Of all human identity categories such as race, religion, culture, class and gender that a person might belong to, race and gender are arguably two of the most contentious in the world. This study takes gender as its main focus, exploring how gender, gender oppression, patriarchy and resistance are negotiated in selected dramatic literary works emanating from Africa’s two literary giants, Nigeria and South Africa. It thus aims to bring two distinct literary traditions into dialogue with one another in order to clarify our understanding of how gender is articulated and inscribed across different contexts. Selected works from Nigeria include Aetu (2006), Little Drops (2011), Abobaku (2015) all by a single playwright, Ahmed Yerima, who has been described as one of the most outspoken feminist playwrights in the country. Other plays from South African context include So What’s New? (1993) by Fatima Dike, Weemen (1996) by Mthali Thulani, Flight from the Mahabarath (1998) by Muthal Naidoo and At Her Feet by Nadia Davids (2006). Of particular interest in this study is the question of how these plays explore the specific forms of gender discrimination which arise in the context of religious, traditional and cultural practices such as domestic violence against women, child marriage, wife inheritance, polygamy and property-sharing after the death of a husband or father. These texts, all written from a feminist perspective, foreground different understandings of what a woman and a mother is in the African context. They also offer differing articulations of gender-based resistance. The study employs an eclectic blend of western and African feminist/womanist frameworks in order to decipher how these plays comment, and reflect, on the issue of gender inequality. In so doing, the aim is to bring these distinct theoretical and ideological traditions into dialogue with one another. A further aim is to assess to what extent these plays draw on, or are aligned with, various strands of western and African feminist theorizing whilst also offering an understanding of literary texts as sites of theory-making in their own right. The study further explores the echoes, conjunctions, entanglements and disparities that are revealed by bringing these texts from different contexts into dialogue with one another. In this process, the chapter also explores the extent to which these plays can be aligned with the often polarized discourses of western and African feminist theories, thus contributing to a broader understanding of gender, gendered societies and gender-based oppression in African contexts. Finally, this study seeks to arrive at a new theoretical feminist framework for reading these texts: what I have called ‘Consequentialist feminism’ is an approach which seeks to transcend the binaries between western and African feminist theorizing by focusing on the consequences of women’s choices in particular contexts of engagement and response.
Thesis (DLitt (English))--University of Pretoria, 2019.