This study s focal point is centered around the cultural practice of the custom of wife replacement/inheritance known as seyantlo in Setswana. This research was inspired by the fact that this practice is still in use in some areas in South Africa, and some regions of Southern Africa even during this era of democracy and human rights.
In South Africa, the custom of wife inheritance is still prevalent in many cultures such as the Zulu, Pedi, Venda, Tswana, and other ethnic groups. This study aimed at researching the reasons behind the practice of seyantlo, and procedures followed to perform this ritual, as endorsed by the Batswana culture. In researching the two basic aspects mentioned, this study analyses two Setswana literature pieces, O nkutlwe a short story, and Maikotlhao a drama book. These two books investigate this practice of the custom of seyantlo. It is vital to report to the readers of this research study on the success of this study in its findings, that the aim of the Batswana people to put the custom of seyantlo in use was for procreation and protection of the deceased husband s assets.
The methodology employed to analyse the two books mentioned is explained hereunder:
In the first instance, the levels of cultural theory according to Hofstede (1991) are applied. The basic aim is to identify the levels at which a child gets exposure to, acquires and identifies himself with his own culture. Factors such as the environment in which he is living; different people he interacts with in his neighborhood; at school; at church and other social settings are being followed up in the two books. The results obtained confirm that a child learns culture at different levels such as through inheritance; imitation; influence; inspiration; self-driven motivation; etc.
In the second instance, the semiotic approach according to Stables (2007) has been applied to investigate different types of signs that signify aspects of culture in the plot and narrative by the authors in the two books. As a semiotic approach is based on the study of signs, it is a relevant approach to identify cultural signs contained in the two books.
The onion diagram according to Hofstede (1991) on cultural signs, the levels at which a person learns culture according to Hofstede (1991), and the semiotic approach by Stables (2007) complement each other very well in terms of identifying the aspects of Batswana culture as mentioned above. The research also embarked on a comparative study of the two books, with the aim of determining similarities and differences regarding the use of cultural aspects such as myths; cultural values; rituals; cultural heroes, cultural signs and symbols evident in Batswana culture.
With regard to the findings of the research, it is evident that the two authors highlighted similar procedures followed by the Batswana people in practicing the custom of seyantlo after the death of a husband. Also, similar cultural symbols are evident in the two books, such as the way of mourning, the dress code for mourning, the specific mourning period, ilobolo and its cultural role, funeral procedures, and many other signs and symbols.
In conclusion, this research study strongly agitates for a review of some cultural practices such as the custom of seyantlo in respect of human rights. It is the standing point of this research that some aspects of Batswana culture are no longer relevant in this technological era. The research strongly believes that the practice of seyantlo custom is practically contravening the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, and should either be revisited/amended or abolished.