Selected animal - and bird - proverbs as reflectors of indigenous knowledge systems and social mores : a study from Zulu language and culture.
Author(s)Biyela, Ntandoni Gloria.
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AbstractThesis (Ph.D.) - University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2003.
Selected animal- and bird- proverbs as reflectors of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and social mores: a study from Zulu language and culture is a research that focuses on the human-animal and bird interface to explore the role animals and birds play in the manifestation of a composite picture of Zulu society. This research also proposes to investigate various concepts related to animal and bird metaphors as manifested in the images of proverbial metaphors with an objective of examining the philosophical thought, moral values and attitudes ofZulu society. The primary objective ofthis research is to contribute to an understanding of the ways in
which humans use animal and bird behaviour in constructing healthy social relationships as well as meaningful social coexistence. This research is conceptually based on the nature of language as a symbolic representation of reality. It attempts to do a critical interpretation of images reflected in
proverbial metaphors with the help of international theories which might be applicable to a Zulu situation as well as oral testimonies of local informants as the research is based on local concepts. Language is the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief, and behaviour can be experienced, explained and shared. This makes language the most
efficient means of transmitting culture, and it is the owners of that culture that lose the most when a language dies. Every culture has adapted to unique circumstances, and the language expresses those circumstances.
Identity is closely associated with language. What we talk about, think, and believe is closely bound up with the words and symbols we have, so the history of a culture can be traced in its language which is a major form of human communication and interaction. Recognition of Indigenous Knowledge Systems is being encouraged in most parts of the world as it enriches and enhances indigenous peoples' self esteem. In Mrica for instance, the recognition of indigenous peoples together with their Indigenous Knowledge Systems seems to have given rise to a concept called 'African Renaissance' which implies the renewal or the regeneration ofthe African continent. Indigenous Knowledge Systems are vital in teaching us different ways of thinking about life, of approaching our day-to-day existence on the environment. Recognising and developing these traditional knowledge systems might help indigenous peoples all over
the world preserve their traditional knowledge about the environment as well as their cultural identities ofwhich language is a major component. Language and human identity are inherently linked and inseparable. For many people, like the Zulu, the loss of language may bring loss of identity, dignity, sense of community and traditional religion or spirituality,
When language is lost, people of that particular language also lose the knowledge contained in that language's words, symbols, grammar and expressive elements such as proverbial metaphors and indigenous aphorisms that can never be recovered if the language has not been studied or recorded. Selected animal and bird species form the basis ofthis research on account of their direct link on Zulu people's culture, indigenous medicine and language reflected through proverbs and idioms. For example, images of the big four of the wild which are: the lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant, and are commonly known as the favourites of the Zulu
royal house are used in the presentation ofthe symbolic figure ofKing Shaka.
A society is formed by a common culture and language, and is moulded by acceptance of rules, customs, ways of life and moral responsibility that promote ideas and ideals that secure the survival of society. The understanding of such a background context about a society helps for a better analysis of its literature, particularly proverbs. Proverbs are the most valuable source for the understanding of a society because they are the reflection of a society from which they originate. Proverbs, as the product of an entire society, need to be studied in society and society through them.
Proverbs are concerned with people's behaviour an~ attitudes as they relate to the treatment of persons through the use of moral principles and by giving a device for providing guidance for people's lives. Proverbs are also an oral thread that permeates throughout both tradition and culture in order to manifest the golden heritage invested in these genres. They also serve as a code for establishing standard in ethical and moral behaviour. Ethical behaviour is a normative principle that ensures ease of life lived in common as it acknowledges both the rights and the responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being. There are several proverbs directed primarily at instilling basic values of honesty,
sharing, gratitude and respect to children. Adult members of society seem to have a binding duty of instilling good habits of behaviour, guidelines and boundaries in life towards self-discipline to the young generation and this prepares them to be responsible and considerate citizens in future. Communal responsibility in raising children is an African practice.
A framework against which to examine the social manifestations of the phenomenon of food and eating together in Zulu proverbs is set out. Eating is one ofthe most basic of our human activities. Either we eat, or we die. Because food is so basic to life, it also takes on a rich symbolic importance. Different societies have developed rituals around food and it plays a prominent role in various different religions. We do not simply eat to satisfy a physical need to stay alive. Our eating together of meals goes beyond our physical actions. Food enriches our enjoyment of life and is central to
the development ofany human culture and social relationships. Responsible behaviour is the epitome of this research. The Zulu place a high value on
responsible behaviour in building an individual's reputation. Responsible behaviour makes social relationships healthy and successful in a holistic manner. The goal ofthis research is to assist in the development of moral, compassionate and fairminded persons who can make positive contributions to society as individuals and as members of society who honour good conduct as an intrinsic value. Every society desires
individuals whose actions reflect their integrity and a deep sense of social responsibility. Chronically irresponsible individuals who are inconsiderate seem to become targets of proverbs. Several proverbs referring to animals and birds admonish irresponsible behaviour. For instance, an image of a dog is often used to characterise deceitful and irresponsible behaviour while an image of a bird figures in several proverbs that implicate interpersonal decoru Social life in Zulu culture is based on reciprocal or communal sharing, principles dealing with proper disposition of valuables such as ritualised meat and food. Several of the corpora of this study give guidelines and etiquette of sharing such food. Rituals to link the living community with the community of the dead reflect the inextricable bond
between the two communities. Proverbs are therefore, considered an essential catalyst or a common vehicle through which a society can renew and reinforce its values, and restore a sense of pride, dignity and respect amongst its members as they stress the task of nation building in the context of joint action towards the eradication of antisocial practices which do not promote sustainable social relationships as well as survival of society. This research concentrates on the regeneration and re-norming of society through the formulation, propagation and restoration of values reflected by selected animal and bird proverbs. Facilitating the realisation of the moral society through the regeneration of moral values is possible through the realisation ofthe essence ofresponsible behaviour in
the minds and hearts of people. This means that reconstructing an environment permeated by a regenerated ethical behaviour which encapsulates credibility, respectability, responsibility, loyalty, cooperation
and communal sharing of values provides a paradigm shift to give society a
new direction towards a communal dedication to helping each other do our best.