“Going through the Fire with Eyes Wide Open”: African Women’s Perspective on Indigenous Knowledge, Patriarchy, and Sexuality

  • IA Phiri
  • S Nadar


Activists and scholars have shown through research and scholarship that HIV is a gendered pandemic. Attempts to engage this issue, from a gender justice perspective, however, have seen accusations levelled at African women theologians of using Western models to critique essentially African cultural practices. In response to these accusations the authors of this article, conducted empirical research to see if it was possible to find indigenous knowledge which critiques patriarchal practices from within African culture. While neither the concept of “indigenous knowledge” nor “African culture” is monolithic, we chose to study the proverbs, songs and indigenous healing practices of a Zulu community in rural Inanda as a case study, in the hope that a study of this particular community may help to illuminate a larger dynamic. In this article, we explore the ways in which Zulu songs and proverbs critique patriarchy and the ways in which they promote patriarchy. In conclusion, new models of knowledge for the promotion of life in contexts of HIV are proposed.

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eISSN: 1011-7601