Issues of Indigenous African Literature and Onomastics

A Festschrift in Honour of D. B. Z. Ntuli

by Munzhedzi James Mafela (Volume editor) Cynthia Daphne Ntuli (Volume editor)
©2018 Others 342 Pages


The book has been specially compiled to honour scholars who have promoted, developed and preserved indigenous African languages of South Africa. These scholars contributed by restoring the dignity of the languages which were marginalised and dehumanised by colonialism. The authors present innovative approaches of interpreting and analysing African literary works, and suggest relevant translation strategies. Other chapters focus on the importance of naming in African societies. Names have a bearing on the life of a person or the community. The book further recommends a frequent revisit of the orthography of the indigenous African languages to avoid inconsistencies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Modern Literature
  • D B Z Ntuli’s Influence on isiZulu Short Stories: An Intertextual Analysis (Nakanjani G Sibiya)
  • Some Reflections on the Art of Setswana Short Story Writing: A Critical Look at J S S Shole (Phaladi M Sebate)
  • Themes in the Selected isiZulu Short Stories Written by Female Writers: A Feminist Approach (Themba Madingiza)
  • Characters of Women Through the Eyes of D B Z Ntuli: An Analysis in Indandatho Yesithembiso (N Masuku)
  • Constructive Education Through Taboos: A Critical Language Awareness Perspective with Reference to D M Ngwana’s Poem (Thomas M Sengani / Kanakana Y Ladzani)
  • Indigenous African Theatre: A Historical Sketch of its Development with Special Reference to Tshivenḓa (Munzhedzi James Mafela)
  • Cry Not, Try a Lot: The Development and Promotion of African Language Literatures in South Africa (Dumisani Sibiya)
  • Part II: Oral Literature
  • Milk as Metaphor in isiZulu Folklore (N Mollema)
  • Children’s Game Songs and the Art of Performance (Cynthia Daphne D Ntuli)
  • An Analysis of Indigenous Approaches to Interpersonal Conflict Management and Resolution: The case of Tshivenḓa (R. N Maḓadzhe)
  • Part III: Onomastics
  • The Meaning Behind Personal Names (Elias Mandinda Mabuza)
  • The Subrogation of Names: A Breakdown of the Use of Clan Names in the Vhavenḓa Community (Itani P Mandende / Mashudu C Mashige)
  • Naming a Charismatic Church: A Marketing Tool in a South African Context (Evangeline Bonisiwe Zungu)
  • Part IV: Development and Standardisation of Orthography, and Translation
  • Inconsistencies in the Application of IsiZulu Orthographical Rules in Relation to Terminological Development (Linda van Huyssteen)
  • Translating Abantu Besizwe by S E K Mqhayi from isiXhosa into English (Koliswa Moropa)
  • Gibran’s The Prophet in isiZulu: The Visibility or Invisibility of the Translator (M. V Ndlovu)
  • Diction as Part of D B Z Ntuli’s Superlative Stratagem in the Translation of Selected B W Vilakazi’s Poems (Stanley Madonsela)
  • D B Z Ntuli: An isiZulu Translator of Note (M. R Masubelele)
  • Reconstructing Some Aspects of the Second Afrikaans Translation Process of Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka: Challenge and Celebration (Chris F Swanepoel)
  • Authors
  • Index

← 10 | 11 →

Munzhedzi James Mafela, Cynthia Daphne D Ntuli
University of South Africa


Indigenous African languages of South Africa are more developed and enjoy more acceptability than some indigenous languages in the African continent. Like English and Afrikaans, they are currently considered official languages in the country. This is due to the historical and political circumstances of the country. The South African political environment prior to the 1994 democratic elections inflicted pain on the natives by separating them ethnically. Concurrently, separate development assisted indirectly the development and preservation of the native languages to the status in which they are found today.

The idea of writing the book resulted from informal conversations about the development of indigenous African languages which took place among academics of the Department of African Languages at the University of South Africa. The editors found it pertinent to reflect on the people who played a role in the development and preservation of the indigenous African languages of South Africa. It is vital to mention that different groups and individuals had a meaningful role in the development of these languages. Not downplaying the role of other groups, the editors considered the first African academics of indigenous African languages at institutions of higher learning as the target for this book, and came up with an idea of writing a festschrift in honour of Professor Deuteronomy Bhekinkosi Zeblon Ntuli. Hereunder, brief notes on the development of indigenous African languages of South Africa are outlined to provide background information towards compiling this festschrift.

When missionaries arrived in South Africa, they found indigenous African languages well developed and preserved through oral literature. Passing oral narratives from one generation to another through word of mouth was the main vehicle of transferring culture to the rising generations. However, missionaries played an important role in the preservation of indigenous African languages in written form. They reduced spoken languages into writing. Further, they were responsible for the development of orthography in the different indigenous African languages, and translated foreign language texts into these languages. All their efforts were centred on introducing Christianity to the natives. They established schools and produced learned indigenous Africans who furthered some of their (missionaries) objectives; for example, that of preserving and developing the indigenous African languages through writing. The learned indigenous Africans found themselves ← 11 | 12 →caught in the middle; they still loved their oral literature, but were venturing into a modern way of transmitting information.

Some of the first indigenous African language writers became authors of story books, grammar books, poetry books, and oral literature anthologies to name a few, whereas others translated foreign literary works into indigenous African languages. For these pioneers, writing literary works was not an easy job at the time because they were not free to tackle themes of their choice. Although missionaries played an important role in reducing spoken indigenous African languages into writing, they also played a role in the censorship of themes written by the native authors. Themes related to what was considered heathen or ‘backwardness’ were not approved for publication. This was counter-productive to the development of African languages. African oral literatures were also discouraged and looked down upon as they were associated with heathen practices. Nevertheless, missionaries encouraged Africans to publish more books in their indigenous African languages; some of them established publishing companies to achieve this goal.

The status of indigenous African languages improved with the introduction of the policy of separate development in South Africa. These languages received attention during the apartheid era, as they were used as a tool to divide African ethnic groups. As a result, homelands for the different ethnic groups were established, with some of these homelands being developed to the status of independent states. Apart from that, indigenous African languages being taught at the school level were also recommended as mediums of instruction. Literature writing in the indigenous African languages was encouraged and enforced as a mechanism of promoting separate development. The languages’ orthographies were revised to enhance their status. Foreign language literary works were translated into the different indigenous African languages, for example, The tragedy of Julius Caesar. The apartheid government encouraged the indigenous African societies to practice and maintain their cultures in their homelands. Indigenous African languages of South Africa gained much from the policy of separate development than some African languages in the continent. This resulted in these languages being taught as subjects at the university level. However, the first teachers of the indigenous African languages at the university level were non-speakers of the languages, who used English and Afrikaans as mediums of instruction. They taught the science of the languages without preserving and protecting them. Their efforts of having these languages taught at the university are nonetheless appreciated. It was only after the involvement of African academics in the teaching of the languages at the university level that these languages were seen to be preserved and developed – for example, using African languages as mediums of instruction and compiling dictionaries for these languages. ← 12 | 13 →

Many academics of African languages of the 20th century had an important and mammoth task of preserving and developing indigenous African languages in South African institutions of higher learning. They achieved this through different activities such as writing creative works, conducting research and teaching the science of these languages. Without any doubt, it can be said that the University of South Africa was at the forefront in carrying out this responsibility. Professors from African language departments in different universities carried out this task excellently, despite challenges they faced regarding the preservation and development of these languages. It is for this reason that these academics must be honoured for doing this demanding task of preserving and promoting their languages. The editors of this book felt that it is important to honour these stalwarts; although they cannot all be honoured at the same time and the forms of honouring them are different.

As indicated above, the book is written in honour of Professor Deutoronomy Bhekinkosi Zeblon Ntuli who spent his working and academic career developing and promoting indigenous African languages of South Africa in general, and isiZulu particularly, in various language-related fields. Ntuli worked as a radio announcer, translator and producer for three years for the IsiZulu Service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation during his early working career. As an academic, he completed a Masters degree in African languages in 1974, was promoted to the position of senior professional assistant and became chief professional assistant in the space of one year at the University of South Africa. D. B. Z Ntuli completed his D. Litt. et Phil degree at the University of South Africa in 1978 with the thesis titled The Poetry of BW Vilakazi, becoming the University of South Africa’s first African associate professor and later a full professor in 1982. He taught African languages, isiZulu particularly, in the Department of African Languages at the University of South Africa for a long period before he retired in 1999. He was head of the isiZulu Section from 1992 until his retirement. Professor Ntuli is currently Emeritus Professor at the University of South Africa.

Professor Ntuli was a member of many bodies which were/are involved in the development and promotion of African languages. He served as the Chief Examiner of isiZulu for the Joint Matriculation Board, moderator of isiZulu for Grade 12, and was a member of the Commission for Enquiry into Creative Arts and isiZulu Language Council. In addition, Ntuli was the Chairperson of isiZulu National Language Body, and the Vice-Chairperson of African Languages Association of Southern Africa. He also acted as a Scientific Editor of South African Journal of African Languages, and as the Vice-Chairperson of the Survey of Southern African Geographical Names. ← 13 | 14 →

Professor Ntuli is a creative writer. During his writing career, he published books, particularly in the genres of short story, drama, and poetry. He published sixteen volumes of short stories and essays, 10 drama books and eight anthologies of poetry. He also published two academic books: Southern African Literature in African Languages, co-authored with Professor C.F Swanepoel; Izimpande, co-authored with N.M Makhambeni; numerous translation books including Uhambo olude Oluya Enkululekweni (Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela) and Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (Umpholofethi). He published many articles in peer reviewed journals and chapters in books. Professor Ntuli is the founding member and served for many years on the isiZulu committee of Usiba Writer’s Guild. As a member of Usiba Writer’s Guild he conducted workshops throughout South Africa and Swaziland honing writing skills of budding writers. In these workshops, he encouraged people to write in their indigenous African languages for their indigenous people. His fortnightly column on literary topics, Sicikoza Ngamazwi was published by the biggest daily isiZulu Newspaper, Isolezwe between 2004 and 2006. At the time of writing this column Ntuli was a freelance reviewer, editor and translator for various publishing houses. During his writing career, he received 25 awards for his various literary works. Among those awards, he won the National Award in a competition organised by the South African Translators’ Institute, and the B W Vilakazi Award for his books Imicibisholo, Izizenze, Izimpande, and Imilando YakwaZulu. Masters dissertations and Doctoral theses have been written on his works.

This book is divided into four parts namely; modern literature, oral literature, onomastics and, orthography and translation studies, comprising of 19 well written chapters. Prior to the presentation of the chapters in each part, background notes and summaries of the chapters are provided. This will help the reader to understand and know beforehand what is entailed in the forthcoming discussion. The four subjects were selected as these are the main areas in which Professor Ntuli participated regarding the preservation and development of African languages. All the areas mentioned above are important in the preservation and development of languages.

Literature, both modern and oral, is important in many ways in human life. It protects and teaches the culture of the nation. Literature could be a vehicle through which we develop the language and learn the culture of the nation. Modern literature can be used to transmit culture from one generation to another, and can interpret the author’s experience and that of the people around him or her. On the other hand, oral literature is about human culture. This genre is important for indigenous African language modern literature writers because they borrow narrative techniques and ideas from it. Through literature, Ntuli taught readers ← 14 | 15 →about the culture of the Africans, particularly that of amaZulu. Contributors in this book reflected much on the strategies through which messages in modern literary works and oral literature are transmitted to readers. They researched the cultural relations of their own people. Through the interpretation of the content of the texts, generations to come will be able to learn much about the African culture.

Translation of literary texts is a very important weapon through which readers learn the cultures of other population groups. Ntuli translated and continues to translate texts into isiZulu, and isiZulu texts into languages such as English. The amaZulu readers are enriched with foreign culture and practices that are valuable to their life; and isiZulu culture and practices become more known in different parts of the world. A great deal of focus was placed by contributors on translation strategies used to send messages from the source language to the target language.

Before written materials can be produced, a standard language should be developed; especially if the language has several dialects. It is important to have the orthography of the language right by coming up with standard spellings. Ntuli served in language boards to see to it that the standard orthography is produced and preserved. The chapters in this book which deal with orthographical issues are important because orthography is the basis of all writings, especially in the indigenous African languages which are characterised by many dialects.

The study of names is important in all societies. Although the study of names encompasses all languages, it holds a lot of significance in the African societies. Names given to people and places have some significance in the communities. Names of places carry the history of the country or nation. It could be a mountain or a river; its name has something to say about the community. Names of individuals carry their background information. For some Africans, names reflect on the relationship between an individual and other people, or comment on events taking place in the family or community. Furthermore, Africans use names bestowed on individuals to communicate messages. The newly born child or a chief or king can be given a name which sends a message to the other part of the family or community. The study of names helps to highlight and preserve the culture and language of the people. Currently, the study of names assists in renaming some streets and places in South Africa. Contributors in this book have attempted to highlight some issues regarding naming among the Africans.

It is believed that the book will be valuable for students and researchers of both modern and oral literature, terminology, onomastics and translation studies. ← 15 | 16 →

← 16 | 17 →

Part I

Modern Literature

PART 1 presents examples of the analysis of contemporary literature in the indigenous African languages. The presentation challenges the way of thinking and the approach in the evaluation of literary genres. The analysis of three genres, i.e. short story, poetry and drama forms the focal point of the discussion. There are four chapters based on the short story, one on poetry, another on drama, and lastly, one on the development and promotion of indigenous African language literature. The domination of the sub-genre of short story is in line with D.B.Z Ntuli’s specialisation in creative writing. As indicated in the introductory remarks and the discussion below, Ntuli is a prolific isiZulu short story writer and one of the best short story writers in the indigenous African languages of South Africa.

In his chapter, D B Z Ntuli’s influence on isiZulu short stories: an intertextual analysis, N.G Sibiya gives an intertextual analysis of Ntuli’s influence as is evident in many stories by other isiZulu short story writers. According to N.G Sibiya, Ntuli is renowned for his excellence in isiZulu short story writing. He is undoubtedly the most prolific isiZulu short story writer. He was immediately recognised as an astute storyteller and his stories have since then been regarded by many observers as a fine example of outstanding short story writing. Sibiya sees it not surprising that many writers who were his contemporaries and those who succeeded him were influenced by his craftsmanship regarding style, structure, and narrative technique, to name a few.

Phaladi M Sebate, in his chapter Some reflections on the art of Setswana short story writing, looks at the art of Setswana short story writing through an analysis of setting and stylistic devices of plot in J.S.S Shole’s short stories. Sebate reveals that in his depiction of setting, Shole uses simple, but expressive and powerful language, and that it is this simplicity – made eloquent with restraint, that makes the setting so significant in Setswana short story writing. He further indicates ← 17 | 18 →that the stylistic devices of plot that Shole employs include, but are not limited to, flashback and foreshadowing.

Themba Madingiza contributes to the discussion on short story by focusing his analysis on the selected female writers’ themes found in isiZulu short stories by using feminism theory in his chapter Themes in selected isiZulu short stories written by females. Madingiza reveals that for many years men have been writing about women as if they have been writing on their behalf. Since new grounds have been broken in isiZulu literature, Madingiza thinks it is now the turn for women to express their feelings, given that in the past their writings would have been disapproved by the amaZulu society if they had written about certain matters which were considered taboo for women.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (September)
Modern literature Oral literature Orthography Translation Studies
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 342 pp., 3 fig. col., 3 tables

Biographical notes

Munzhedzi James Mafela (Volume editor) Cynthia Daphne Ntuli (Volume editor)

Munzhedzi James Mafela is a professor of African languages at the University of South Africa. He teaches African literature, translation studies, and terminography and lexicography. His research fields of interest are African literature, lexicography and intercultural communication studies. He is currently a National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researcher. Cynthia Daphne Danisile Ntuli is an associate professor at the University of South Africa in the Department of African Languages. She obtained her degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Masters of Arts and D. Litt. et Phil) at the University of South Africa. Her research interest is on literature, specifically children's literature.


Title: Issues of Indigenous African Literature and Onomastics
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344 pages