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Xhosa legends’ literary works brought to life

Date Released: Tue, 10 September 2013 08:59 +0200

Xhosa literature fanatics can look forward to further compilations of the written works of legendary authors like Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi.

This comes after Jeff Opland, a visiting professor at Rhodes University’s languages department, revealed he was working on eight new books.

They will feature the poetry and published articles of powerful Xhosa writers and work of Xhosa historians.

In 2009, Opland published works by Mqhayi, titled Abantu Besizwe, which was a compilation of the author’s writings.

Mqhayi was a celebrated Xhosa poet and historian who died in 1945. Opland said last week he was gathering more material written by Mqhayi, who he branded as the greatest Xhosa writer and one of South Africa’s best authors.

He was speaking after presenting National Heritage Council CEO Sonwabile Mancotywa with a copy of Abantu Besizwe, at the memorial lecture of John Tengo Jabavu in East London.

Abantu Besizwe brings back to life Mqhayi’s work published in the years 1906 to 1943. In 2007, Opland published The Nation’s Bounty: The Xhosa Poetry of Nontsizi Mgqwetho.

Said Opland: “She [Mgqwetho] is a powerful poet and the first and only major [female] poet who wrote in isiXhosa.”

He said two books, one on poet DLP Yali-Manisi, who died in the late ‘90s, and another on William Gqoba, a former editor of the Isigidimi samaXhosa newspaper – who died in 1888 – were at the printers.

Opland could not say when they would be available. “They need to be brought [back] into the history of Xhosa literature because they are powerful writers who, for various reasons, usually political were not able to publish a book,” he said.

“You have for example the poetry of Mgqwetho, who wrote in the 1920s [but] was too powerful and too angry a poet, because Xhosa books are intended to be read by children, her poetry was too politically explosive,” he added.

He said pupils had to be shown what was written in Xhosa, as they are shown English, Greek or Latin literature. “I think children are taught a very simplified literature, a dumbed down literature.

“Some works are great but they are not often given them,” he said, referring to the likes of Mgqwetho, of whom most pupils had never heard. Opland said the publications they were working on had been translated into English and so were available to all South Africans.

Article Source: The Daily Dispatch E-Edition