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Exploring the dark side of culture

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Love is in the air as two young college graduates drive to rural Limpopo in South Africa to break the news of better prospects ahead. But that joy is short-lived as a father takes a hard-line stance to save face in the community for his failure to provide for his family as he reveals a dirty family secret which brings misfortune to the life of a young woman. Events unfold in a set up which puts to test the value of a woman in a society where culture is still struggling to adapt to the demands of modernization. In such an environment is a young woman called “Elelwani” who recently graduated from college and hopes to further her studies in America. Under the guise of a home coming celebration the father took the opportunity to introduce her daughter to her future in-laws.

Florence Masebe plays the role of Elelwani, a young woman who is married off to a king in honor of traditional cultural beliefs as well as to pay off debts accrued during her upbringing and for the support her family has been getting from an elderly king in Limpopo. ‘Elelwani’ is an indigenous film shot in Venda language based on a novel by Titus Maumela and directed by Ntshaveni wa Luruli. Set in rural Limpopo where people are still very much attached to their culture the film reveals the harsh treatment faced by women in a society where men still play a dominant role in decision making. When Elelwani turned down the offer to marry the king this does not deter her father from settling for her youngest daughter as a replacement. This decision makes Elelwani bow down to the cultural demands and later agrees to marry the king so that her young sister can be saved from the forced marriage arrangement.

Such a thought provoking film brings to life some of the stories we have been reading in the press of how the girl child is used as a pay off for avenging spirits or exchanged for a bag of maize when family faces starvation. Premiered at the just ended International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) “Elelweni” tells a story of rural women who are struggling to fight patriarchy and to get fair treatment in the society.

The film festival showcased films, which helped raise awareness on women’s sexual rights and the general human right abuses women go through under the cover tradition.

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