The Rewriting of the Female Subject in Jacqueline Nozipo Maraire’s Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter (1997)

During the colonial period, African written literature was almost exclusively reserved for men who produced literary works that addressed such issues as colonial politics and culture and in which they imposed images of women as mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends, maids, mistresses, and prostitutes. Therefore, the African female subject characters were seen through the eyes of male characters. After independence, while most of them continue to write about colonization and post-colonialization, criticizing the new leadership, the new wave of female novelists focuses on their condition and place in Western modernity with new write-ups and narratives. This article explores how Zimbabwean female novelist Jacqueline Nozipo Maraire reframes in Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter (1997) the images and roles played by women in the traditional African society and the roles they played in the fight for independence, thus bringing to the fore new images of the female persona in literature. Resting on postcolonial feminism and afrocentricity, as theories, and axiology and discourse analysis, as literary paradigms, the paper analyzes how Maraire, through an epistolary novel, gives a voice to Black women who had long been silenced and ‘devalued’ in male writings. Therefore, it lays bare the author’s rewriting enterprise as she brings to light women’s contribution to the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence, and her reinterpretation of their roles as mothers, bearers and guardians of cultural traditions and values.

Key words: gender, motherhood, feminism, womanism, culture, tradition.