Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Dudu Busani-Dube, Helen Moffett, Rehana Rossouw and Malebo Sephodi recently featured on a panel discussing how to decolonise South African book editing and publishing.
The discussion was organised by Jacana Media and moderated by Redi Tlhabi.
The conversation touched on the challenges faced when writing in African languages, how to write in ‘your English’, how to manage the burden of politics at a black author, and why traditional publishing houses should be more open to the stories of all South Africans.
Mokae, who writes in Setswana, recalled how difficult it was for him to write in his mother tongue:
‘It comes to the reason why I’m writing. I write in Setswana because I’m fascinated by the language. A language is a way of knowing. It’s a way of explaining life, of seeing the world.
‘If I was concerned about the market a lot, I would have decided to stick with English. But one day I woke up with this madness in me: write in Setswana.
‘It wasn’t easy because I had been doing everything in English. I had to learn afresh. Get this thing in my blood again. But after a week or so of writing in Setswana, that for me was a taste of freedom. At that moment, I knew how my writer friends to whom English is first language feel when they write and don’t have the burden of translating their stories from another language to another when it gets to paper. It was like a loss of virginity. And I kept on doing it. It felt really good.’