LANGUAGE ATROCITIES COMMITTED BY PEOPLE
Written by: Harvest Thwala
“The greatest atrocities against the indigenous languages today are done by us”.
These were Florence Masebe’s utterances at a public lecture she delivered at the Durban University of Technology on Thursday evening. The veteran actress, who advocates for the use of indigenous languages, charged the audience to go promote the use and preservation of the “languages of the soil”.
After her address, a panel discussed various concerns and questions from the audience around the address. The panel included Masebe, renowned-poet Gcina Mhlophe, Pan South African Language Board CEO Dr Rowena Monareng, and DUT Research Coordinator Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi.
Masebe, who fluently speaks all the 11 official South African languages, said towards the end of apartheid, the country made a mistake on only focusing on the diversity of colour.
“Nobody spoke about the land, the sounds, and the tones,” she said.
Masebe, a former actress in Generations and Muvhango, said through creative contents in the media, South Africa had a chance promote indigenous languages. However, she lamented the poor and inaccurate usage of the languages in the productions that are particularly shown on television.
“It is very tricky to deal with issues of language in an African country, having to forever argue for indigenous languages in Africa,” said Masebe.
Gcina Mhlophe also lashed out at local drama shows that used isiZulu incorrectly. She said it was “a salad she doesn’t understand”.
Masebe said she celebrated the world-renowned Gogo Esther Mahlangu (81) who has travelled the world taking pride in the Ndebele culture, language, and its creativity. She endorsed Mahlangu’s belief that if African people did not speak their indigenous languages, they would at some point fade. She said a mere accurate usage of the language at home would help preserve it for the future generations.
Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi said DUT’s Arts and Design Faculty had invested in the promotion of indigenous languages in the academic space. She said DUT has a programme where mother-tongue is used as a language of intervention when students were struggling in understanding in the media of instruction.
Mhlophe also said she was also tired of parents bumping into her and saying they appreciate her efforts in teaching their children proper isiZulu.
“It is a great compliment but sometimes it infuriates me. Why are they making it my responsibility when we should all be teaching our children proper language usage?” she questioned.
This language campaign is spread over 28 days and will make its next stop in Polokwane over the weekend, and Cape Town next week.
*Caption: Florence Masebe, veteran actress and advocator for the use of indigenous languages.