Milestone for Zulu literature

2012-08-27 00:00

THE Zulu Literary Museum housed in the Centre for African Literary Studies on the local campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal was officially opened by Professor Donal McCracken of the Centre for Communication, Media and Society, on Friday, the first day of the Midlands Literary Festival.

McCracken quoted the Victorian statesman. Benjamin Disraeli, who famously said: “A very remarkable people the Zulus: they defeat our generals, they convert our bishops, they have settled the fate of great European dynasties.”

Now there is a Zulu Literary Museum that will reflect the writings of this truly remarkable people.

Ray Wela, director of local publishers Shuter and Shooter, official sponsors of the museum, handed over a cheque for R125 000, as well as making a large donation of books.

A major publisher of Zulu titles, Wela outlined the history of the company, noting that the first Zulu title from the company was published in 1905 — Bishop John Colenso’s Zulu-English Dictionary.

But it was during the 1930s that Shuters Rbegan publishing books in Zulu on a regular basis.

uDingane by Rolfes Reginald and Raymond Dhlomo has not been out of print since its first appearance in 1936.

Wela also published several other titles by Dhlomo, including uShaka, uMpande, uCetshwayo and uDinizulu, and published Cyril Nyembezi, best known for his novel Inkinsela YaseMgungundlovu (The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg).

“This museum is important for our children and the future, and for the preservation of our language,” said Wela.

Darryl David, discipline head of Afrikaans at the university and the driving force behind the creation of the museum, said there was a precedent for such a museum given the existence of the National English Museum in Grahamstown and the Afrikaans Museum in Bloemfontein.

“A literary museum is the holy grail in literary circles,” said David.

He detailed the rich Zulu literary heritage, which includes authors such as Mazizi Kunene, Lewis Nkosi, Oswald Mtshali and Miriam Tlali, who have also written in English.

“And it was R.R.R. Dhlomo who was the first black South African to write a novel in English. Don’t let them tell you it was Sol Plaatje’s Mhudi; it was An African Tragedy published in 1928.”

The Centre for African Literary Studies boasts one of the largest repositories of African literature in the world.

“For us this is just a beginning,” said Christine Stillwell, acting director of the centre. “Now we have to process and catalogue the books we have received and start collecting the titles we are missing.”

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