n English in Africa - The oppression of isiXhosa literature and the irony of transformation

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



This article will contend that the natural development of isiXhosa orature and literature, as with all South African indigenous literatures, ended with the arrival of European missionaries in 1799. The apartheid policy then exacerbated the destructive approaches to indigenous languages already in operation as it designated separate language boards for language development. These boards operated in the 'homelands' and were generally conservative, corrupt and oppressive. The manuscripts they recommended to publishers were for the most part only those that could be prescribed in schools. This resulted in the publishing of material that was parochial, apolitical and neutral in style. Often the material prescribed was written by the board members themselves. For instance, Lennox Sebe, erstwhile President of the Ciskei, produced an isiXhosa book entitled , for prescription, though it seems to contain little original material. Laurence Wright has shown that the opposite was true for English literature written by black South Africans and published internationally in the 1970s, at the height of apartheid (2004, 47). He describes, for instance, how one of the manuscript readers of Peteni's seminal novel, (1976), rejected it as irrelevant and unsuitable for publication precisely because it made no reference to South Africa's turbulent politics. Throughout this period, however, only apolitical novels were published in the indigenous languages.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error