THE BLOG

Hleze Kunju's PhD In IsiXhosa Is Both A Critical And Intercultural Feat

The use of our home languages in the academic sphere are making it both cool and clever to know an African language, this is something to be proud of.

25/04/2017 13:31 SAST | Updated 17/05/2017 15:39 SAST
Destiny Man

Culture was an important instrument in the colonial project of power and it invokes immense emotions to know that individuals such as Dr. Hleze Kunju are making great strides in documenting African stories in the indigenous languages of our people.

The use of our home languages in the academic sphere is making it both cool and clever to know an African language, so much that an African child from eMqanduli or eMatatiele can be encouraged that their language can be taught to the international community.

Dr. Kunju's love for his language propelled him "to write it (his thesis) in a way that other students are able to read and understand it, and take it further," he says to Destiny Man. We can all appreciate the significance of this accomplishment as there is very little academic literature in isiXhosa, which presented challenges to Kunju in the process of writing his thesis.

We have fallen into the trap of pampering and popularising European languages so much that even when one of our own achieves something as huge as this, we are the very ones who come out and attack the validity of the work. Some took to twitter to question the 'quality' of this thesis and how it was assessed by the international fraternity.

The fact that there are individuals even questioning the standard of the thesis based purely on the fact that it is written in IsiXhosa is problematic for me. For some time now there have been thesis submissions in Afrikaans and issues surrounding the standard of these theses are never questioned, why is this so? That this proud moment in the academic fraternity is marred by questions such as these, is sad.

Perhaps it is at such times that we should recall the words of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o when he says, 'there is no language whose musical capacity and intellectual capacity is more than another'. When I was younger and in boarding school I did not want to ever be caught conversing in my mother tongue on the school grounds or at the girls' hostel. I ensured that I only spoke using the English medium.

This yet again speaks to another point that wa Thiong'o makes in his texts on decolonising language, the Professor says 'the success of the empires of the mind or the colonies of the mind can be seen in how we aspire to be like them.' So many of us wanted so desperately to be taken serious when communicating in English that we even developed a twang. The problem is systemic.

I started writing in IsiXhosa so that ooMakhulu nooTatomkhulu bami can read my work and be able to fully engage with the content. And this is one of the reasons why I am grateful to the individuals who publish academic work in their Nguni languages, because this means that there will be more inclusivity in the readership of academic texts. The fact that Kunju also wrote in plain IsiXhosa so that his work can be more accessible to the people whom he wrote of but also others who may come across his text, is something to be appreciated.

Speaking and writing in a language are two different things and as such, this thesis entitled IsiXhosa uLwimi Lwabantu Abangesosininzi eZimbabwe: Ukuphila Nokulondolozwa Kwaso expresses the merits of a work of literature derived from a particular culture, woven in a tapestry of text for the indulgence of many.

Sibamaba ngazo zozibini Bhuti!