Original Research

Theological ethics expressed through Setswana proverbs: Another way of decolonising theology

Kelebogile T. Resane
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 58, No 1 | a3052 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v58i1.3052 | © 2024 Kelebogile T. Resane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 January 2024 | Published: 03 June 2024

About the author(s)

Kelebogile T. Resane, Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


he intention of this article is to demonstrate that theological ethics as a discipline can be expressed through some Setswana proverbs and idioms, which is another way of decolonising theology in Africa. Decolonising theology through African proverbs in expressing ethics is another way of decolonising theology since the philosophical elucidations and the meaning embedded in proverbs does not easily change over time. Proverbs are important in the substantiation of philosophical claims, and therefore are a powerful tool for education and moral formation in all sectors of society. The method used in this research is a literature study, as the main tool to gather the information of these proverbs and how they are educatively used in ethical and moral decision-making. The objective of this article is not just to define the proverbs but to point out that African folklore is rich with moral and ethical instructions. Methodologically, various proverbs are quoted to indicate that individuals are responsible for self-development when it comes to ethical and moral formation. The same sentiment prevails that an individual is a member of the community, and that as an individual he or she achieves higher goals of life not in isolation but through the contribution of the community. Application of these Setswana proverbs is didactive when considering an individual’s development and achievement, the importance of community involvement, and the complementarity where an individual cannot live in isolation. The conclusion is made that there is still some hope that although ethics and morality are dwindling in African cultural fabrics, African preachers should embark on popularisation of proverbs, promote school curricula that include proverbs, and articulate theological ethics through proverbs.

Contribution: This is an interdisciplinary study engaging disciplines such as linguistics, history, ethics, theology, anthropology, sociology, and communications. This study shows the richness of Setswana proverbs in articulating theological ethics. It shows that proverbs in African languages can be used to unwrap theology from western clutches and make it relevant to the African context. It makes a remarkable contribution towards a theological decolonial project.


Setswana; African; proverbs; ethics; morals; community; theology; decolonisation

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