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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The symbolism of womanhood in African oral literature: the example of some Nigerian proverbs
Author:Umoren, U.E.
Periodical:West African Journal of Archaeology
Geographic term:Nigeria
oral literature
Abstract:This paper examines the meanings of womanhood as constructed by Africans on the basis of 21 Nigerian proverbs collected during the past five years. The paper identifies and interprets three categories of meanings of womanhood: meanings touching the woman's 'dimension of length', namely meanings relating to the inner person of the woman in herself; meanings touching the woman's 'dimension of breadth', namely meanings pertaining to the relationship between the woman and other human beings; and meanings touching the woman's 'dimension of height', that is meanings concerned with the woman's upward reach for the supernatural other - God. The paper argues that each of these categories is a conglomerate of largely derogatory and favourable ideas creative of corresponding types of being and acting, and that such oral literature was manipulated by men in a preliterate oral traditional society where speech was in their hands. Today, the power of speech is no more monopolized by men, and women are using written literature to create new meanings of women, as the works of six women writers from Nigeria (Zaynab Alkali, Hauwa Ali, Flora Nwapa, E.O. Akpan, V.I. Ekpo, and Teresa Okure) illustrate. Bibliogr.