Culture and Igbo notions of masculinity in Nigerian children’s literature
Keywords:oral traditions and culture, masculinity, Igbo masculinity, literature, gender, children’s literature
Children’s literature conveys the cultural and indigenous artistic experiences of the people to whom it is attributed. Earlier studies on modern Nigerian children’s literature focus mainly on the representation of moral etiquette with little attention to gender. The twin theme of culture and masculinity has not been paid close attention by scholars of children’s literature in Nigeria. In applying Igbo notions of masculinity, in this article I examine the role of oral tradition and culture in the construction of masculine identity in children’s literature in Nigeria using Ifeanyi Ifoegbuna’s Folake and Her Four Brothers, Anthonia Ekpa’s Edidem Eyamba and the Edikang-Ikong Soup, and Ikechukwu Ebonogwu’s The Champion of Echidime. I show how the ideals of masculinity, as visible and permissible in the traditional Igbo society, are, in particular, constructed and communicated through various oral and cultural norms such as praise poetry, war songs and dance, wrestling, and drumming. I reveal that oral and cultural traditions in children’s literature reflect attributes such as strength, toughness, honour, protection, respect, heterosexual desirability, and the projection of self-pride as acceptable and embraced masculine values among the Igbo in Nigeria. I also demonstrate how oral and cultural tradition is replete with masculine ideologies and messages that promote male dominance in the Igbo society.
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