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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Texts on Textiles: Proverbiality as Characteristics of Equivocal Communication at the East African Coast (Swahili)
Author:Beck, Rose M.ISNI
Periodical:Journal of African Cultural Studies
Geographic term:East Africa
Swahili language
female dress
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13696850500448246
Abstract:This article argues that proverbiality may be understood to include more than abstract properties of short, poetically condensed texts. Rather, proverbiality is seen as a characteristic of a specific communicative strategy in which equivocation plays a major role. The proverb itself is perceived as its manifestation. The empirical material on which this hypothesis is based consists of case studies of interpersonal communication by means of the wrap cloth kanga from the East African coast (Swahili). The kanga has proverbial texts printed on it, whose topics are subject to speech prohibitions: love, conflict and exhortative sayings. The cloths are used to 'say' something while 'saying' nothing. Bavelas' (1990) model on equivocal communication is used to explain the 'how' of kanga-communication. In order to explain the 'why' it is combined with some aspects of Brown & Levinson's (1987) politeness theory. In the case of the kanga, equivocation reaches amazing dimensions, ambiguating not only the four elements of addressing person, content, addressee, and context, but also to the medium, the kanga, which is at the core of the ambiguation process. The article focuses on how exactly the elements are ambiguated. As to the 'why', it 'works' only in close social relationships, crosses hierarchies (of age, descent, gender), and touches on socially sensitive topics, as is expected of avoidance-communication. Overall, it is a communicative genre which affirms and subverts rather than transforms and violates rules, expressing the arrangement of women in a patriarchal society. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]