Gender and (non) Patriarchy in Selected Yoruba and Kalenji Proverbs

Author: Feyi Ademola-Adeoye (University of Lagos, Lagos)
Speaker: Feyi Ademola-Adeoye
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


There are many claims that the traditional African society was largely non-patriarchal, that the lives of African women changed under colonial rule when colonialists introduced patriarchal structure from Europe into African societies (Ajikobi,1999; Moagi & Mtombeni 2020). However, contemporary gender relations fail to reflect women’s exercise of power in the past. Proverbs reflect a society’s culture in that they serve as mirror of the customs, traditions, values, opinions and beliefs of a particular society (Ademilokun,2014; Lee, 2015; Tchimboto, 2017). Indeed, by looking at peoples proverbs, we can understand how they think and look at the world, their culture, values, behaviours, aspirations, and preoccupation. This paper attempts to analyze selected Yoruba and Kalenji proverbs in order to gain an insight into how issues of gender and patriarchy are perceived in these African societies. Guided by Cultural Linguistics, the study explores the interrelationship between language, culture and conceptualizations (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) by integrating cognitive linguistics with three anthropological traditions namely ethnography of speaking, ethnosemantics and Boasian Linguistics (Palmer, 1996).  Preliminary findings suggest that while there are proverbs that extol the virtues and importance of women, promote gender equality and empowerment of women in the African society, several proverbs portray women as evil, ambitious, promiscuous, unreliable, deceitful, and above all, intellectually inferior and subordinate to men.


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Keywords: Gender, patriarchy, culture, indigenous African languages, proverbs