Written by: Andile Jiyane
Veteran actress and feisty indigenous language activist Florence Masebe intends writing books in African languages, that her own children and others in the African continent will read, so indigenous languages are preserved.
Masebe (46), who has made appearances in popular TV shows including Generations, Muvhango, and Ring of Lies, has endeared herself to passionate African language speakers as she has been advocating for the usage of the languages.
The Vhenda-born woman, describes her strong interest in indigenous languages and their growth as a calling, which she developed at a very young age while growing up in the dusty streets of Limpopo. Although her mother-tongue and home language was Tshivenda, going out to play with other children opened her to learning other languages. By the time she started school, she could already speak Tshivenda, Xitsonga, and Sesotho, fluently.
Masebe’s love for story-telling was influenced by her grandmother who used to sit them around the fire and tell them stories. They also listened to stories on radio, which she still listens to until this day.
“One day I was in Durban and I got into a metred taxi and asked the driver to open any frequency where there is a drama playing, the driver giggled asking if I even understand what they are saying,” she said.
Masebe recently launched a book titled: “What the heart knows” late last year. The book was written in both Tshivhenda and English, with an intention to ensure that her message of grief reaches both women who could read in the former language and the latter.
As an aim to revive a connection between African names and its people, Masebe is currently working on a Venda naming book with My Heritage Foundation. She believes that if African people do not use languages more, they pose a threat to their own culture, which might eventually die. She encouraged that stories involving culture should be well researched and done correctly.
During a lecture Masebe delivered at the Durban University of Technology as part of the 28-day language promotion campaign, she expressed her view on the popular Inxeba movie, which has been banned in all public cinemas.
“I totally disagree with the hate that goes with the noise, but I also disagree with the dismissing of cultural custodians as backward and irrelevant,” she said.