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Poetry in motion in Isolezwe

The daily isiZulu newspaper, Isolezwe, is promoting a Zulu poetry competition as it aims to keep this vibrant African language alive and thriving in a pure, unadulterated form.
Poetry in motion in IsolezweIsolezwe's involvement in the competition is in line with the title's vision of a modern newspaper taking the mother tongue into the future.

A spokesman for the sponsor, Plus 94 Research, says the company is vehemently opposed to the trend of using the odd word in English, Xhosa or one of the other official South African languages when writing in isiZulu. They also frown upon the use of Zulu slang equivalents.

Isolezwe editor Thulani Mbatha explains how the idea for the competition began. “A book review section we carry on alternate Tuesdays started receiving poems readers had written and wanted published. We decided to set aside some space for these poems. Plus 94 had undertaken some studies for us and they proposed sponsoring a poetry competition.

“We have chosen a panel of three judges to select the top three poems every month - these are published and the authors get prizes,” says Mbatha.

The judges are poets Charles Khuzwayo and Bongani Mavuso - from Ukhozi FM - and a lecturer in the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Department of Languages, Dr Gugu Mazibuko.

“The competition, open only to poets who have not had work published previously, started in mid-January and we are getting a good response from readers. We have received nearly 400 entries so far. All the winning poems will be announced on Ukhozi FM as well as in The Mercury newspaper,” said Mbatha.

Plus 94 Research is putting up the prize money - R1 000 for the monthly winners and a grand prize of R5 000 to the winner chosen from six finalists.

Plus 94 Research CEO Sifiso Falala says their investigations found that the appeal of the Zulu language is one of the main reasons respondents gave for reading Isolezwe as opposed to other titles. “This is because language is part of the reader's identity. Losing it would mean a future of emptiness and uncertainty. There is a strong feeling and fear that indigenous African languages are on a downward spiral, especially since 1994.

“We decided to sponsor the poetry competition to do something about preserving the beauty and depth of the Zulu language, and to rekindle the power of isiZulu words, which can possess such grace, accuracy and drive home a message in a way that touches hearts and gives people goose bumps,” says Falala.

“Our feeling was that we did not want isiZulu readers to be denied that extra-ordinary sensation of being able to hear words that tickle both their eardrums and their minds, sending messages even to the depths of their souls, which is not possible in any other language. Our hope is that other sponsors will emulate this for other languages and thus create a society that is proud of its traditions.

“We found that home language encourages more reading and are keen to get Africans to read and write more so that their talent is not lost. It has been argued that Africans do not read enough. Part of the reason for this is that the quantity and diversity of material in their languages is limited and inferior. We hope, by sponsoring this competition, to reverse this trend and in the process promote budding writers,” says Falala.

“Zulu is a dynamic language which has invented new words over time such as makhalekhukhwini (cell phone), isikhahlamezi (fax machine), and ingculazi (Aids). By promoting writers this will spread the use of these new words and ensure that the language remains relevant as technology spreads. In future we envisage sponsoring short story writing to achieve similar objectives.”

6 Mar 2009 13:42



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