SA to revive literary classics in indigenous languages

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Arts and Culture has tasked the National Library of South Africa to reprint literary classics in indigenous languages to help preserve the country's heritage.

Launching the Reprint of South African Literary Classics Project on Tuesday, Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan said publishing literature in indigenous languages was self-evidently an area with the greatest potential.

Significantly, he said, the project was part of the government-wide campaign to promote the culture of reading and writing in indigenous languages, thereby reducing illiteracy.

"It is our fervent hope that its [the project] 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," Minister Jordan said.

At the launch, the minister announced that 27 titles had already been reprinted including the works of authors such as poet laureate Samuel Mqhayi, writer Sibusiso Nyembezi, M.L Bopape, S.P. Lekaba, T.N. Maumela and others.

These titles, he said, will be available in public libraries and booksellers nationally.

The minister explained that by reprinting these classic works, the country will rediscover the capacity of exploring and expressing the broadest human experiences, the profoundest human emotions and wisdom in the indigenous African languages.

He hoped that in the future schools would use these classics as part of their syllabus.

"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," the minister said.

He said as a nation South Africa is in earnest about an African Renaissance, adding that it must entail the rediscovery of African genius, African achievements and the dissemination of the best works of the African imagination.

"The literature that has been produced by the story-tellers and writers in indigenous languages are essentially and no different from that in any other in these respects, but what is specific to it is the environment in which the tales unfold."

The minister indicated that the classic literary works reveal and wrestle with the very same human frailties, foibles, idiosyncrasies and human robustness found in other literatures.

"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," he said.