. The term may be an import to Africa, but women who were feminists had existed before the term was born because feminism is equally important in the African women’s history. African feminism set out in the early twentieth century with women like Adelaide Casely- Hayford, the Sierra- Leonean women’s right activist known as the “African Victorian feminist”. African feminism emanated from the fight for liberation in Angola, Guinea, Kenya, Algeria and Mozambique. It started with women who fought with men for state autonomy and women’s rights. Leading feminist icons of this period were
women like Mau-Mau rebel, Wambui Otieno, The freedom fighters are Lilian Ngoyi, Albertina Sisula, Margeret Ekpo and Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti and many others who fought against colonialism and patriarchy. Since then African feminism has expanded and gained roots in areas as policy, scholarship and legislation. Today, African feminist scholars such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Joyce Banda and Leyma Gbowe and feminist organizations like the African Feminist Forum are changing the lives of women positively.
frican women see the women struggle as more difficult than the struggle for national liberation. Through history women have always struggled against male dominance. This struggle is not just about women but also about the African society. Joseph (2001:163) also asserts that “in order to be almost inextricably successful in that chauvinistic patriarchal society and authoritarian set up the society conditions and manipulates the economic and psychological being of a woman”.
African feminism respects African woman’s status as woman, keeper of the home but questions the traditional role of women as second to man and the favouring of sons. It states fairly that the African society has changed. The society is not stagnant. Science and technologies have occurred in
different parts of the world, so is the role of women. Most African female writers seek to address the plight of women as evident in their works. As a result of this, gender scholars have continuously lamented the plight of women and the societal challenges pushed towards them. European and American feminists such as Virginia Woolf and Elaine Showalter have dwelt on the issues of the concern of the African women. African female writers like Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, Mariama Ba, Zulu Sofola, Zaynab Alkali and others have concerned themselves with the problem confronting the African women.
Women have gained support from their male counterparts concerned with the plights of women in the African society. African men who have castigated the political and traditional dominance of patriarchy are seen as partners. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, among these writers, is the most concerned and sympathetic to the women condition. In a 1982 interview on his novel “Devil on the Cross and in Detained: A writer’s Prison Diary”, Ngugi points out women as the most exploited and suppressed in the entire working class, as a result he says “I would create a picture of a strong determined woman with a will to resist and to struggle against the conditions of her present being”. Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel
(1964) would be incomplete if attention is not paid to the influence of the women in the play. In Sembene Ousmane “God’s Bits of Wood (1962), female writers are portrayed as revolutionary activists. They take up the leadership roles to fight oppression in the society. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o also shows the dependable quality of women in the African society. In A Grain of Wheat, women do not just stand by their men; they also participate in the struggle for freedom.
The theory to be adopted in the course of this research is African Feminism. African Feminism is an extension of feminism into a theoretical discourse. A feminist theory aims at understanding the nature of gender inequality. It examines women’s social roles, experience and setbacks placed by the patriarchal society.
Feminist theory focuses on exploring themes such as discrimination, oppression, patriarchy and suppression. Feminism is a universal philosophy that offers an alternative to patriarchal thinking and structures. The exploitation of women actually made writers to go into the concept of feminism as evident in Neshani Andreas’ The Purple Violet of Oshaantu
and Binwell Sinyangwe’s A Cowrie of Hope to bring out the concept of right and liberation for women
Feminism as a theory is a concept in which women rise to fight the traditional roles placed on women and bring out the beauty of womanhood in the society. The Western form of feminism is different from the African form of feminism because African feminism appreciates African woman’s status as a mother. It seeks to combine African concern with feminist demands. Davies (1986) says “A genuine african feminism can therefore be summarized as; Firstly, it recognizes a common struggle with African men for the removal of the yokes of foreign domination and European /American exploitation. It is not antagonistic to African men but challenges them to be aware of certain salient aspects of women’s subjugation...” (56)
Thus, it represents African needs and feminist needs. It respects African woman’s status as a mother. This is why terms such as ‘Motherism’ by Catherine Acholonu and the term ‘Womanism’ by Alice Walker, comes out of African-American and Caribbean culture to portray black women feminism. That is, a recognition of the limitation to feminism. A womanist to Walker is someone who is ‘a black feminist or feminist of colour
committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female… (but who) loves herself regardless” (1983:11-12)
Feminism as a theory posits that women and men should be equal politically, economically and socially. It advocates for women’s inclusion into all fields of knowledge. It stresses on focusing on the deconstructing the oppressive status labeled women. The differences between the sexes that have been set in the society, undermines and creates room for oppression of women.
Bardwik (1980:5) reports that “Feminism is an explicit rejection of life style created by strongly coercive norms that define and restrict what women can do (cited in Evwierhoma 2002:98). From the definition, feminism is a total saying ‘no’ to the laid down tradition that women are inferior and can do nothing.
Frank (1990:80) asserts that feminism “is a philosophy where values, personal growth and individual fulfillment is incomplete over any large communal needs or good”. Feminism is an individual fight against a society of oppression, brutality and patriarchy.
Oppression to women actually made them to create the concept of feminism through their writing. They believe they can bring out the reality
they so much desired. Examples of such writers are Buchi Emechata, Chimamanda Adichie, Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aidoo, Neshani Andreas and many others.
TYPES OF FEMINISM
Liberal feminism stemmed from the increasing importance placed upon individual human rights and freedoms that occurred during the 1700s. Liberal feminism claims that gender differences are not based on biology. This is to campaign to gain for women, rights which exclusively are for men. It favours gender inequality that persists but could prove that women are not inferior.
The Marxist perspective is traced to the works of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels and later to Lenin. To Karl Marx, capitalist class relationships are the cause of female oppression, exploitation and discrimination. Men are socialized into exploitative relationship in relations to work and they carry this socialization home in their relationship with women.
Radical feminism is similar to socialist feminism. It places the concept of patriarchy at the center of gender inequality. Radical feminists believe the society is extremely patriarchal and until this patriarchy is reduced in all areas, oppression will not be reduced. Radical feminists’ watchword is ‘patriarchy’ or men’s pervasive oppression and exploitation.
Socialist feminist believe that there is a direct link between class structure and oppression of women. Socialist feminism like radical feminism believe the issue of gender, race and class are issues that work hand in hand in the subordination of women. In order for anything to be accomplished, women must work with men as opposed to ostracizing them
BLACK/ AFRICAN FEMINISM
Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression and racism are bound together. The National Black Feminist Organisation (N.B.F.O) was founded in 1970 by Floryence Kennedy, Margaret Sloan and Doris Wright. One of the theories that evolved out of this movement was Alice Walker’s Womanism that allows a close relationship with man but disallows partnership between masters and slaves. African feminism is similar to the
Womanism in that it struggles for liberation of women from all forms of oppression, but the weakness of Womanism is that it excludes black men as womanists. This has flawed Walker’s concept of Womanism.
BIOGRAPHY OF NESHANI ANDREAS
Neshani Andreas was born in Walvis Bay, South-West Africa (now Namibia) in 1964, the second of eight children; she studied at the Teacher’s College in Ongwediva and taught there for five years. Andreas went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts and a post graduate diploma at the University of Namibia. From 1988 to 1992, she taught at the rural school in northern Namibia. In 2001, she published The Purple Violet of Oshaantu which was inspired in part by her experience there. Andreas was working as a programme officer for the forum for African Women Educationalist at the time of her death in 2011 at the age of forty.
BIOGRAPHY OF BINWELL SINYANGWE
Binwell Sinyangwe was born in Zambia in1956. He studied industrial economics at Academy of Economics Sciences in Bucharest, Romania where he was awarded an M.Sc in 1983. His first novel Quills of Desire was published by Baobab Books in Zimbabwe in 1993. It was also published in South Africa by Heinmann in 1996. The story Wild Coins was published in anthology of stories by Zambian writers. Sinyangwe has also had a number of articles and poems published in Zambian newspapers and magazines.
Binwell Sinyangwe is a widower and lives in Lusaka with his son and two daughters.