Legon Journal of the Humanities

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African motherhood proverbs and worldview: A matriarchal perspective

Dominica Dipio


The ‘mother’ is a distinct female category that is prevalent in African folklore and art forms. Her prominence is mostly related to her centrality in the family – the basic cell of society. Because of her indelible connection to the children, she is consequently at the centre of the economy and spirituality of the family/community. The body and soul of the family rests in the mother’s hand. This large space she occupies is evident in proverbs and sayings about her role in African society. Using selected proverbs across Africa, this paper examines how life is organised around the mother even if Africa is, today, predominantly referred to as a patriarchal society. The theoretical thoughts of Africanist scholars like Cheik Anta Diop and Ifi Amadiume, whose scholarships show traces of Africa’s matriarchal and matrilineal pastbefore the force of patriarchy eroded them underpin my analysis. Folklore, and particularly proverbs are repositories of a community’s memory that bear traces of older cultures that may still be discernible in contemporary culture. My analysis of proverbs as pointers to the matriarchal traces of African communities draws from Heide Goettner-Abendroth’s research on matriarchal societies around the world. The research findings indicate that both from the perspective of proverbs, symbolic expressions of culture and observances from everyday lived experiences, Africa’s matriarchal origin is undeniable.

AJOL African Journals Online