May 12, 2005

A boost for writers in African-languages

The Department of Arts and Culture is working with a local publisher to launch a project aimed at promoting writing and publishing in indigenous languages. The project will focus on publishing material from emerging writers across all genres. Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan revealed this in his response to a parliamentary question on the shortage of books in African languages. "The key objective of this project is to assist previously marginalised writers to begin a process of engaging publishers countrywide in addressing key social issues beyond profit and to help develop indigenous languages," he said.

Over 60 manuscripts in local indigenous languages have been received since the project commenced in January. Thirty of these are being considered for publication.
As part of efforts to promote the craft of writing, the department awarded Professor Mazisi Kunene the title of South African National Poet Laureate. This was to acknowledge his selfless dedication to "foregrounding and championing" African literature and languages.
Professor Kunene is a world-renowned author of epics who has established himself as a poet writing in isiZulu. "This is the first time that such an award has been made. With the South African National Laureate prize, we hope to encourage aspirant poets and nurture new talents," Jordan said.

The department recently endorsed the concept 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 the youth. The Department of Arts and Culture has also commissioned the Print Industries Cluster Council to conduct research into intellectual property rights in the print industries sector as part of a broader initiative to identify policy and development needs in the cultural industries. This will be followed by the development of a national book policy, which will serve as a legal instrument providing a comprehensive framework to guide activities in the book publishing industry. Meanwhile, in collaboration with the Department of Education, Arts and Culture is currently working on developing a coherent policy that will support the development of African languages. (Bua News, Tshwane)


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