n De Arte - Battle of the icons : art, gender and ritual pedagogy in southern Africa : research




The two objects that constitute the subject matter of this essay - a human pair and a child figure - once featured prominently in puberty rites and marriage ceremonies in southern Africa. They were created to communicate to female and male youths the complementarity of the sexes, the social importance of human reproduction and the sacrosanct nature of the origins of life. At a more tacit level they also embodied ideologies of sexual identity which are best described in terms of the tension and competition that existed both between these objects and between the men and women who produced and used them. It is suggested that women used the child figure to challenge the patriarchy while men engaged the paired images to undermine the symbolic affinity between womanhood and the life-creating forces.


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