Original Research

Gender conversations in Zimbabwe: A precursor of male gaze in visual art practices

Dairai D. Dziwa, Louise Postma, Louisemarie Combrink
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 16, No 1 | a768 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v16i1.768 | © 2020 Dairai D. Dziwa, Louise Postma, Louisemarie Combrink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 October 2019 | Published: 25 November 2020

About the author(s)

Dairai D. Dziwa, Edu-H Right Research Unit, Faculty of Education Science, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Louise Postma, Edu-H Right Research Unit, Faculty of Education Science, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Louisemarie Combrink, Department of Art History, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


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Abstract

Masculine hegemonic predisposition dominates the gender culture in Zimbabwe. From this perspective, the notion of the male gaze entails that visual interpretation, amongst other things, at encoding and decoding levels is consequently performed with a specific hegemonic ‘lens’. It follows that much of visual art, films and advertisements are created to please and reinforce a male-biased perspective which renders women powerless and subordinate. In the visual arts, this is particularly evident in the manner that the representation of space reflect this bias. Guided by critical phenomenology, this study adopted an interpretive methodology informed by decolonial views to explore and challenge gender identity constructions in visual culture. Engagement with gender literature and visual discourse analysis revealed the demeaning effects of patriarchy and also coloniality on women in much of Zimbabwean art. The discourse of decolonial activist art opposes the male gaze and aims to disrupt the power dynamics which position women to be inferior or less visible in the public art space. This type of activist art is concerned with the possible critical transformative impact of the visual arts in contesting and resisting gender dichotomy, imbalances and inequality.

Keywords

male gaze; masculinity; hegemony; heteronormativity; gender construction; decoloniality; activist art.

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