Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 3

A language of dreams Vanguard 06/02/2017, 11)48

A language of dreams
Thato February 17, 2016

By Vangile Gantsho (@Vangi22)

I had to admit, for the first time, how deeply scarred not being fluent in
isiXhosa had left me. Beyond being embarrassed, it has separated me
from completely understanding my cultural rituals. From having rich
and full conversations with my grandparents and cousins and great
aunts and uncles. I had to come to terms with having spent my whole life
surviving a deliberate attempt at erasing who I am as a human being.

As a writer, constantly in pursuit of my voice, I have always been


embarrassed by my inability to speak isiXhosa fluently. Although my
command of the English language is something I pride myself on, that it
comes at the expense of my home language has never warranted any
celebration. In fact, if anything, it is something I have been deeply insecure
about for as long as I can remember now.

Recently, after enrolling in a MA in Creative Writing programme at Rhodes


University, I found myself in a position where I would be required to
attend isiXhosa seminars and reading groups for four months. The thought
of what this meant practically filled me with anxiety and when I received
my first readings, I sat on the phone with my mother in tears because it
dawned on me that I would have to read something out loud in class, and
that this may be followed by a writing-sharing exercise.

As a child, my family moved around a lot. Although I didnt know it then, I


grew to understand that my fathers political choices meant that we could
not stay in one place for too long. When I began school in Beaufort West I
could speak isiXhosa fluently, but our move to Windhoek a year later
forced me back to Grade1 (Sub A) where I had to learn English so I could
be teachable.
http://vanguardmagazine.co.za/a-language-of-dreams/ Page 1 of 3
A language of dreams Vanguard 06/02/2017, 11)48

When he was still alive, uTata used to tell me how the teachers said they
could not teach me because I didnt know English, to which he responded:
then you cant teach. This anecdote would always be followed by a fond
reminder of how I walked into that school not speaking a word of English
and within six months I spoke it better than all the children in my class.

From that year onwards, the bulk of my formal education has been an
unlearning of my home language. Replacing isiXhosa with a Youre so
articulate- kind of English. A linguistic displacement I could never,
ironically, articulate until my thirty-one year old self sat holding back tears
in her first Xhosa lesson ever. As we began going around the class, each
reading a paragraph from Witness K Thamsanqa, I felt like I was on the
verge of an anxiety attack, trying to follow what was being read while
figuring out where I would have to read and wishing for a chance to
practice the words out loud first.

The thing is, I could not remember when last I had been required to read
isiXhosa out loud before. Not an excerpt from Waphucuka
Umntomnyama, my one and only half-Xhosa a poem which I had spent
lifetimes working on and bouncing off my mother and aunt before
releasing into the world. Here, I would read something that was real
Xhosa. From an author whose work has always been something out of
reach that only 1st Language Xhosa speakers could attempt.

The real breakthrough came from the free-writing. We are given five
minutes to put pen to paper. No thinking, just writing. And for five
minutes, I wrote more than half a page in isiXhosa, using only two English
words. I wrote in my home language instinctively! Without my mother or
my aunt! And as I read my free-writing piece out loud to my classmates
(now completely unable to fight back the tears) I felt akin to someone who
had come home from years of being somewhere they didnt know. Like
home had always known me, in spite of all attempts, my mother tongue
knows me. And always has!
http://vanguardmagazine.co.za/a-language-of-dreams/ Page 2 of 3
A language of dreams Vanguard 06/02/2017, 11)48

While sitting in the bathroom, completely torn to shreds, I had to admit,


for the first time, how deeply scarred not being fluent in isiXhosa had left
me. Beyond being embarrassed, it has separated me from completely
understanding my cultural rituals. From having rich and full conversations
with my grandparents and cousins and great aunts and uncles. I had to
come to terms with having spent my whole life surviving a deliberate
attempt at erasing who I am as a human being.

I remember the first time I met Mthunzikazi Mbungwanas poetry, she


said: I write in isiXhosa because it is the language I dream in.

How awe-filled it left me, the thought of being able to dream in your home
language!

Scrabble fanatic; Professional feather stirrer: (Poet and Freelance


Writer)

Vangi is a girl who couldnt sleep


Then one day was told she was deep
The family thought she was crazy
Coz her visions for Africa were spacey
But now her scribbling, they all want to keep

http://www.vangisafrica.org/

http://vanguardmagazine.co.za/a-language-of-dreams/ Page 3 of 3

Похожие интересы