National Arts Festival showcases indigenous literature

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Literature is again enjoying its rightful place at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda. The literature festival offers a platform for African writers to showcase their indigenous language work.

The use of indigenous languages in education is currently a hot debate. South Africa has 11 official languages.

The festival is celebrating indigenous languages, through the spoken and written word. These languages were once deemed inferior and suppressed by colonisers and the apartheid regime.

The South African education system is still dominated by English and Afrikaans as languages of instruction. Many are fighting for the upliftment and advancement of indigenous languages.

Linguistics professor, Henry Thipa, is one of the flag bearers. His 30-year quest to preserve these languages was recognised by the festival.

Thipa says that it is important to preserve African languages for future generations and to keep identities alive through literature.

But the dominance of English is enhanced by a growing perception that fluency in the language is an indicator of intelligence. Young people are said to be neglecting their mother tongues to master English.

Writers and academics agree that for African languages to flourish as a medium of education, there must be more factual writing and research publications in indigenous languages. Currently, there is very little of that on the shelf.