New artists making hip-hop waves by using indigenousword of mouth

The atmosphere was initidating - in a positive way.

The atmosphere was initidating - in a positive way.

However, if you looked right, you could not miss South African poet laureate Willie Kgositsile.

Sharing a table with him was another academic, novelist and literary figure Lewis Nkosi, in the company of his literary agent, Sandile Ngidi.

At a nearby table was writer John Matshikiza, emerging publisher Rose Francis and first-time novelists Zukiswa Wanner and Angela Makholwa.

The setting was at a recent dinner of the Commonwealth Writers' finalist reception hosted by Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan.

While the atmosphere was inspiring, the conversation warm and cordial, and business cards exchanged, Minister Jordan was later to say something that disturbed this feel good atmosphere.

The issue of publishers shying away from publishing books in indigenous languages became the evening's issue.

Jordan said it was disturbing that publishers shied away from publishing books in indigenous languages even when it made business sense to do so.

"The ministry of arts and culture has intervened by putting money into literature in indigenous languages," Jordan said.

Well, these efforts from the ministry must be commended, but the situation in Mzansi is worrying because publishers are just not willing to publish in indigenous languages.

A colleague, whose five-year-old goes to an English pre-school, recently confessed to a family predicament involving the little darling.

The girl does not respond when her parents speak to her in isiZulu, even though the language of communication in this household is mainly in that language, with a smattering of English here and there, as is wont in most black middle-class households.

The daughter hears everything spoken in isiZulu but will simply not respond if spoken to in the language. She has to be spoken to in English.

This, the parents believe, comes from their little darling's socialisation at her creche.

My colleague's predicament is an echo of the dilemma so many black middle-class families - whose children go to mainly upper-class, English-medium schools in the suburbs - face in this country.

Much as their parents would like them to speak good English - it is after all the right thing to do because it is the dominant language in commerce, education and the arts - this is often at the expense of indigenous African languages.

The phenomenon of an increasing brigade of black youth speaking English with a "foreign" accent, the so-called coconuts, is a manifestation of this problem.

So, are our indigenous languages, which have withstood the test of time, in danger of dying?

Not so, if our young and culturally conscious rappers, poets, hip-hoppers and wordsmiths have their way.