Cultural Practices Around Fidelity Explored in Master’s Research
Cultural practices linked to ensuring fidelity in marriages were examined in research for a Master of Arts in Gender and Religion Studies.
The study was conducted by Mr Calvin Mapangisana who graduated from UKZN while being a full-time employee at Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in Zimbabwe.
Mapangisana’s thesis presents a critical interrogation of socio-cultural factors that may have necessitated the use of Runyoka by women within the Johane Masowe Zambuko Apostolic Church in Zimbabwe. Runyoka is an indigenous way of “fencing” or “locking” a spouse, usually wives, to prevent them from committing adultery.
‘Recent studies reflect the increasing subjugation of women in African independent churches,’ said Mapangisana. ‘Women within these churches become victims of deeply entrenched patriarchal hegemony that renders them voiceless and powerless.’
His study therefore examines how women, through the appropriation of Runyoka, can bring about a desired situation that enables them to not only flourish, but also ushers in the desired transformation within the African independent churches in regards to gender relations.
Mapangisana hopes to empower vulnerable and marginalised groups through an interrogation of rituals that are performed by women. His research aims to ‘steer clear of a society that does not look at culture and religion but rather promotes the use of resources to empower vulnerable communities to flourish and enjoy their rights.’
His studies allowed him to engage with people from different backgrounds: ‘The interesting moments during my master’s studies were those when I would go to class every day to meet classmates who were diverse in terms of culture, religion, gender, origin and sexual orientation,’ he said.
His research exposed him to interesting modes of learning; engaging with organisations such as Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), The International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+) and attending an international conference on Gender Religion and Sexuality at UKZN.
Professor Charlene van der Walt, Head of the Gender and Religion programme within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics said: ‘We are teaching for social justice in the Gender and Religion programme and we aim to create spaces where students can suspend their judgment and pre-conceived ideas and enter into creative encounters with those situated differently in the gender, sexuality and religion landscape.’
She explains how use is made of film, contextual narratives, and challenging exercises to move students from comfort to discomfort to open space for more bodies to matter. ‘It is really exciting for us to see how our students take up these methods and approaches in their own contextual settings and to hear the stories of chance and awareness-raising,’ she said.
Mapangisana explained how he used some of these methods in his local context: ‘I have used the Safer practice, Access to treatment, Voluntary counselling and testing, and Empowerment (SAVE) training toolkit at a number of high-level training sessions. I have also used Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s TED Talk explaining the dangers of a single story to create dialogue when I do sensitisations for parliamentarians and journalists. These tools really helped me in changing narratives about the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community.’
When reflecting on the future, Mapangisana said: ‘I plan to pursue my PhD and continue to represent, promote and protect the rights of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe, southern Africa and the world at large.’
Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela