Images of Zimbabwean Women in the New Millennium: A Literary Analysis of Commuter Omnibus Posters

Article excerpt


The commuter omnibus in Zimbabwe is by far the largest means of transport of most urban commuters. No other means of transport rivals it, especially since there are no urban trains, and few commuters own cars. However, even though the commuter omnibus's core business is ferrying commuters, this researcher (as one who normally uses commuter omnibuses), noted a subsidiary function of this means of transport. The subsidiary function is textual communication through use of word posters and other writings on the bodies of the commuter buses. As Nyoni, Nyoni & Jinga, (2010, p. 307) say of any written message, the posters are not just matter-of-fact, flat, technical, lifeless pieces of discourse, but are rich literary products not devoid of content, style and structure, hence equally deserve recognition, as any other form of literature. Though this trio talk specifically of short text messages through mobile phones, this researcher finds this equally applying to posters on commuter omnibuses. An observation of these posters by this writer was that most of them were gender related, and more often than not, implicitly or explicitly talked about women as a sex group. This observation formed the motivation of this study, the guiding question being what images about women were being communicated by the gendered posters? Using a combination of Ivor Armstrong Richards's textual analysis devices (Dutton, 1985) and feminist literary criticism (Kolodny, 1980), this question was explored to its logical conclusions. The main concern of feminist theory employed in this study was that of language bias and the invisibility of women.

Objectives of the study

The study sought to analyse the commuter omnibus posters as vehicles of gender related commentary so as to:

* bring out the literariness in the posters

* bring out the gender dimensions of the posters, unravelling how the dignity of the Zimbabwe women is reflected.

Commuter omnibus posters as a means of communication

De Vito (1991) in Nyoni, et al. ( 2010) defines communication as an act of sending and receiving messages. Taking off from there, Nyoni, et al. (2010) clarify communication as composed of Ave main components. The identified components are: the sender, the message, channel, receiver and feedback. By the sender is meant one who sends the message, the message is what is said, the channel is the means through which the message is sent, the receiver is the one who reads the message and the feedback is the effect of the message on the receiver. In the context of this study, the sender is the one who created or generated the poster, the channel is the poster, the receiver is the passenger that has boarded the commuter omnibus and the feedback is the effect of the message on the passenger. Because commuter omnibuses are public transport, the posters are therefore mass communication.

Purwarno (2006) notes that when one writes, the intention is to communicate and language is the means of that communication. Language is made of words, hence Purwarno (2006) is of the view that the words are important if one has to understand the meaning of any work of art. Concurring, Nyoni, et al. (2010, p.322) say 'messages are loaded with meaning that they require principles of literary criticism if their full meaning is to be appreciated and unravelled'. Taking hint of these utterances by Nyoni, et al. (2010), this study employed Ivor Armstrong Richards's textual analysis principles as well as the feminist tools to get the meaning of the posters. Though Ivor Armstrong Richards wrote mainly about poetry, his ideas fully apply to any literary text. Not disregarding the intention of the writer, this study's main concern and interest are with the effect of the poster on the reader, who in this case is the commuter omnibus passenger, because these stickers are not only words, but words that organise the passenger's attitude about men and women as distinct groups. …