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The African Family Essay

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Updated: Dec 2nd, 2019


A family is the social institution where every individual belongs. Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya an African woman of Lesotho belongs to a large family. As a child she learnt important aspects of life from her family as she grew up. Apparently, the society expects people to adopt its changing environment something Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya has observed throughout her life. (Nthunya, Kendall, Kuzwayo:192).

This article seeks to analyze the African family by assessing the life of Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya as an African woman in the family context. It will cover the structure of the African family, gender roles, education, marriage and the African tradition. It will also look at poverty and ill tradition as a constant feature of the African family.

The African family

An African family is made up of the father, mother and children. The father who is the head of the family is in charge of the homestead. The husband is free to marry two or more wives as long as he is capable of feeding all of them. Consequently, many children are born making the families very large.

At times a family consists of the extended family. At times, the nuclear family lives with in-laws, cousins, uncles and aunts. This happens because when a man gets married, the husband lives with his wife or wives in his parents homestead. Furthermore, children are expected to take care of their parents at old age.

Gender roles are based on sex. According to the African traditions, the husband is the bread winner, protector and decision maker. On the other hand the wife’s roles are providing home care, bear children and bring additional income to the family. From childhood each gender is taught their roles. Boys are shown techniques of hunting, cultivating and fighting. Girls are taught to cook, clean, fetch water, collect firewood and to take care of young children.

The African woman is expected to support the man by bring up the children, tilt the land and take care of property. As a result, the African woman engages in activities that bring an income to the family. Due to the nature of large families, the family income is sometimes not enough; therefore she takes the responsibility to feed her children.

Taking a look at Nthunya life, she chose to get employed as a domestic worker in order to support her family. Another reason why women provide for their families is that in some instances, the husband can be brutal to the wife and might also be absent hence the wife assumes full responsibility of her family (Nthunya 63).

The African woman becomes a mentor to her children and takes the responsibility of ensuring that they go to school. For instance Nhunya’s mother encouraged her to go school so that she could learn how to read and write. It is from the family that children would learn how to endure hardships in life. The mothers often persuade children to get education and support them to pursue their dreams of making it in their lives.

The African customs emphasize on the value of the male children in the family. Parents deliberately choose to educate the male child. As a result many women end up uneducated. Therefore Men get well paying jobs with high wages while the African woman gets employment from the least paying jobs. As a result, the woman ends up becoming poor.

The African woman is hard working. By looking at Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya biography, she encounters many life tragedies yet she maintains a positive attitude towards life. She suffered miscarriage, loss of her three children and the death of her husband. Despite going through those misfortunes, Nthunya has a strong spirit to work and move on (Nthunya 107).

She supports her family of eleven with her little earnings for many years. When Nthunya got a chance to get education through the free Catholic-grade school education, she embraced her mother’s advice. She put so much effort to learn different languages: causing her to read and write eight languages

African tradition is a dominant feature in an African family. Nthunya was married traditionally where she was taken by her husband family, which sent a message that she was not abducted but intended to marry. Her husband paid her bride price so that she could marry her according to the customs. Nthunya went on a two months leave so that she could mourn her husband’s death.

Marriage in an African family is respected. The husband is expected to pay bride price after which he own and gains control over the woman he marries. Those who get married are expected to stay together as husband and wife. Divorce and separation are discouraged and therefore marriages last long, perhaps till death. Polygamy is allowed. Those who marry more than one wife are seen as wealthy and therefore command respect. After the death of a spouse one can remarry.

An African family as portrayed in Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya story lives in poverty. (Nthunya 192). She lived a humbled life with little possessions.

The main concern for an African woman is to get food and clothing for her family. For example, Nthunya worked very hard so that she could buy food for her children. Families struggle to get enough food to survive form hunger. At times there is lack of money to go to hospital and therefore families turn to traditional medicine men for intervention. Furthermore an African woman has little or no possessions.

When families do not have enough funds to educate their children, parents rely on donors. When such children get educated their lives change because they can express themselves before other people. Taking into account the Nthunya’s story, her knowledge of different languages enables her to express herself before strangers and communicate. With her little education she is able to give her own story vividly.

Ill traditions are asset back to African families. Traditional medicine men practice traditional healing. When Nthunya experienced a miscarriage she was asked by the traditional medicine man to perform a ritual. The ritual would free her from miscarriage, because her mother failed to arrange for feasting following her birth.

She was required to return to her mother’s home. On arrival she would arrange to get a goat’s gall bladder and bather besides it. The African family has suffered racism. Nthunya in South Africa witnesses brutal beating of the blacks and was also jailed for sometime because of her color.


The African family is without any doubt supported the African woman.

By examining Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya story, it is clear that despite the hardship of life her determination keeps the family strong and going. Ill traditions and poverty being the main problem can be overcome by educating the African woman. Intern the African woman will take care of the family in a better way.

Works Cited

Nthunya, Mpho M. Singing Away the Hunger: The Autobiography of an African Woman. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1997

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IvyPanda. "The African Family." December 2, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-african-family/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The African Family." December 2, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-african-family/.


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