Disability in Shona Proverbial Lore

Keywords: disability; conventions; traditional society; proverbs; Shona; Zimbabwe


Disability is a world-wide human condition approached differently by different societies. Contemporary society has seen efforts by United Nations (UN) member states to adopt, uphold and safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities. In Africa today, constitutions of various countries have provisions for the rights of persons with disabilities. However, the ratification of conventions and birthing of constitutions that pay heed to the rights of persons with disabilities do not mean that African societies had no place and platforms for those with disabilities before and now. In fact, disability did and still does exist, was and still is talked about, taught about, advised about and warned about too. Traditional African societies, then and now, have ways of approaching this human condition. Using the Afrocentricity theory, this article examines disability among the traditional Shona of Zimbabwe as captured and conveyed through the ethnic group’s proverbs. It examines Shona people’s conceptualisation and teachings about disability. The article observes that the Shona have always known about the condition and its various forms and socialise their members into respecting those with such conditions, making available to them platforms for self-expression as well as being tolerant and patient with them. Inversely, the article observes that sometimes society has had an indifferent approach to those with disabilities, seeing and regarding them as less human. It concludes that the Shona have always been aware of disability as a human condition and continue to approach it in ways that are both positive and negative. The article recommends that African ways of looking at phenomena and human conditions be drawn on as a way of building on the positives enshrined therein.

Author Biography

Godwin Makaudze, University of South Africa

Department of English Studies, Research Fellow