Student uses Vernac to tell tales in Novel

JUNE 11, 2015

“Zemk’iinkomo magwalandini! Cry, the beloved language” would prove quite apt a notion, a sobering shriek charged at summoning those concerned to help save a waning culture and its most vital component – language.

This declaration by University of the Western Cape writer-in-residence Dr Sindiwe Magona at a linguistics conference at WSU last year would validate efforts by one young author in the audience, whose journey of salvation for his “dying” culture has seen him publish his first ever Xhosa novel.

WSU BA General final-year student Sinoyolo Nokhutywa (25), a languages and lexigraphy major, is currently working on a distribution deal for his suspense-driven fictional debut novel “Yho! Bandenzile”, following its publication in February this year.

“The book is about how the power women possess in overcoming the greatest of obstacles even when the odds are stacked against them. It should hit the shelves by mid- July” says Nokhutywa.

His passion and resolve are other traits to marvel at, after he was forced to publish the book himself owing to scant resources, and even scanter support from a sceptical publishing industry.

It would be a government intervention that would breathe life into Nokhutywa’s dream as the Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture extended a helping hand in sponsoring the project.

“I’m eternally grateful to the government for helping with the publishing costs of 50 copies – this is a good start. Their commitment to the protection, preservation and promotion of indigenous languages is an important and timeous intervention,” he says.

Not one for the written word alone, Nokhutywa is also active in tutoring fellow students in junior levels, but also highly committed to the recruitment of high school pupils to pursue academics in African studies and indigenous languages.

He says linguists need to be proactive, smart and relevant in implementing strategies that will get children involved in talking, not just in, but about indigenous languages.

“One of the prerequisite of any meaningful mass intervention in today’s world needs to be underpinned by a strong social media focus. These tools are here; let’s use them to our benefit. That’s the space young people occupy,” says Nokhutywa.

His thirst for knowledge and passion for indigenous knowledge systems are virtues upon which he’s laid a foundation for the pursuit and realisation of his next project.

“I’m working on a long-term project that’ll see the capturing and recording of Xhosa dialects and Izihlonipho zabafazi in the form of a dictionary. These are critical components of our language that need a tangible place to reside for our current and future generations,” he concludes.