Launch of Twenty in 20 series by Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi at Emoyeni Conference Centre, Parktown

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29 Aug 2014

Master of Ceremonies: Mr Sandile Memela

Minister of Arts and Culture, Honourable Mr. Nathi Mthethwa,

Chairperson of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), Ms. Jane Molony

CEO of the SABDC, Ms Elitha Van Der Sandt,

Head of SABC1, Mr Maijang Mpherwane

Chairperson of the Judging Panel of 20 in 20, Mr. Mandla Langa,

Distinguished Guests,

Members of the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to launch the Twenty in 20 Series during the Launch of the National Book Week.

In July it was with sadness that we learnt of the passing on of South African literary giant and Nobel Laureate for Literature, Nadine Gordimer.

She was a renowned anti-apartheid critic and cultural activist who, from a young age, showed principled commitment to artistic freedom of expression and the ideal of non-racial and democratic society.

Her contribution to national literary treasure is immeasurable and not even her death can erase it.

Gordimer saw her fiction as part of the struggle against apartheid to document the havoc that institutionalised prejudice and discrimination wrought on private lives.

She published over 200 short stories and numerous essays on literature and cultural politics and many novels - an output matched by only a handful of living writers. She was a founder member of the Congress of South African Writers and supported it strongly throughout her life. She won a number of international awards including the Nobel Laureate for Literature in 1991.

South Africa has a rich tradition of short story writing with not only Nadine Gordimer but Bloke Modisane, Casey Motsisi, Can Themba, Bessie Head, Es'kia Mphahlele, Njabulo Ndebele, Mbulelo Mzamane and many other notable literary voices.

With this inspirational earlier generation we encourage younger generations to continue this great tradition whilst confronting present day challenges.  

This book we are launching today is a Twenty Year Freedom initiative whose aim was to identify and collect the best South African Short Stories of the past two decades. These stories have been put together in this anthology that we are launching today. This book pays tribute to the Twenty Years of Freedom and Democracy in our country.

This book will further inspire aspiring writers and will provide reading pleasure to many generations. It provides an interesting sample of the multicultural writing of South Africans with varied themes launched as a new compilation.

South Africa has 11 Official Languages.  We are conscious of promoting the nine indigenous African languages to give equity to them and there encourage people to write in these languages. Prizes are awarded to writers of the best books in these languages annually at the South African Literary Awards.

In support of a literary culture that fosters inclusivity, we will continue to work with the National Library of South Africa to identify and reprint books regarded as literary classics in South African languages. The project was first launched in February 2008, with 27 books.

A Committee to oversee the reprint of the Classics was established.  One of the books, “Ityala lamawele” by SEK Mqhayi is a hundred years old this year.  To date a total of 77 titles have been reprinted in all the nine indigenous languages. The books are distributed via community libraries for access by the public.

The Committee is now working on the possibility of cross-translation, of great classics written in English by African authors being translated into several African languages. 

In the general sector in South Africa, 49% of the books published are in English, 45% in Afrikaans and the remaining 6% is shared among the nine indigenous languages.  This deep imbalance manifests itself in many ways including economic beneficiation.

Through these efforts, we are pursuing our mandate of promoting social cohesion and nation building. This mandate is essentially about embracing our common identity as South Africans; it is about putting value to human life irrespective of gender, colour or creed.

The writing fraternity has the responsibility to add meaningful value in our endeavour to address the lack of a culture of reading, and contribute towards the attainment of the broader imperatives of developing a caring, democratic and cohesive society.

A thriving literary landscape and a widespread culture of reading can serve as catalysts for the creation of a prosperous society.

In the South African context where our emphasis must be placed on economic growth and development and the creation of sustainable jobs, we need to recognise that the prerequisite for entrepreneurship, inventiveness and innovation is the basic skills of reading and writing.

Out of reading and writing we also develop our analytical capacity so that we can address even more complex matters and problems that affect our people and ourselves.

Reading statistics report that only 14% of the South African population are active book readers, and a mere 5% of parents read to their children. National Book Week is an important initiative in encouraging the nation to value reading as a fun and pleasurable activity and to showcase how reading can easily be incorporated into one’s daily lifestyle.

The theme for this year’s Heritage Month is “Celebrating 20 Years of Democracy: Tell your story that moves South Africa Forward!  The Department of Arts and Culture is focused on enabling our people to tell the South African story and to disseminate this knowledge to our people.

I would like to remind you that the International Literacy Day is on Monday 8th September and International Translation Day is on the 30th September.

On this day, let us break down language barriers and celebrate the importance of translators in our society. In the words of our late President, Tata Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

Let us visit our libraries, read all the stories of our country and of other nations, and pass on these stories to young listeners and to older readers, conscious that literature is important as it speaks to our hearts.

Thank you

Ndo livhuwa

Siyabonga

Ke a leboga