Boosting mother tongue literature

23 June 2005

The Department of Arts and Culture is working with local publisher Skotaville Media on a project to promote writing and publishing in South Africa’s indigenous languages.

The project will focus on publishing material from emerging writers in all genres.

Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan announced the project in May in response to a parliamentary question on the shortage of books in African languages.

“The project will help previously marginalised writers engage publishers countrywide in addressing social issues beyond profit and develop indigenous languages,” Jordan said.

Over 60 manuscripts in local indigenous languages have been received since the project began in January. Thirty of these are being considered for publication.

In March the department awarded Professor Mazisi Kunene the title of South African National Poet Laureate, in acknowledgement of Kunene’s dedication to “foregrounding and championing” African literature and languages.

Kunene, a poet who writes in isiZulu, is a world-renowned author of majestic epics.

“This is the first time that such an award has been made,” Jordan said. “With the South African National Laureate prize, we hope to encourage aspirant poets and nurture new talents.”

Jordan said the prize would be “the bedrock of future all-encompassing South African literary awards.”

The department recently endorsed the idea of a “literary heroes” campaign, which will give recognition to writers who have made a significant contribution to the development of South African literature in all official languages.

Through this initiative, the department hopes to stimulate the development of South African literature and generate new audiences, especially among young South Africans.

The department has also planned a series of literature exhibitions to inspire writers throughout the country to write in African languages. Books will be displayed in all provinces and prizes awarded to authors of outstanding works.

The Department of Arts and Culture is currently working with the Department of Education on a coherent policy to support the development of African languages in SA.

Source: BuaNews