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Archive for the ‘Xitsonga’ Category

Writing in English is a waste of ink if we consider the shortage of books in African languages – Vonani Bila at the launch of A Ri Hlanhlekangi

By Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho

Writing in English is a waste of ink if we consider the shortage of books in African languages.

- Poet and publisher Vonani Bila during the launch of Samuel Malamulele Risenga’s Xitsonga autobiography, A Ri Hlanhlekangi

Launch of A Ri Hlanhlekangi
Moses Mtileni, Valerie Risenga (author’s wife), Prof. Samuel Malamulele Risenga and Vonani Bila


Professor Samuel Malamulele Risenga, who is head of the Department of Paediatric Pulmonology and Allergy at the University of Limpopo and at the Polokwane Provincial Hospital, has just launched his autobiography, A Ri Hlanhlekangi.

What makes his story unique is that he has written the book in his mother tongue, Xitsonga.



It took Risenga about five years to finish the book, and he says the writing experience was full of emotion because he was reliving things he went through in his life, both good and bad.

“I would at times feel sad and at times feel happy for having overcome obstacles on the way,” he said.

Risenga decided to write his autobiography in Xitsonga because he says he can express himself much better in the language.

“The other reason is that there is a need to promote our indigenous languages,” he said. “If we do not do that, these languages will slowly be forgotten. Our languages are actually very rich in expression and this needs to be maintained.”

He said that the book showed that poverty should not be a determining factor in terms of achievement. It is possible to make it against all odds. “I would like to recommend it to the youth as it is an inspirational work,” he said.

Samuel Malamulele Risenga


The book was launched a fortnight ago at a glittering evening at Oasis Hotel in Giyani. The launch was well attended by professionals across many fields and community members who all came to celebrate a life told on paper and told in the language of the people. A talented Afro-soul singer, Mphuzi Chauke (below), rendered some songs during the launch.

Mphuzi ChaukeAttendees who had read the book before the launch all praised Risenga for his amazing use of the Xitsonga language in telling his story. Some even quoted from the book, while others spoke fondly about certain parts or chapters that they had found entertaining or touching.

A prominent poet and publisher, Vonani Bila, said that the significance of writing an autobiography was that your adventures in life were preserved for posterity.

“Although not every life lived bears the same weight, it is nonetheless crucial to record each life using your own pen so that your life is not misrepresented by secondary observers,” Bila indicated. “Of greater importance is to write in our indigenous languages, which carry the richness of cultural expression. Writing in English is a waste of ink if we consider the shortage of books in African languages.”

The director of Nhlalala Books, Moses Mtileni (below), who published the autobiography, said that A Ri Hlanhlekangi was one of only a handful of books in the genre in the Xitsonga language, with the ones preceding it published largely pre-1994. “A Ri Hlanhlekangi is published as part of Nhlalala Books’s effort at pushing boundaries in the language, publishing genres neglected and experimental works in other genres,” he stated.

Nhlalala Books' publisher Moses Mtileni


The publisher’s statement on the book reads:

It was his N’wa-Khimbini, when asked to name the son of Ben and Rossy Makhanani Makhubele, who said: “We will call him Buwa, a particle of soil, it will crumble like the two before it. She referred here to his two late brothers who had died in infancy. But it is 66 years today, and Buwa (Samuel Malamulele Risenga) has not crumbled. Hence the title, A Ri Hlanhlekangi (It has not crumbled). He has wrestled poverty, having lost his father at around age 14, leaving school at some point to work as a builder to save for school fees and accommodation. He reflects on the forced migration following the adoption of the Group Areas Act, on the challenges of studying medicine in the Black Section of the University of Natal, the inspiration he drew from the Chris Barnard story. It is story of triumph and loss, of perseverance and patience and a deeper thirst for learning and service.

Those interested in A Ri Hlanhlekangi can contact the publisher at or 0725943448.

nullThe Violent Gestures of LifeA Traumatic RevengeTshifhiwa Given Mukwevho is the author of A Traumatic Revenge and The Violent Gestures of Life, and a Tshivenda novel, A Thi Nga Tendi, which he serialised on Facebook.

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New Ngugi wa Thiong’o story translated into over 30 African languages in record-breaking issue of Jalada Africa

Ngugi wa Thiong'o
In the House of the InterpreterA Grain of WheatThe River BetweenWeep Not, ChildPetals of BloodDreams in a Time of WarWizard of the Crow

The latest edition of Jalada Africa contains a new short story by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o translated into over 30 African languages, making it the “single most translated short story in the history of African writing”.

The short story was originally written in Kikuyu as “Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ”, and was translated by Ngũgĩ himself into English as “The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright”.

This is an impressive first foray into translation for Jalada Africa, a Pan-African writers’ collective based in Nairobi, Kenya. Translation Issue: Volume 1 is the culmination of a four-month project, and features collaborative work by professional and amateur translators as well as language enthusiasts from 14 African countries.

In his introduction to the issue, Jalada Africa managing editor Moses Kilolo says: “Professor Wa Thiong’o is uniquely placed to be the first distinguished author and intellectual featured in our periodical translations issue. He has, for many years, been the most vocal proponent in publishing in African languages.”

nullThe story is available in Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiZulu and Xitsonga, as well as the original Kikuyu, Ahmharic, Dholuo, Kikamba, Lwisukha-Lwidakho, Ikinyarwada, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, Hausa, Meru, Lingala, Igbo, Ibibio, Somali, Nandi, Rukiga, Bamanankan, Lugbarati, Shona, Lubukusu, Kimaragoli, Giriama, Sheng, Ewe, Naija Languej, Marakwet and French.

Audio recordings of the story are also available in Kikuyu, English and Sheng. The anthology will soon be available in PDF and ebook formats.

  • Jalada Africa encourages writers and translators who do not find their African languages featured in this issue and who would like to volunteer to contribute a translation of this story and to future Translation Issues to get in touch with at


The aim of the project was to renew interest in publishing in local languages and increase access to such stories.

Ngũgĩ says: “The cruel genius of colonialism was to turn normality into abnormality and then make the colonised accept the abnormality as the real norm … mother tongue first; then add to it, as necessary, that’s the way of progress and empowerment.

“So [Jalada's] actions will empower Africa by making Africans own their resources from languages – making dreams with our languages – to other natural resources – making things with them, consuming some, exchanging some.

“The moment we lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea. The moment we accepted (or being made to accept) that we could not do things with our languages was the moment we accepted that we could not make things with our vast resources.”

Read a short excerpt from the English version:

A long time ago humans used to walk on legs and arms, just like all the other four limbed creatures. Humans were faster than hare, leopard or rhino. Legs and arms were closer than any other organs: they had similar corresponding joints: shoulders and hips; elbows and knees; ankles and wrists; feet and hands, each ending with five toes and fingers, with nails on each toe and finger. Hands and feet had similar arrangements of their five toes and finger from the big toe and thumb to the smallest toes and pinkies. In those days the thumb was close to the other fingers, the same as the big toe. Legs and arms called each other first cousins.

Jalada Africa is planning more editions of translation, featuring a previously unpublished story of no more than 3,000 words. Writers and translators across the continent will be invited to submit and edit translations in their African language of knowledge and/or study. The ultimate goal is to have each story translated into 2,000 African languages.

Jalada’s September 2015 anthology, The Language Issue, also celebrates Africa’s diversity in language, with fiction, poetry, spoken word, visual art and essays in 23 African languages as well as English, French, Polish and Mandarin.

“Despite long-running conversations on the need for publishing in indigenous languages on the African continent over the past five decades, writing and translations remain minimal and the little that exists continues to rapidly decline,” the publication says. “Since our Languages Issue, we’ve deliberated on the best ways of making writing in our languages a continuous activity.

“We were convinced the previous anthology did not capture all the facets of languages we were interested in. There are millions of speakers in African languages and not many writers in African languages. Why? Can this be changed?”

Related stories:

Image courtesy of What’s Good Africa

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Download a free children’s story – available in 11 official languages – and pass on the power of stories this World Read Aloud Day

National reading-for-enjoyment campaign Nal’ibali has teamed up with Yvonne Chaka Chaka for World Read Aloud Day on 24 February, 2016.

Last year, with the support of hundreds of South Africans, Nal’ibali read aloud to over 166 000 children and it hopes to double or even triple that number this year.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka will be giving her own special reading of Neo and the Big Wide World in isiZulu to children at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

In addition, Orlando Pirates Football Club will launch its Reading Stars Programme.

Scroll down to find out more and download the book.


“If we want our children to grow up as strong and powerful readers, we must demonstrate reading for them,” Nal’ibali managing director Jade Jacobsohn says. “When you read aloud to a child, you show them what reading looks like and how to make sense of text. Exposing them to new words and expressions used in stories helps to develop their vocabularies and provides a rich pool of language for children to draw from when they want to read and write on their own.”

Carole Bloch, executive director of PRAESA (the Project for the Study of Alternative Education), a co-founder of Nal’ibali, adds: “The power of reading aloud to children is incredible. Not only is it richly rewarding and enjoyable for any age, it is also the way we establish the foundational, knowledge and motivation young children need as they are learning to read – and indeed for all learning.


“There are over 17 000 000 children in South Africa with only around 5 percent being read to by their caregivers. World Read Aloud Day celebrates the joy of sharing a good story and we hope that even more adults in South Africa will join us this year. Then let’s grow that 5 percent to 50 percent by continuing to explore books and stories throughout the year.”

How to get involved

This year’s special story, Neo and the Big Wide World, by Vianne Venter and illustrated by Rico of Madam and Eve Fame, is freely available for download from Nal’ibali’s web and mobisites.

Members of the public can also sign up on these sites to share how many children they will be reading to, and stand the chance to win one of four Bargain Books hampers worth R1 000 each!


Neo and the Big Wide World is available in all 11 official languages, and a further two: it will be available in Braille in the February edition of Blind SA’s youth magazine, while Sign Language Education and Development (SLED) has collaborated with Story Bosso runners up Kerrin Kokot and Jayne Batzofin to produce a signed video of the story which can be viewed on the Nal’ibali website.

The story will also appear in a commemorative edition of the Nal’ibali’s supplement produced in partnership with PRAESA and media partner Times Media.


You can access the World Read Aloud Day story online here:

And for a burst of storytelling inspiration, listen to Yvonne Chaka Chaka reading the story in English and isiZulu!

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Nal’ibali calls for more books in local languages for International Mother Language Day

Knowledge is power. Where do we keep knowledge? Books! So lots of books means … lots of power!

This is the central message of an inspiring new video produced by Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, with which they are launching their call for more books in South African languages.

The call is made as part of the Nal’ibali celebration of International Mother Language Day, happening on 21 February. This year’s theme, as selected by the UN, will be “Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes”.

All children deserve to learn to read, and to be read to in the language that they are most familiar with and comfortable in. In this way their experiences of books and stories become far richer through greater comprehension of the tales within. This is a crucial component in building children’s motivation to read, a desire which we know has significant implications for their future learning success. – Jade Jacobsohn, Managing Director of the Nal’ibali campaign.

A look at the Children’s Book Availability Report by The South African Publications Network (SAPnet) reveals that very few children are able to read books in their mother tongues owing to a lack of such books:

Between 2000 and 2015, 53 599 children’s books were published in South Africa. Of these 21 714 were English (40%), 12 934 were Afrikaans (24%), 3 638 isiXhosa (6%), 3561 isiZulu (6%), 2 341 Setswana (4%), 2 273 Sepedi (4%), 2 200 Sesotho (4%), 1 309 Xitsonga (2%); 1 144 Tshivenda (2%), 1 119 Siswati (2%) and 912 isiNdebele (1%). This does not take into account the number of these books that are school textbooks. The remaining books published were dictionaries.


Watch the video and be inspired to heed to Nal’ibali’s call for an increase in the production and distribution of books in indigenous languages:

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Press release

Nal’ibali launches powerful PSA this International Mother Languages Day

Highlighting the critical lack of books available in all African languages to children in South Africa, Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, has produced a powerful public service announcement that illustrates the breakdown of books available per language and calls for support for African language reading materials for children. The video has been developed in recognition of International Mother Languages Day on Sunday, 21 February.

“All children deserve to learn to read, and to be read to in the language that they are most familiar with and comfortable in. In this way their experiences of books and stories become far richer through greater comprehension of the tales within. This is a crucial component in building children’s motivation to read, a desire which we know has significant implications for their future learning success,” explains Jade Jacobsohn, Managing Director of the Nal’ibali campaign.

“Without this, many African language speaking children are likely to continue to find learning to read and write a burdensome and difficult task. The accelerated growth and use of a multilingual children’s literature is a sign of appreciation of and care for the cultural and educational interests of all children. It also offers the chance to embrace diversity and grow common understandings”, adds Carole Bloch, Executive Director of PRAESA (the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa) cofounder and literacy content and quality assurance partner of Nal’ibali.

What motivates children to read? Research has shown that choice and relevance are two of the most critical components. When children can choose from a wide selection of books and stories that they understand, inspire them and are relevant to their lives, they are more likely to want to read.

However, a recent report issued by SAPnet (The South African Publications Network) shows that of the total number of books published in South Africa between the year 2000 and 2015, 40% of these were in English, 24% in Afrikaans and just 6% in isiXhosa and isiZulu. The remaining official languages were represented with percentages smaller than six. Most notably, the percentage of books for isiNdebele is just 1%*, an alarmingly small portion of books given the population breakdown per language.

It is also important to note that these figures do not take into account the number of books that are school textbooks, as this would further reduce the number of books available.

“We want our children to grow up to be strong and powerful readers, and to have the best chance of success in the classroom and in the workforce. We need to increase quantity and access to literacy materials in all languages. We need to start by promoting the importance of mother tongue languages and celebrating them,” concludes Jacobsohn.

Using languages which people understand deeply plays an important role in social and economic development. African languages must be accorded cultural capital. Nal’ibali would like to thank SAPnet and the Cape Town Central Library for their kind support in the production of the video and the Nal’ibali campaign.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, to watch the video or to access children’s in a range of South African languages, visit and You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.


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We need to make it fashionable to write in our own languages: Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho reports from the launch of two Xitsonga books in Giyani

By Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho

The fragrance of new books permeated the air inside Giyani Multipurpose Hall during the recent launch of two Xitsonga books, Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula and Mpimavayeni.

nullNtsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula is a poetry anthology, featuring 10 poets and edited by Moses Mtileni (left). The title can be translated as “If Only it Could Rain”.

Mpimavayeni is a novel, authored by Mtileni. Both books have been published by Nhlalala Books, a publishing initiative that aims to produce books that tell interesting and ignored stories to bolster South Africa’s reading level in African languages.

Speaking about the making of Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula, Mtileni says that the poets are young writers whose paths have crossed his at different times during the past five years.

“These are writers who presented to me complete manuscripts they had attempted to have published before, in full or in parts, and whose work I fell in love with,” he says. “They write differently from much of what existed in Xitsonga poetry and from each other, in concern and in style, and I felt they needed to be heard.”

nullnullnullPoets featured in the anthology are Basani Petronella Mathye, Hitekani Ian Ndlozi (left), Thymon Rivisi, Mkhongelo Prayers Chabalala, Onassis Mathebula (middle), Enock Dlayani Shishenge (right), Shikhumbuza Shadrack Vutlharimuni Mavasa, Khanyisa Vista Chauke, Nzam Noel Mathebula and Moses Nzama Khaizen Mtileni.

Mtileni says there is hope in the fact that these young people have chosen to write, and to do so in their own language. He believes publishers should give more time to books that transcend the education market.

“It is said that the levels of reading in African languages are very low,” he says. “As a result, much of what is published is aimed at the education market and not at general readership. The material published, both on language and fiction, is tailored in design, content and packaging to meet requirements outlined in bulky guidelines issued by the Department of Basic Education.”

Mtileni says that the criteria put in place by the Education Department do not allow much space for experimentation and innovation between and within genres.

“It limits writing for enriching the language and the cultures they embody,” he points out. “It limits the infinite possibilities language, writing and literature present for cultural preservation, sustenance and growth.”

Mtileni also notes that because much of the writing material developed for education is produced within very tight deadlines, there is limited time to hunt for new talent, new voices, new publishers, new writers, and by extension new stories and experiments.

“Many publishers confine themselves to this space, because it promises guaranteed purchase of books, it guarantees a market, an audience,” he says. “And emerging publishers who do not immediately penetrate this market battle for survival, the numbers they reach are too few to generate sufficient profits.

“Then there are the libraries, under the Department of Arts and Culture, which do not procure sufficient African language titles, especially in the cities.”

The answer, Mtileni says, is to try harder to cultivate a culture of reading and writing.

“We need to have as many book clubs and writing workshops and competitions as possible,” he says. “We need to make it fashionable to read and write in our own languages, because they allow us to speak more deeply about ourselves and for ourselves and with ourselves, and in doing so, to speak better to the world.”

Mtileni says writers writing in African languages need to engage with other languages and cultures from a position of authority, and to allow for richer cross-pollination of cultures and wisdoms embodied in their writing.

“And so we must find ways of opening up processes of book selection for education and for libraries and for archivism,” he says. “Having said all these things, I must qualify that I speak solely from my own experiences as a Xitsonga writer, translator and publisher and I do not assume that these challenges I cite apply across the board.

“Through concerted collective effort, it is possible to enrich our own languages, and to be enriched by them.”

nullProud poet Basani Mathye says: “I’m honoured to be featured in Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula. I am excited to be part of a group of young writers who are passionate about writing and preserving our mother tongue. We need to make reading fashionable, and especially books in our own languages.”

Mathye sees a bright future for herself as a writer. “I’m looking into writing Xitsonga children’s books and also working on a book about my family history. I hope to publish a collection of my poetry as well in the future.”

Everyone who attended the launch were offered free copies of both Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula and Mpimavayeni.

The launch has opened more doors for more books to be written and published, and for more literary activities to happen in and around Limpopo.

The Violent Gestures of LifeA Traumatic Revenge

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho is the author of A Traumatic Revenge and The Violent Gestures of Life:
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Vonani Bila to be Discharged from Hospital After Shooting

Vonani BilaBilakhulu!Books LIVE has received an update on the health of poet Vonani Bila, who was shot at his home at the weekend.

News broke early on Saturday morning that the Elim-based poet had been shot four times, and he was taken to Polokwane Hospital for surgery.

Gudani Ramikosi, Bila’s wife, says he has benefited from all the support he has received from friends in the literary community.

“Vonani is being discharged today from Polokwane Hospital to Elim Hospital where they will keep him for a day,” Ramikosi says.

“He is much better now and I believe it’s because of the prayers and support he’s been recieving from all his friends around the world.

“We thank Almighty for the speedy recovery. Please keep up praying for him as he now goes home and those thugs who shot him are still on the loose.”

Messages of support for Bila can be emailed here.

Bila’s most recent poetry collection is Bilakhulu!: Longer Poems, published last year.


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Author photograph from the launch of Bilakhulu! at David Krut Bookstore in Johannesburg, taken by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee

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Authors Themba Patrick Magaisa and the Late Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane Awarded Orders of Ikhamanga

Children of ParadiseMihloti ya tinganaOrders of Ikhamanga were bestowed on acclaimed Xitsonga writer Themba Patrick Magaisa and posthumously on Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane recently.

The recipients of this year’s National Orders, South Africa’s highest honour for eminent citizens and foreign nationals awarded in recognition of a contribution to democracy and improving the lives of South Africans, were announced in April but the Presidency postponed the ceremony to mourn those killed during the xenophobic violence.

The Order of Ikhamanga recognises excellence in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport. Previous recipients of the award for literature include Mandla Langa, Sindiwe Magona and Zakes Mda, whose order was bestowed last year.

The order was bestowed in Bronze on Magaisa, who is the author of a number of Xitsonga books including Mihloti ya tingana. Magaisa won South African Literary Awards (SALAs) in 2012 and 2014.

Mzamane, who passed away in 2014, was posthumously awarded the order in Silver. He is the author of a number of novels, including Children of Paradise, was the first post apartheid Vice-Chancellor of Fort Hare University, and was described by Nelson Mandela as a “visionary leader and one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals”.

Official citations:

Themba Patrick Magaisa: For his outstanding contribution to the development of indigenous literature in South Africa. His literary work has enriched the primary and secondary education curricula in our country.

Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane (Posthumous): For his excellent contribution to the development of African literature and the upliftment of African languages on the global stage.

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Winners of the 2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards

Conny Masocha Lubisi

Alert! The winners of the 2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards (MMLLA) were announced at the Pearson head offices in Cape Town last night.

The MMLLA was launched in 2006 by Maskew Miller Longman as their commitment to develop quality literature in all official languages for young readers and to encourage a love of reading in learners’ mother tongue.

The competition acts as a platform to encourage and provide support for aspiring writers who wish to produce literary work in the language of their choice. It remains the only literature competition that gives equal weighting to all 11 official South African languages, reflecting the commitment to developing quality literature in all official languages for young readers.

The competition explores a different genre each year. In 2015 a call was made for Children’s Fiction and a total of 122 entries were received, with 50 percent being written in African languages.

Finalists include a teacher with a passion for theatre, freelance translator, freelance journalists and writers, a church leader with a focus on the youth, and a community project member who helps children discover nature through art. Among the 8 finalists there are debut as well as multi-award-winning writers.

Dianne Case


Before the prizegiving, celebrated children’s and young adult author Diane Case delivered the keynote address. She was the English winner in the MML Literature Awards 2007.

Katy of Sky RoadAlbatross Winter92 Queens RoadLove, David

Spending time with children, which is something she does often as a very active grandmother and involved community member, and her own childhood memories inform Case’s emphatic stories. She shared many touching anecdotes to give examples and stressed throughout her address that “children are not stupid”.

Through witnessing kids’ reactions to not only her stories but other South African narratives too, Case has found enough evidence to say with authority that localised stories – especially those told in a child’s mother tongue – make children feel relevant and help them to articulate their South African world.

Her books tend to create empathy in readers and offer a glimpse of what life was, and in some respects still is, for many people in South Africa. Her first novel, Albatross Winter, was published by Maskew Miller Longman in 1983.

After Case’s spirited address, Brian Wafawarowa, Pearson SA Executive Director for Learning Resources took the stage to announce the winners and present them with their books, hot off the press.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards (in alphabetical order):


  • Jelleke Wierenga for Mensekind teen die monstervlieg (Afrikaans)
  • Bridget Pitt for The Night of the Go-away Birds (English)
  • Sipho Richard Kekezwa for Icebo Likamalusi (isiXhosa)
  • Emmanuel Nkosinathi Nazo for Imbewu Yomuthi Obabayo (isiZulu)
  • Mabonchi Goodwill Motimele for La Fata Gal Le Boe Fela (Sepedi)
  • Thatayaone Raymond Dire for Ngwana Sejo o a Tlhakanelwa (Setswana)
  • Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho for Mveledzo na Zwighevhenga (Tshivenda)
  • Conny Masocha Lubisi for Xixima (Xitsonga)

Read about each of these authors and their books:

2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards


2015 Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards – Biographies of Winners


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Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) tweeted live from the launch using the hashtag #livebooks:


Press Release

Aspiring writers give South African children the gift of reading in their mother tongue

Pearson South Africa will host the Maskew Miller Longman (MML) Literature Awards on Wednesday, 25 November 2015, 17:00-21:00 at its Auto Atlantic Office in Cape Town to announce the winners of this national literature competition. Annually, Pearson invites experienced, new and aspiring writers to submit their original, unpublished stories in their mother tongue to develop quality literature in all of the official South African languages.

The competition judges had the difficult decision of selecting only 8 finalists, from hundreds of submissions received for children’s stories aged 9 to 12. Many of whom work in other industries unrelated to writing and awarded them the opportunity to follow their passion and see their dreams realised.

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, a freelance journalist and one of the (Tshivenda) finalists said: “I have found the MML Awards to be a strong foundation and basement for writers (like me) who still see writing in indigenous languages as a cause worth establishing and celebrating.”

In support of the writers, Pearson hosted a free writer’s workshop in February 2015. The workshop was hosted by Niki Daly, renowned author and illustrator who is respected in the industry for his contribution to children’s fiction and art. The 2014 MML Awards Tshivenda winner, Khalirendwe Nekhavhambe attended and workshop and remarked that it had provided her with invaluable knowledge and skills that left her feeling empowered, motivated and confident as a writer.

Brian Wafawarowa, Pearson SA Executive Director for Learning Resources says: “We are proud to be a part of this annual celebration of ethnic language literature in South Africa’s official languages. Literature is an important element in improving literacy in our country, we encourage people to read and enjoy literature in their mother tongue. We support all initiatives that will help to improve education in some way.”

Award-winning South African author, Dianne Case will be the guest speaker at this year’s Awards ceremony. She has written several successful children’s books.

A prize of R7 500 will be awarded to each winner and will be considered for publication by Pearson. A prize of R3500 will be awarded to each finalist.

Next year the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards will celebrate literature for teenagers. YA authors of all South African languages, start writing! Keep an eye on Books LIVE for information on how you can enter.

Congratulations to the 2015 winners!

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Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho is Sharing His Tshivenda Novel, A Thi Nga Tendi, on Facebook – and the Likes Are Pouring In

Tshifhiwa Given MukwevhoA Traumatic RevengeThe Violent Gestures of LifeTshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, author of A Traumatic Revenge and The Violent Gestures of Life, has started serialising his Tshivenda novel, A Thi Nga Tendi, on Facebook – and the response from readers has been overwhelming.

Mukwevho shares an excerpt on the A Thi Nga Tendi Facebook page every morning, and has amassed over 1 300 fans in quite a short period of time. Initially he posted extracts of 600 words, but had to increase them to 1 000 words, by popular demand.

The Limpopo-born author is an inspiration; a former streetkid and ex-prisoner who has turned his life around through writing. Books LIVE’s Jennifer Malec chatted to him about his new project, ‪#‎LetsReadOurOwnBooks‬.

Books LIVE: What prompted you to start a Facebook novel? Was it the ease of publishing the story, or is it an experiment in how free literature could work? Or was there a different reason?

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho: As a writer, the whisperings and chief voice follow me wherever I go. At times I may try to ignore the voice or else postpone writing due to some pressing work but the voice keeps singing in the backroom of my mind. And when I can no longer contain the loudness of the voice, all other matters have to stop and I sit down to write.

So the novel was prompted by the urgency I felt to share the story with hundreds or even thousands of Tshivenda readers, who would not have accessed and enjoyed this novel had we had to wait for publishers to accept the manuscript, print it and make it available to prospective readers.

At some stage I was made to believe that no young people like me could write literary matters in Tshivenda because it is not easy to do. I received discouragement such as only the old could write; youths lacked the knowledge and writing tools to produce passable, publishable writings.

And I say that has been proved wrong. When I was awarded second prize at the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Awards 2014 in November last year, I knew then that I was moving on the right track. Making a novel available to Tshivenda readers on the platform of Facebook is another way of testing the readership.

So, with the page A Thi Nga Tendi, well, I knew both teenagers and adults needed to read the story and so after writing the full-length novel, I decided to share it with readers on Facebook. I have never published anything in Tshivenda before, I mean the kind of work which received any honest criticism.

For non-Tshivenda speakers, can you explain what the story is about?

A Thi Nga Tendi tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Portia who gives birth to a baby boy and throws him into a pit toilet. Unfortunately the child dies, Portia gets arrested and sentenced to jail for some time. Her reason for committing such a dastardly sin is that her boyfriend had denied paternity. Portia’s mother, who had seven children from seven different fathers and never killed any of her paternally rejected kids, is disappointed at Portia. She rejects her for life, reminding her that she had supported and advised her throughout her pregnancy to be a good mother.

In this novel, I am by no means trying to paint men as monsters who reject their children. But I’m looking at questions such as what happens to children born from extra-marital affairs? Do the fathers, in all cases, properly get involved in raising the kids – don’t some of them run away and seek pleasure in other women?

Was the novel inspired by any real event?

I am a freelance journalism on the community level. The novel was inspired by endless, disturbing incidents of “murders” of babies by mothers who throw them in the dustbins, drop them by the roadside or throw them into pit toilets. This is heartlessness – and it’s happening among us …

Maybe this is another The Violent Gestures of Life from a woman’s side, because Portia also meets other women in jail who have committed serious, disturbing crimes …

Did you plan the plot before starting the Facebook page or are you creating the story as you go along?

The novel is about 93 percent complete, if that makes sense. And the pressure is seemingly on me to continue writing and posting a chapter or half a chapter each morning, as if it were a soapie series. And that in itself is not going to happen. This novel will eventually come to an end like when you read any hardcopy novel. And this is going to anger a lot of A Thi Nga Tendi followers.

What kind of reaction/messages have you had from readers?

Readers love literature that speaks directly to and with them in their language. They give honest praise, criticism and comment on the plot and some events within the storyline. Their comments taught me that writers need not underestimate readers.

Do you have a lot of experience writing in Tshivenda? How is it different, for you, from writing in English?

I had written some work in Tshivenda before, but had not published anything. However, readers comment that my Tshivenda is excellent and accessible. So, today I am confident to say that I am becoming more of a writer the more I continue to write in Tshivenda. I am not sure about the difference or quality parity between my Tshivenda writings and English writings … only time will tell.

Is writing in Tshivenda technically different from English?

It’s not that much different. But then if you have ever published something in English before, like I have, you may find it hard to deal with Tshivenda editors who will be mixing up your dialogue with prose in a way that messes up your work.

What are your favourite Tshivenda novels?

There are a number of contemporary novels and plays I have enjoyed so far: U Nembelela Ha Shamba by ET Mudau, Vhuanzwo by Rudzani Tshianane, and many more. Somehow I am deeply intrigued by Xitsonga literature; there’s hardly euphemism in their writing.

Have you had any contact from publishers or the media (apart from us) about the project?

Nope. But then my aim in creating the A Thi Nga Tendi page was not to make my voice heard by publishers or the media out there. I am writing for my people. And the fact of the matter is that after the novel has reached its end on Facebook, I will consider all comments and criticism from my readers and further develop the manuscript with the aim of publishing and making it available in print format. And I am, again, confident that the very people who read A Thi Nga Tendi on Facebook will also buy and read the hardcopy …

The writing continues …

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In Celebration of International Dictionary Day: 13 New and Revised Indigenous Language Dictionaries to be Published

International Dictionary Day is celebrated annually on 16 October, which is tomorrow.

This day was established in tribute to the famous American dictionary writer, Noah Webster, who was born on 16 October 1758. He is heralded as the father of the modern dictionary.

The South African National Lexicography Units, one for every official South African language, will be celebrating this important day – and the importance of dictionaries in general – by starting the release of no fewer than 13 new or revised editions of indigenous language monolingual, and indigenous language bilingual dictionaries. By the end of November all 13 new dictionaries will have been published.

The Lexicography Units were established by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) in 2001 to focus on lexicography and terminology development in South Africa, their task being to compile monolingual explanatory dictionaries and other products to help with language development. Each unit is managed by a board of directors and registered as a Section 21 (not-for-profit) company, which allows the unit autonomy to raise funds to carry on its work.

For more information on the new dictionaries, read the press release below:

* * * * * *



The eleven South African National Lexicography Units (one per official language) are the structures of state Constitutionally and Legislatively mandated, in the case of our indigenous languages, to produce dictionaries and other material that will “elevate their status and advance their use”.

While the Units are national entities they are based in the province or provincial district in which their language predominates, but the result of their work benefits all speakers and learners of the language no matter where they reside.
They are located as follows:

Xitsonga – Limpopo
Tshivenda – Limpopo
Sesotho sa Leboa – Limpopo
Siswati – Mpumalanga
isiNdebele – Gauteng / Mpumalanga
isiZulu – Kwa Zulu Natal
isiXhosa and English – Eastern Cape
Sesotho – Free State
Setswana – North West
Afrikaans – Western Cape

The nine indigenous language Units have recently formed an overarching structure – The South African National Lexicography Units – in order to:

Launch and maintain an awareness creation programme to inform the public and all government departments and agencies, including schools and tertiary education institutions, of the Units, their work, achievements and our new publication development plans.
Persuade the above agencies to implement and use our dictionaries, and to involve them – - in particular Government’s other indigenous language support and development structures, tertiary institutions, National and Provincial Departments of Education – in revisions of existing dictionaries and the identification of new projects which will elevate the status and increase the use of our languages.
Remind Government agencies of their Constitutional obligation to our indigenous languages and persuade the private sector to play an active role in this regard.
Co-ordination of the Units book development activities ensuring that no indigenous language, on the basis of having fewer speakers, is disadvantaged over any other language.

Our national awareness campaign was launched about five weeks ago and saw the attached poster, together with a covering letter, being distributed to all Honourable Members of Parliament, the NCOP and as of today six of our nine provincial Legislatures. The response has been most encouraging and we hope for a similar response from both government and the private sector.

International Dictionary Day

We are pleased to announce that between International Dictionary Day – 16th October 2015 – and the end of November 2015 no fewer than thirteen new or revised editions of indigenous language monolingual, and indigenous language bilingual dictionaries will be published. A further two dictionaries will be available early in 2016. It is the largest publishing event of its kind ever undertaken in our indigenous languages.

These are:

isiZulu English Bilingual Dictionary
isiNdebele Afrikaans English Trilingual Dictionary
isiNdebele Monolingual Dictionary
Tshivenda English Bilingual Dictionary
Tshivenda Monolingual Dictionary
Sesotho sa Leboa Monolingual Dictionary
Sesotho sa Leboa English Bilingual Dictionary
Setswana Monolingual Dictionary
Setswana English Bilingual Dictionary
Setswana Maths and Science English – Setswana Dictionary for Grades 4 to 9
Sesotho English Bilingual Dictionary
Xitsonga English Bilingual Dictionary
Xitsonga Monolingual Dictionaries

Due Early 2016

Siswati Monolingual Dictionary
Siswati English Bilingual Dictionary

These will add to the published dictionaries listed below:
isiXhosa Three Volume isiXhosa – Afrikaans – English Dictionary
isiXhosa One Volume Monolingual Dictionary
isiXhosa Maths and Science isiXhosa – English Dictionary for Grades 4 to 9
isiZulu Monolingual Dictionary R 275.00


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