Centre for African Literary Studies

Dr Josue Bosange Nkaongami (Rhodes University) visits CALS

Dr Josue Bosange Nkaongami (Rhodes University) visits CALS for 2 weeks in June 2017


The heroism of female figures in African Epic

In African epics, female figures play various roles including heroic roles, but the experiences and actions of men get more attention than those of women. Notions such as heroism are seen and understood from a male perspective. These biases are built into research tools such as the motif indexes and the hero pattern. The archetypal theory should form the baseline of all theoretical discussions of the hero because, regardless of whether the incarnation of the hero is male or female, it should always be expected to perform the function of the archetype: cosmogenesis (the rebirth of the world). The feminist revisions of Jung clarify his archetypal language and concepts so that the archetypal pattern, as outlined in Joseph Campbell’s comprehensive and influential study of the heroic monomyth, may be applied equally to male and female heroes. This challenges the gender-bias in existing scholarship, encouraging scholars to expect the female hero to navigate the same trials and perform the same archetypal function as her male counterpart. The function of the hero is of primary importance while the biological sex of its manifestation merely reflects the preference of a culture or individual for a certain image. This study offers a critique of how we understand the narratives and discourse a new methodology, founded on new critical and conceptual approaches such as the idea of female heroism. By focusing on epics, this work incorporates comments on women in folktales, based on the fact that folktales are a key part of the themes on which African epics are based, in terms of structural elements and the representation of female characters and roles. The present contribution aims at carrying lighting on the supernatural forces, and the heroism of the female figures to their commitment in the undertaking and protection of Soundiata, Shaka, and Lianja for the realization of their destiny.

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