Renowned Actress, Producer and Author, Florence Masebe believes that preservation and promotion of indigenous languages can be achieved through the introduction of a language policy within the creative and media space.
She was speaking during a Public Lecture hosted by the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in partnership with the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), on 15 February 2018 at DUT City Campus, Arthur Smith Hall.
This Public Lecture was held under the theme “Unpacking the use of Indigenous Languages in Creative Content”, which is part of a series of activities planned by PanSALB to commemorate 28 Days of Language Activism in the month of February.
Masebe argued that the incorrect use of indigenous languages in the creative and media space is contributing to the decline of indigenous languages. “No one is monitoring the use of indigenous languages in the creative and media space, which is contributing to the continuously declining quality of indigenous languages within this space,” said Masebe.
She said a language policy within the creative and media arena is critical, particularly because of the influence that the creative and media industry has in shaping the use of indigenous languages within our society. Masebe is a testimony to the influence of the media in promoting indigenous languages, as she acquired fluency in most indigenous languages through listening to story telling and drama on radio from a young age.
Masebe also encouraged students in creative arts and language to collaborate in order to preserve the proper use of indigenous languages.
In her opening remarks, Dr Rene Smith, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design said DUT is excited about this partnership with PanSALB because it seeks to champion the use of indigenous languages. “This is inline with our objectives of promoting the use of indigenous languages, and for the first time as DUT we have introduced sign language in our programmes,” said Dr Smith.
Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi, the Research Coordinator of the Faculty of Arts and Design also retaliated DUT’s commitment to the promotion of indigenous languages as part of the decolonization and transformation agenda. “We have started using IsiZulu as the language of intervention through tutors, and we plan to expand from that,” said Dr Rapeane-Mathonsi.
Rakwena Monareng, CEO for PanSALB said as the Board they are creating a platform to nurture the growth of previously marginalized languages so that they can be used in business, education and creative space. “These languages need to have value so that they can be used to make money, and that is our primary objective” explained Dr Monareng.
Popular storyteller, poet and author, Dr Gcina Mhlophe who was also part of the panel of speakers, said she was puzzled by the lack of patriotism amongst the indigenous languages speakers, arguing that they are contributing to the decline in the use of indigenous languages. “Why do we need to fight in order to speak our own languages? And I don’t understand why I should be cherished as the champion of indigenous languages as if we are still oppressed,” said Dr Mhlophe.
The 28 Days of Language Activism campaign aims to encourage policy makers and citizens to recognise that multilingualism is a catalyst for a better democratic change, and that languages used in the homes of South African citizens are a valuable resource for social cohesion and economic success of the rainbow nation.
Pictured: From left Dr Gcina Mhlophe, Dr Rakwena Monareng, Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi and Ms Florence Masebe.