Lucy Hawking Attends Launch of isiXhosa and isiZulu Translations of Her Book

31 Oct 2017
Lucy Hawking Attends Launch of isiXhosa and isiZulu Translations of Her Book

For the last four years PEN South Africa has partnered with the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), the organisation which initiated and drove the first four years of the Nal’ibali national reading-for-enjoyment campaign. Together, we have worked on three projects aimed at furthering translation rights for children in South Africa, including the translation of George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking into isiZulu and isiXhosa. Lucy Hawking was recently in South Africa and held a series of events to launch the translated books.

By Khanya Mncwabe

Lucy Hawking was in Cape Town on October 18 for the launch of Iqhosha eliyimfihlelo kaGeorge kuzungezo lweNdalo and Ujoji Nemfihlakalo Kakhiye Wakhe Wendadiyelo, respectively the isiXhosa and isiZulu versions of George’s Secret Key to the Universe, the children’s book she wrote with her father, acclaimed physicist, Stephen Hawking. The book, which is the first in a series, recounts the space adventures of a young boy named George, his sister Annie and their father’s super-computer, Cosmos.

Hawking took launch attendants, who ranged in age from toddler to grandparent, on a whirlwind tour of the universe. She explored such phenomena as exploding stars, black holes, deep space exploration, human colonisation of other planets, and – to bring home the relevance of scientific inquiry for the local context – the provenance of water and the dramatic impact of climate change on South Africa’s weather patterns. The images accompanying Hawking’s presentation were mesmerising, none more so than the photo of Saturn recently captured by the Cassini space probe. Hawking succeeded in communicating complex ideas simply and eloquently, which she says is the fundamental objective of her books – to ignite in children a curiosity and passion for science by making it accessible, adventurous and fun.

The translation of George’s Secret Key to the Universe into isiXhosa and isiZulu was undertaken by the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA). PRAESA director, Carole Bloch, acknowledged and thanked PEN International and PEN South Africa for partnering with PRAESA on this ambitious endeavour. “I don’t think people appreciate the challenge of translating English scientific text into African languages, since these languages have generally not had the opportunity to explore indigenous scientific terminology”, said Bloch. She commended translators, Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi (isiZulu) and Xolisa Guzula (isiXhosa) who were tasked with identifying, and more frequently coining, scientific terminology to make the book accessible to isiXhosa and isiZulu readers.

PEN SA is extremely proud to be associated with the transformative and imaginative work PRAESA is doing; the importance of building inclusive access to stories and story-telling in South Africa cannot be over-estimated. Our warmest congratulations to Carole Bloch and all at PRAESA for the tremendous success of both the project and the event. – PEN SA President, Nadia Davids

Bloch urged people with the means to consider purchasing iXhosa or isiZulu versions of the book to donate to Nal’ibali’s country-wide reading clubs to ensure that the book reaches as many children and communities as possible for whom the cost might prove prohibitive.

(Image courtesy of PRAESA)