Original Research

Setswana proverbs within the institution of lenyalo [marriage]: A critical engagement with the bosadi [womanhood] approach

Itumeleng D. Mothoagae
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 36, No 1 | a1403 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v36i1.1403 | © 2015 Itumeleng D. Mothoagae | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 January 2015 | Published: 31 August 2015

About the author(s)

Itumeleng D. Mothoagae, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


Setswana proverbs point to the rich oral history of the Batswana people, their cosmology, morality, indigenous knowledge system, rituals, drama, sayings and memo scripts which are deeply embedded in memory. They emerged from reflections on existential experiences and animal behaviour. In her analysis of Proverbs 31:10–31 found in the Hebrew text, Masenya rereads this text in conjugation with her Northern Sotho proverbs regarding women from a bosadi [womanhood] approach. It is in this approach that she attempts to engage structures of ‘patriarchy’ and the marginalisation of women’s identities. In so doing, the approach grapples with issues such as the mythological thinking of male dominance, cultural subjugation, gender equality, political marginalisation and economic transaction. The decolonial turn as a theoretical framework acknowledges the particularity and universality of cultures and knowledge. Whilst there is particularity among African cultures, there is also universality. In this article I will refer to Setswana proverbs in the context of marriage to engage the bosadi approach. It is the intention of this article to argue that proverbs such as lebitla la mosadi ke bogadi need to be contextualised within their historical location as well as within the context of the institution of lenyalo that is anchored in the practice of bogadi. Furthermore, there is a need to critically engage with terms such as patriarchy, oppression, structure and hierarchy. The paper will use the decolonial turn as a theoretical framework. A conclusion will be drawn from the discussion above.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article has an interdisciplinary approach, it touches on Historical analysis of Setswana Proverbs, the missionary era and the transition between ‘Setswana traditional’ worldview and ‘Euro-Christian’ worldview. Furthermore, it pertains to the understanding of the Proverbs within the custom of Lenyalo (marriage), boarders between anthropological, sociological and African philosophy approaches. The fundamental theoretical approaches used in this article is translational theory and decolonial turn, which is social sciences.


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