CHAPTER 3 Cattle motif: The African and Batswana sensibilities 3.1
Raditladi’s poetry is inhabited by images of cattle to describe social, cultural, economic and historical environments. In this chapter the focus is on cattle, as they play a significant part in the life of Batswana. Traditionally cows are the most prized possession of the Batswana. Life centres around cattle-rearing and breeding, which is a revered occupation and every Motswana boy has been a herdboy at some time in his life (Plaatje, 1982). Cattle provide for everyday needs. The cow’s milk feeds children of all ages; the elderly use its milk to prepare food and in their tea; the cow’s hide is used to make clothes, shoes, hats, makgabe (strings worn in front by girls and women), rugs and karosses; the horn is used to call men to the lekgotla (meeting place), to gather an age-set for a given assignment or to warn women and children in case of attack; boloko (cow dung) is used in the construction of huts, as well as to polish the floor of the hut, while dibi (dung cakes) are used as fuel; and the cow’s bones are used as divination bones.
During festivals and celebrations, cows are slaughtered to feed the guests. The dead are wrapped in the hide of a black cow; mogoga is served to mourners, that is, the meat of the same cow, prepared without spices or salt, since a funeral is not a time of celebration. The rich are expected to lend cattle to the poor, for ploughing and for the supply of milk, a practice known as mafisa. Good and kind people are compared with a cow that produces milk. Providing a people’s everyday needs renders the cow sacred.
Raditladi’s anthology has thirty five poems and he uses images of cattle in twenty-one of these poems. His poetry, therefore, is full of allusions to cattle and their significance to the lives of the Batswana. (Rosenburg,1982:91), in his article, ‘Literature and folklore’, makes this apt observation:
Writers mature within a culture; they learn their skills and their craft within that culture; and so inevitably reflect some aspects of that culture in their writing. Cattle were central to the life of Raditladi as he grew up. He was surrounded by objects, entities and items of cattle. The language of his people reflected cattle icons. Raditladi was taught and trained in the language of cattle, and later he unearthed this knowledge through his language and thought process.
Afrocentricity is the paradigm that underpins this study. The objective of afrocentrism is to generate knowledge that frees and empowers Africans (Mazama 2003). Afrocentricity questions the march of European culture, with its values and worldview paraded as the only culture and its values as neutral (Mazama, 2003:4). In a relatively new field of inquiry, the quest for methods is also new. That there is still a need to define an afrocentric cultural aesthetic, for example, betrays the continuous dislocation of Africans from their own peculiar and collective centres (Welsh-Asante, 2003:220), and the extent to which Europe has dominated the mental space generally and the academic disciplinary space in particular.
Negritude, a pan-Africanist literary movement that resisted cultural assimilation, is one of the intellectual foundations informing the afrocentric cultural aesthetic. (Asante, 1988:104), (Mazama, 2003:16). Afrocentricity rejects the negritudist notion of “cultural incompleteness” but shares the notion of a “cultural matrix shared by Africans”, (Mazama, 2003:18–19), based upon common origins and a shared history. From Welsh-Asante’s Nzrui aesthetic model (2003) the analytical construct, motif, has been selected. Motif is defined as the “incorporation and use of symbols in artistic product that reflect a specific culture and heritage.” (Welsh-Asante, 2003). Biology, culture and history determine our identity. The collective memory bank of a people houses images, symbols and rhythms based on history and myth (Welsh-Asante, 2003).
A case in point is none other than a salient motif in Afrikaans literature which is the “farm” as embodied in the Afrikaner “plaasroman” (“farm novel”). The “farm,” an image drawn from Afrikaner history, typically appeals to Afrikaner sensibilities and validates identity. Similarly, the use of proverbs, a cultural linguistic practice familiar to Africans, regardless of locality, might be considered a pan-African motif, validating identity. In the African context, proverbs are meaningful, not just poetically in literature (be it story or song), but as they are used in daily life, to record history and comment on what is happening. That these proverbs need to be explicated often (even in translation) to non-African readers, suggests their cultural embeddedness. This links up relevantly with Raditladi’s allusion to proverbs which avers, affirms and validates the African and Batswana cultural identity.
Raditladi employs oral art forms to challenge stereotypical views of both the art forms and the people – the Batswana and other Africans in particular – who most frequently use them. What is particularly at stake here is the contestation over identity between Raditladi and those who think poetry does not exist in African languages, who in his opinion unwittingly expose their ignorance in their attempt to undermine the cultural integrity of the Batswana and presumably, of other South Africans.
Images of cattle in poetry
For many African peoples throughout the continent including black southern Africa, cattle are inextricable from identity; cattle have been their lifeline through countless generations; there is an affective identification with them, and frequently a reverence toward them. This chapter aims to highlight Raditladi’s afrocentric portrait by putting Africans back at the centre of their history and restoring African agency. Afrocentricity is a fitting paradigm, and cattle a culturally appropriate pan-African analytical construct. The following extracts are evidence to this argument and examination will prove their validity:
Robala Ngwanaka (Good night my child)
Rraago ke maaba a tšhwaretse O nkabetse phatswana maloba Mašwi a yona e tsoga e a gasitse Kgomo ya me botlhe ba a e tshaba Your father is a generous donor He gave me black and white cow Its milk will be scattered everywhere Everybody is fearful of my cow
The above is an extract from a lullaby by Raditladi. A lullaby is a soothing song usually sung to children before they go to sleep. According to (Wikimedia Encyclopedia), lullabies originated in England in the late 1300s, which is questionable, since baby cuddling is a global phenomenon. It is believed that all mothers and babysitters have been singing lullabies to children since time immemorial with the idea that the song sung by a familiar and beautiful voice will lull the child to sleep. Lullabies written by established classical composers are often given the form-name berceuse, which is French for lullaby, or cradle song.
One of the most popular lullabies of the English language also well known to the African fraternity through schooling pioneered by missionaries is:
- Hush little baby
- Hush little baby, don’t say a word
- Papa’s going to buy you a mockingbird
- And if that mockingbird don’t sing
- Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring
In Raditladi’s lullaby, the singer is cuddling the child to sleep. She is telling the baby that her father is a generous allotter, maaba a tšhwaretse. The father gave this cow to the babysitter, o nkabetse phatswana maloba, so that she could look after the child properly. With its milk, mašwi a yona, the babysitter will feed the baby. The singer also tells the baby that people are afraid of her cow. No one will ever milk it other than the babysitter herself. The babysitter is reassuring the child to feel secure and protected as nothing untoward will happen to her. Raditladi’s poem portrays Setswana traditional culture where lullabies have images of cows. This is a reminder that the Batswana and cattle were inseparable. Even before a child was born, cows were exchanged to cement the relationship. In Setswana, when a married woman becomes pregnant, especially when carrying the first born child, she is sent back to her parents to give birth to the baby.
1.1 INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
1.2 AUTHOR AND HIS ENVIRONMENT
1.3 RESEARCH AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
1.4 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.5 RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH
1.6 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
1.7 LITERATURE RIVIEW
2.2 ORGANISATION OF THE CHAPTER
2.3 RADITLADI AND SOCIAL CHANGE
2.4 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: TRADITIONAL LOVE AND MARRIAGE VERSUS MODERN TROUBADOUR LOVE RELATIONSHIPS IN LIFE AND IN LITERATURE
3.2 THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS
3.3 IMAGES OF CATTLE IN POETRY
3.4 IMAGES OF CATTLE IN PLAATJES’ READERS
4.2 KGAMA’S STORY: KGOMO E E MAŠWI
4.3 ISANG’S STORY: “LENTŠWE LEGOLO”
5.2 SOUND METAPHOR
5.3 LANDSCAPE IMAGERY
5.4 SOUND REPITITION AS METAPHOR MARKER IN AFERIKA
6.2 MULTI-CULTURAL SOUTH AFRICAN SETTING
6.3 CULTURAL CAPITAL OF AFRICAN LEARNERS
6.4 CULTURE AS IDEOLOGICAL A TOOL OF CONTROL IN THE PAST
6.5 THESIS 231-232
6.6 THEORETICAL CONSTRUCTS: HYBRIDITY, NEGOTIATION AND TRANSLATION
6.7 TEACHING FOR CULTURAL RELEVANCE AND RESTORATION: THE CARE AND EDUCATION OF CHILDREN LEARNING FROM POETRY AND STORY
7.2. NTWA YA 1939 -1945 (THE WORLD CONFLICT)
7.4. KGOSI SHAKA
7.5 POETRY IN MOTION
8.2 POSSIBLE FUTURE RESEARCH DIRECTIONS
8.3 CONCLUDING COMMENTS
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