Shepherd 39 provides a similar explanation, showing his understanding of the economics of publishing:. An edition of a vernacular book is generally small in number, and so the price is relatively high. Even Doke was keenly interested in the use of books in African languages at schools and as school textbooks. The small market for African-language literature, even today, remains a contentious issue, with publishers arguing that there is only a very small reading market for such titles. Of this series Volume 3, the late Sol.
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He also comments at some length on the importance of the new channel offered by the university press. As can be seen, the series reflected the degree to which South African society remained colonised and segregated. While a measure of black agency may be seen in the authors writing works in their own languages, there was still the necessity of a white-run channel in order to publish and disseminate the works, and to confer a degree of authority upon them. In other words, the context of the establishment of the Bantu Treasury Series was one of a rising interest in African literature, and increasing willingness among publishers to test the market, which had previously been seen as non-existent.
It is true that, in contrast to, for instance, Shepherd at Lovedale Press, Doke did not intervene in the contents of the works he published. Doke was a professor of linguistics, and as such as keenly interested in standardising the orthography of African languages.
Peires assesses the impact of the guidelines produced by this committee:. The manner in which the regulations were imposed awakened deep resentment among educated Africans.
So let University Professors lay down a scheme in the light of science; and Native schools will have to adopt it or do without Government grants! Plaatje translated five Shakespeare plays, but managed to see only two into print, with the Bantu Treasury Series title only coming out after his death see Seddon, This reveals the complicated relationships among both the members of the New African Movement, and their publishers, such as Doke.
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This conception of the audience of the Bantu Treasury Series as being primarily black would later become a reality, but not through the general public eagerly purchasing copies from bookshops, as perhaps Taylor envisaged. Rather, commodified as school and university set works, the volumes of the series would be consumed largely by black school children and by a multiracial audience of trainee teachers. The consumption of the series by this somewhat mainstream audience signalled the growing canonisation of the authors published in the series as well as the canny selection of such authors by Doke.
Due to the limitations of language, the series did not reach a global audience, and was mostly not visible on a worldwide stage. Even at this early stage, then, Doke was quite aware that the schoolbook market was needed in order to keep the series viable.
Though they envisaged different channels, then, the end for Doke and Plaatje was the same. The schools involved fell largely under the auspices of Bantu Education. The dignity of its simple blue cloth binding, with the seal of the University on the cover, the clear print and perfect proof-reading are not only a credit to the Editors and to the Lovedale Press [the printers of the work], but they are a quiet testimony to the recognition given to these poems as real literature, worthy of preservation and of presentation to their readers in a form of beauty. This edition would go through four reprints in the twenty years between and , before a new edition appeared in , in the new Isizulu, specifically aiming at the schoolbook market.
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With orders in the thousands annually, the reprints of the titles in the series kept the Press afloat throughout the s and s. Indeed, in the early s, Wits University Press was still regularly advertising the series in its journal African Studies e.
This is a very simplistic depiction of the notion of the area under study in the Department of Bantu Studies. The design looks like what it in fact ended up being: a low-cost school textbook. The title of the work is now displayed in large, bold serif print across a white block at the top of the page. The new cover design privileges the title, and thus the content, over the author, and highlights the place of the series. The positioning of the titles remains very much within the genre — perhaps one could go as far as saying the ghetto — of African-language publishing in South Africa.
Largely marketed to schools, through Macmillan South Africa, an educational publisher, the significance of the authors for a literary market is now played down in favour of commercialism. The first contributing factor was that Doke retired in that year, after a long career at the university.
It would take some time before his successor, Desmond Cole, took up the reins of the Bantu Treasury Series, and he was never to lend the same impetus and drive to his role as series editor. This policy created an immediate demand for schoolbooks in the local languages.
Thus, after , a number of Afrikaner publishing houses began to take an interest in publishing literature in African languages, largely for the schools market. Competition would become fierce, and the pro-establishment and well-established educational publishers garnered an increasingly large share of the market.
But he chose to publish his next volume, Meqoqo ya Phirimana , with a mainstream publisher with ties to the Nationalist regime, the Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel, in This diversion of authors to the larger establishment publishers quickly dried up the sources of new work for the Bantu Treasury Series. But this did not signal the end of African-language publishing at Wits University Press, nor, immediately, of the Bantu Treasury Series. But this brief revival of the series did not last.
Amid the increasing government repression and clampdowns on freedom of speech and expression in the s and s, a number of new authors were turning to writing in English and to publishing abroad. A planned revitalisation of the series in the early s was unsuccessful, and with Cole retiring in December , there was little leadership of the series thereafter. The few titles published in the s reveal the lack of a commissioning or series editor actively soliciting titles, as their submission was driven by the authors themselves.
The Press no longer had an interest or expertise in publishing for the schoolbook market, which meant that the target audience for these books was now seen as scholarly rather than educational. The Press was also coming under increasing pressure to be self-sustaining, and to produce an income from its publishing programme. This was the first of a number of new titles planned for release in what was now being called the African Treasury Series, but it was followed only by two titles.
The publishing of local literature continued, largely in English, notwithstanding the ending of the series. What can be said about the significance and impact of this series? This significant role, in supporting African-language literature before the widespread influence of Bantu Education, is now part of the heritage of the Press.
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The real blow, though, came from the dominance of large educational publishers, once the Bantu Education Act established African-language teaching at the black schools. Beyond the schoolbook market, a commercial market for African language books has still not developed in South Africa. Indeed, such literature is still considered underdeveloped, and one of the key factors is seen as the continuing reluctance of publishers to risk small print runs. While black writers and leaders in South Africa have called for black-owned publishing houses, these have either failed to materialise or not survived.
Skotaville Press, for instance, was established in the early s and lasted for a turbulent decade. Seriti sa Sechaba, the first publishing house run by a black woman in South Africa, lasted just a few years, also in the s. Why has there been no rise of black publishing to champion and promote black writing? This is a matter that requires further research, to ascertain the reasons for their failure and to consider whether there is still a need for publishing houses that could enable black authors to reach out to their readers without the mediation of white publishers.
His work illustrates the extent to which black authors have negotiated white power structures in order to reach their audience, through a complex act of confrontation, collaboration and even compromise. While much of what Young describes applies equally well to the South African situation, there are certain important differences.
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For instance, the missions of various publishers did not aim to perpetuate divides among racial groups, but to overcome them. While, for instance, oppositional or anti-apartheid South African publishers deliberately targeted a multiracial audience, the importance of the schoolbook market created a much larger, mostly black audience for many African-language books. Attwell, David. Rewriting modernity. Doke, Clement Martyn.
Mofokeng: A Personal Tribute. Berkeley: University of California Press, Gray, Eve. Scotsville: University of Natal Press, Harries, Lyndon. Herbert, Robert K. Maake, Nhlanhla P. Doke and the development of Bantu literature. Malcolm, D.
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Masilela, Ntongela. McDonald, Peter. The Literature Police: Apartheid censorship and its cultural consequences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Murray, Bruce K. Wits: The Early Years. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, Opland, Jeff. Peires, Jeffrey. Seddon, Deborah.