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Pallo Jordan Lambastes Publishers, Booksellers at Launch of Indigenous Language Series

Larhwalala NdebeleInkinsela YasemgungundlovuThe Rich Man of PietermaritzburgDiretiThe Wrath of the AncestorsKe Eng?

Minister of Arts & Culture, Pallo JordanAlert! Minister for arts and culture Z Pallo Jordan has lashed out at South African publishers and booksellers, accusing them of a failure of vision when it comes to indigenous-language literature in South Africa.

“Virtually from my first day in office in June 2004, I entered into a rather fruitless dialogue with our South African book publishing sector,” Jordan said, addressing some 300 guests at the launch of the National Library‘s new Indigenous Language Literary Classics series.

The series sees the reprinting, in their original languages, of milestone works of literature like Sibusiso Nyembezi’s Inkinsela yaseMgungundlovu (The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg) and AC Jordan’s Ingqumbo Yeminyanya (The Wrath of the Ancestors) by Jordan’s father, AC Jordan.

“As one who is keenly aware of the huge disparities in our society and the gaping deficit we inherited from centuries of colonialism and decades of apartheid, I felt it was incumbent on me to spur our publishing industry to undertake publishing in indigenous African languages in earnest,” Jordan said.

“I abandoned the hope of the commercial publishing sector coming to the party,” he continued, “But I long for the day when I can walk into Exclusive Books, or any other bookstore in this country, and find shelf upon shelf of books in the African languages.”

Some twenty-seven indigenous-language books were launched at the event, which was attended by writers who inhabit the non-indigenous canon (Oswald Mtshali and Nadine Gordimer among them), administrators (including the National Librarian, John Tsebe) and a few of the newly-canonized (such as RM Malope, whose Matlhoko Matlhoko is part of the National Library series).

You can find Pallo Jordan’s complete speech here; and here follows the complete list of titles launched on the night:

Launch pics

John Tsebe and Nadine Gordimer RM Malope Nadine Gordimer and Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali Raks Seakhoa, Masoja Msiza, Muxe Nkondo, Nadine Gordimer and Oswald Mtshali

Book Details

Photos courtesy the DAC

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    February 19th, 2009 @15:03 #
     
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    Low blow, Pallo. We'd love to see shelf upon shelf of books in all the languages of the continent in every bookshop (as is often seen in countries much poorer than ours). But here, even those written in the settler languages are ghettoised in favour of overseas imports. You know perfectly well no publisher can afford to publish books no one can or will buy, and it's disingenuous to pretend that this hasn't been explained over and over again, by entities that have begged fruitlessly (to use your own word) for govt sponsorship of publishing and dissemination, similar to that seen in India, where books are heavily state-subsidized and dirt cheap. We can't even get VAT lifted on local books. And don't even get me started on the education that's needed to CREATE a market for books...and that sure is something you can't blame the publishers for.

    Er, Ben... no "e" in "lambasts".

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    February 19th, 2009 @17:32 #
     
  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    February 19th, 2009 @18:52 #
     
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    It always spaces me out that publishers somehow have expectations on them that no other businesses have to meet completely unrealistic expectations. Exactly as Helen says, if the folk don't buy they books no-one is gonna publish them. So if the folk aren't gonna buy the books themselves then the government aka libraries and schools need to buy the books as a way of stimulating publishers of all sizes and stripes into producing books for which there is a market.

    This particular lambasting is an old mulberry bush.

    Sigh.

    So now we have the government (National Library) becoming a publisher. Well that is one way to do it.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    February 19th, 2009 @19:06 #
     
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    Ben-editor, this may be one of those cross-Atlantic cultural clashes. My trusty New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vol I, has BOTH as accepted usage. So we're both right...

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  • <a href="http://margieorford.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Margie</a>
    Margie
    February 19th, 2009 @19:19 #
     
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    Publishers are money making enterprises last time I looked...so Pallo's flogging of the long dead horse is rather tedious, I think.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    February 19th, 2009 @20:00 #
     
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    Given that I have a little, ahem, background knowledge of the system, it's occurred to me that he might not have written his own speech. Instead, it's possible that some lackey looked around for something to say, and then trotted out all the old long debunked cliches. And gave the finished whinge to the Minister 2 mins before he went on stage (this really does happen) so that he didn't have time to run a red pen through most of it.

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  • <a href="http://margieorford.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Margie</a>
    Margie
    February 19th, 2009 @20:47 #
     
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    Clearly our old Pallo has no cuff to speak off....

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  • <a href="http://sarahbritten.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah</a>
    Sarah
    February 20th, 2009 @09:55 #
     
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    This reminds me of an event I attended at Rosebank Exclusive Books. It was organised by Kaya FM and featured a black South African author, there to talk about his new book, and a soap star, there to talk about The Secret. And guess which book the audience spent the morning discussing?

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    February 20th, 2009 @11:26 #
     
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    I guess it isn't a secret, which one it was. Sigh again.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    March 2nd, 2009 @10:51 #
     
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    Just to reinforce some of the comments above: at last week’s PASA meetings in Cape Town, it was overheard in the passages (sotto voce of course) that at least two major publishers not only happily co-operated to have the series of classics published by the National Library but in fact sponsored many of the titles’ re-appearance. If this is true, then the minister doesn't have a particularly long leg to stand on...

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