The discourse on language preference is an on-going one and is particularly widespread in this month tied with the events of 1976 – not that at other times the issue of language is completely neglected. Bhiyoza Publishers takes the challenge to make indigenous languages a priority at all times as a very important mandate that it adheres to through the titles it publishes. In an interview with Menzi Thango, Founder and Director of Bhiyoza publishers, he laments on a critical issue. He comments that, in academic spaces, study material for all subjects is in English, which may influence students into thinking that their home languages are not important. From novels to anthologies, the dominating language in literature within Africa and in the diaspora is english (others such as french and arab following closely) which then only affords literature in African Languages a minority status.
Bhiyoza Publishers does not, however, exclude work that has been written in English, but preference goes to original African work by African authors telling African stories about real and relatable issues – the perspective and narrative being African centred is the emphasis. And a quota is applicable to the volume of work that is to be published in english so as to not defeat the purpose of the initiative, is what Thango of Bhiyoza emphasizes.
Writing is an activity one does for society and, thus, it must address or reflect the greater societal issues; these are sentiments expressed by Thango. The importance of preserving our indigenous languages as repositories of our culture and anchors of philosophy has been stressed by Africans from all corners of the continent and is even stressed by those Africans severed from their ancestral home now captives in hostile cultural settings. It is a sad affair to witness the continued marginalization of our original tongues and their being consistently supplanted by alien tongues since the coming of the white strangers. The continued dwindling status of our languages is devastating when one realizes the possibility of future generations (the beautiful ones to be born), as well as our African kith and kin in the diaspora, who may not have the benefit of our indigenous languages, and the richness of our history as a people that languages carry. And thus the Bhiyoza initiative must be understood for what it truly stands for; which is a cultural warfare front.
Bhiyoza Publishers, then, is playing a pivotal role in the preservation of our languages in these hostile, violent times that see us witness a continued attack against every facet of our being and becoming, as well as belonging. Future generations will best judge those who fought an unrelenting offence and were able amidst the testing times to safeguard and thus bestow on them their indigenous heritage – those are the ones they will venerate.
Bhiyoza is a publishing company that focuses on books written in indigenous languages south of the continent of Africa and, as stated by Thango, the emphasis is not merely on writing in indigenous languages but the content is of utmost importance and must reflect an African perspective.
The publishing house was incorporated in July 2018 and the first title was published in August. The company in its 8 months of existence has published 8 intriguing African books, novels and anthologies, written by academic professors and some of Menzi’s students.
And Menzi Thango is the author of a published isiZulu poetry anthology titled Ikhwezi Lokusa, one of the 8 titles published by Bhiyoza since its incorporation. The lightness in tonality and depth of language used in the book is appreciated by teachers in high schools and primary schools; so much that a primary school in Harris Smith has actually adopted the anthology in their curriculum and it is also prescribed for isiZulu second-year at the University of Free State. The struggles that he encountered in the process to get his work published gave him an insight to what is now a solution to authors who write material in indigenous languages; who also experience/d the same rejection that he experienced prior to his own work getting published. He cites the humility as well as the untiring support of his university professor, Molefe, as of great help in his strides to publish.
Menzi has, previously, been an educator of isiZulu at a high school and currently lectures isiZulu at the University of Free State and that experience, together with his seasoned editing background for other publishing houses, places him, as Editor and Director of Bhiyoza Publishers, in an ideal position to best meet the task at hand (contributing immensely to our cultural struggle and restoration). And in that space, he noted a problem that he is now in the process of addressing through an initiative Bhiyoza Publishers has developed.
What they have decided to do is to not only publish the books in print, but to also have the books available in eBook format. This solves the problem he encountered as an educator when he noted that it is very rare to find African literature in eBook format; considering that most private schools and several schools in Gauteng use tablets and smart boards in classes. Bhiyoza’s moving in that space makes African Literature in African Languages easily accessible. This helps the company play into the digital space that the world is shifting into.
To get in touch with Bhiyoza Publishers visit the Bhiyoza Publishers Facebook page and their website where you can also access the catalogue that has all details relating to the books and the authors. “Siya biyoza siyi ningizimu Africa ngoba isintu sethu siyathuthuka”. We are celebrating as Africans because our culture is prospering.
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Indeed isintu sethu siyathuthuka. We really need to enrich our African languages.