New book promotes indigenous languages

Lulamile Satyo reads a few chapters from his book.

Parents and the community at large should take the responsibility of teaching their children their mother tongue instead of leaving this to teachers, says Lulamile Satyo, a budding author who has just released a Xhosa book.

The 54-year-old father of two who is also a teacher at Bhongolethu Primary School, in Philippi, recently published Imibongo ka Satyo, a collection of his Xhosa poems.

He said he wanted the book to play a critical role in preserving Xhosa while educating Xhosa- speaking people about their heritage and culture.

Mr Satyo said the harsh reality was that people were not embracing Xhosa and as result the language was facing a slow demise.

He said the language had been diluted and people were no longer able to even construct a sentence without including an English word.

He told Vukani some of the poems in the book focused on the importance of protecting customs, beliefs and tradition.

Mr Satyo said while the book contained 52 poems, he had, so far, written 92 poems.

He, however, made it clear that the book was not only intended for school pupils and that another of his aims was to introduce people to new words to help improve their vocabulary.

Asked about his writing, he said he started writing poems in 1986 while he was as still a student at the Masiphumelele College of Education in the Eastern Cape and that while some of the poems in the book had been written nearly 30 years ago, they were still very relevant today.

He said some of his poems had been published in an anthology in the early 90s. But at some point he decided to put pause to his poetry writing to focus on teaching.

He, however, promised himself he would publish his work, and in the early 2000s, started writing again.

He said he was concerned that people seemed to lack an interest in learning or speaking their home languages.

“We need to embrace our languages and cultures. We are defined by the languages that we speak. We are what we are because of our languages,” he said.

And as a way of encouraging this, he conducts language workshops with teachers.

Lamenting the challenges faced by authors – particularly black writers – he said many book stores were not willing to accept material written by black authors as they did not see commercial value in it. Despite this, he said, he was already planning to write another poetry book and a traditional literature book.