Say ‘I love you’ in the vernac


Languages of love. What better way to say “I love you” than in a language that resonates, right?

Mpho Sithole (31) handcrafts Valentine’s Day card messages in indigenous languages, including her mother tongue, Xitsonga, Setswana, Sesotho and isiZulu.

Unruffled by the growth of e-cards, which can be easily personalised, as well as other digital platforms being first options for expressing emotions, Sithole chose to create her cards by hand.

She then uses social media to promote her business.

Hoasidu aosidu aosidu aossiduaosidu aoas

“Shibayi Lifestyle has created a range of cards in vernacular languages that embrace a truly vibrant South Africa. Words with meaning and charm – speaking directly to the heart,” says Sithole.

Through its quirky cards, Shibayi uses endearing terms used by black South Africans in just about every social situation.

“Swidi lami lomkhuhlane” - my sweetheart, my darling, a term of endearment derived from what can best be described as the soothing effect of a lozenge on a sore throat.

“Nkatanga”, a Xitsonga word or in Sesotho “moratuwa” – terms of affection for my darling, and my love, used to refer to someone whom one cherishes above all others.

“We want to make cards for all occasions – in languages that speak to the South African audience. We also make soft furnishings, unleashing heart shaped scatter cushions for the Valentine’s charmers.”

The mother of three, who grew up in Alexandra, says she was inspired to create authentically South African greeting cards when she couldn’t find a birthday card that could adequately reflect the emotions she was hoping to express to a friend.

Sithole says that she would like to expand beyond Valentine’s Day cards and include other African languages to create messages which can be shared during other celebrations unique to black people, like lobola negotiations.

“Where do you find a card that speaks to the celebration of a new union? Not by quickly dashing to a store or searching intensely. Cards that are found at stores are made outside our country.”

Sithole creates the cards herself, playing with texture, using paper, velvet material, glitter and ribbons.

She adds that her dabble with textures also reflects one’s relationship with love. “Love is bumpy at times...”

She says the language of love spoken in one’s mother tongue adds clout to the message.

“There is no better way that you can express yourself if not by using catch phrases that you pick up on the street or that are unique to black people, or even the language that you were raised with, which cements life and love as you move through different phases in your life.”

“There are just too many beautiful romantic expressions of love that we don’t use enough. There is no better way to charm someone than in the language that reminds you of home.”

The cards are on sale at select Sunday markets around Johannesburg ahead of February 14.

Orders can also be placed at


What is your message and language of love this Valentine’s Day?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword LOVE and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

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