Translation Issues Discussed at the Abantu Book Festival

15 Dec 2016
Translation Issues Discussed at the Abantu Book Festival

By Myolisi Sikupela

The Abantu Book Festival, a brainchild of novelist Thando Mgqolozana, took place in Soweto from the 8th to the 10th of December 2016. Held in two venues, the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre and Soweto Theatre, the inaugural festival was a space for black authors and readers to imagine themselves into existence.

The panels were all interesting and well attended, often with people having to sit and listen outside as they could not get into the venues.

Translation is an important part of PEN SA’s work, as laid out in the Girona Manifesto. In addition to this PEN SA has partnered with the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), to translate George’s Secret Key to the Universe into isiZulu and isiXhosa.

With this translation work in mind, one of the panels that I took a huge interest in was “Lost in Translation” which was chaired by the film actor and producer Florence Masebe and featured Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Pamela Maseko, Siphiwo Mahala and Unathi Kondile.

The panel explored the concept of translation, from oral tradition to writing in one’s mother tongue, and the advantages and disadvantages of this. Mokae explained the importance of writing in seSotho, arguing that writing in seSotho allowed him to fully express himself. The panelists all agreed that writing in their mother tongue allows them to fully and freely express themselves.

Furthermore the panelists agreed that translation and writing in a language that is not English in South Africa is not being taken seriously and that it is time that publishers started to do so.

(Image courtesy of the Abantu Book Festival)