Home > Archive > Volume 62, No. 1 > This paper

Gendered Protests Projecting Women’s Voices of ‘Otherness’ through Songs of ukuthombisa in Zulu Social Discourse

Evangeline Bonisiwe Zungu

Published: 2021/09/01


In the Zulu patriarchal society, women have always found ways to express themselves in song. The language used in ukuthombisa songs mainly addresses the issues of gender and power in traditional society. Young maidens use these songs to negotiate their ethnic and gender identities. They forge their cultural roles as they reach puberty, when making the transition from childhood to adulthood. This article examines the power of song and the effectiveness of the choice by young maidens to use profanity and linguistic taboos to navigate their way in this discourse. These songs denounce promiscuous male behavior and the way it destroys the innocence of young virgins. In attempting to take back power from men, young maidens hurl insults at the penis for what it does to destroy the purity of the vagina. This article investigates how sexual morality in Zulu social discourse, and the negotiation of cultural and gender identities, has become an affirmation of womanhood and of the purity of virginal bodies. Keywords: Ukuthombisa songs, Language, Scatology, Performance, Virginity testing, Gender

   Download PDF