19 February 2009
The Department of Arts and Culture has tasked the National Library of South Africa with reprinting literary classics in indigenous languages to help preserve the country’s heritage.
Launching the Reprint of South African Literary Classics Project this week, Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan said that publishing literature in indigenous languages was part of a campaign to promote reading and writing in indigenous languages, and thereby to help promote literacy.
“It is our fervent hope that [the project’s] impact will be to inspire emergent writers and even those who might have given up owing to the discouraging environment of the past, to come forward with their works,” Jordan said.
Twenty-seven titles reprinted
Twenty-seven titles have already been reprinted, including the works of poet laureate Samuel Mqhayi and writers Sibusiso Nyembezi, ML Bopape, SP Lekaba and TN Maumela.
These will be available in public libraries and booksellers countrywide.
By reprinting these classic works, Jordan said, the government hoped to nurture people’s capacity to explore and express the broadest human experiences and the profoundest human emotions and wisdom in indigenous African languages.
The works wrestled with the same human frailties, foibles, idiosyncrasies and robustness found in other literatures, he said.
“We envisage that our school system will very soon become aware of these republished classics, and that many, otherwise lost to memory, will once again be prescribed as part of the school syllabus.
“The library system, otherwise starved for literature in the indigenous languages, will now have this resource to draw on.”
Jordan said that South Africa was in earnest about an African Renaissance, adding that this entailed the rediscovery of African genius and the dissemination of the best works of African imagination.
“If no one else wishes to preserve these works, we as South Africans have a responsibility to our nation and humanity to ensure that they survive into the future.”