Translation project reclaims Africa's creative talent

Issued by North West University
North-West, Mar 13, 2019

A prominent and seasoned Setswana author and academic at the North-West University (NWU), Prof Shole Shole, is involved in a landmark literary translation project.

Prof Shole is collaborating with Sabata Mokae of Sol Plaatje University in a translation project named "Transcreation for Repatriation", or Phetsolelo in Setswana.

This collaboration involves the translation of literary English texts written by Africans about Africa, Africans and African issues, into Setswana.

"In the past, historical forces of colonialism and imperialism imposed European languages on Africans as a medium of literary expression," says Prof Shole. "This led to African creative talent being lost to European languages and cultures, and denying African languages the opportunity of serving the same purpose. In the end, it deprived Africans of the pride and joy of reading works by African literary greats in their own languages."

Prof Shole says the primary aim of the project is to reclaim African creative talent by making those texts available in African languages such as Setswana.

"This will enrich African language literature with works by African greats, and give Africans the pride and joy of reading great works by their own in their own languages," he adds.

"For this purpose, the project will make use of a special form of translation, an interventionist, post-colonialist translation," Prof Shole further explains.

According to the two project leaders, various texts have already been identified. "We focus on books written in English by Setswana-speaking authors, books about the Batswana people and their world, their narrative, characters and setting," explains Mokae.

Some of the texts already being translated include 'Taung Wells' by Martin Koboekae, 'Sarcophagus' by Tuelo Gabonewe, 'This Book Betrays My Brother' by Kagiso Lesego Molope, 'Maru' by Bessie Head, 'Call Me Woman' by Ellen Khuzwayo, 'Matters of Life and Death' by Lesego Malepe, and 'Mhudi' by Sol Plaatjie.

* The project is funded by the Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture.