Language is not just the way we communicate with each other, but an expression of our heritage and cultural identity.
This was the message delivered to a group of young people when Khayelitsha library and various other organisations held an event to honour language on Saturday September 23.
Young people were reminded about the importance of preserving their languages and reading Xhosa books.
The Partners with After School Care Projects (PASCAP) Trust, literacy project Nali’Ibali, and the Amava Heritage Company were among the organisations that attended the event.
Entertainment included performances of traditional dance and songs.
Senior librarian at Khayelitsha library, Vuyokazi Rani Njambatwa, said they wanted young people to realise the role played by home languages, in the country and in their communities.
Ms Njambatwa said the importance of home languages, particularly Xhosa, was often undermined and many people didn’t realise they could make a living as indigenous language experts.
She said the event had been organised in celebration of Heritage Day and urged young people to be proud of who they were and to embrace their culture.
Ms Njambatwa said their ultimate goal was to educate people that if they read books, they would be able to express themselves eloquently and protect their language from dying out.
She highlighted that it was a sad reality that young people were not interested in reading books written in their mother tongues and that there was a need to educate children that wearing traditional attire did not mean that one was not educated.
She said all these wrong perceptions about culture needed to be challenged and dismissed. “It is within our reach to protect our cultures.
“But we as parents need to play an active role in educating our children about their roots and the importance of culture. We should not talk about the importance of culture only at this time of the month. Without culture we are just empty vessels,” she said. Author of Xhosa books, Gcotyelwa Mwahleni, said her books were aimed at educating young people and that she had chosen to write her books in Xhosa because she wanted to protect the language.
She added that children learnt more easily when they read something that they understood and could relate to.
“Today our people are unable to finish a sentence without including an English word,” she said. Representative of Amava Publishing company, Sonwabile Dwangu, said the company had just been established and aimed to publish African literature only, and preserve it.
He also urged budding authors to write stories in their own languages and would provide them with guidance.