‘Recognise minor languages to revive culture’

Updated: June 1, 2013
by SHINGIRAI MADONDO,  Reprinted from MmegiOnline

FRANCISTOWN: The Botswana government has been urged to recognise all the spoken languages to help revive the seemingly dying culture in the country. Francistown councillors agreed that the non-recognition of minority languages while focusing on Setswana languages only has resulted in “our culture dying a natural death”.

Debating the government’s idea of reviving culture through the recently introduced Constituency Arts and President’s Day Arts competitions, councillors in the country’s second city dismissed the development as a joke. Jefferson Siamisang, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, said he is convinced that the constituency art and President’s Day arts competitions have added fresh impetus to government’s efforts towards reviving culture.

Siamisang said this when presenting the “mandate and programmes” of his ministry to the Francistown full council session recently.”These (constituency and President’s Day competitions) promote cultural revival and unpolluted recreation,” he said.  Echoing the country’s founding president Sir Seretse Khama, Siamisang said “a nation without a past is a lost nation”.He said the competitions are held in a spirit of togetherness, joy, happiness and self-reliance, as culture demands. Siamisang remains confident that the competitions will help breathe new life into the disappearing culture of Batswana.

However, Francistown councillors think otherwise. They said for the government to achieve the aspirations of reviving culture, it should start by recognising all the minor languages in the country. “Culture is one’s identity.And one is identified through a language,” explained Ikageleng East ward councillor, Tabengwa Tabengwa.”But as long as my own language that defines who I am, is not recognised in this country, forget about reviving culture,” said a seemingly fuming Tabengwa while mixing Setswana and Kalanga language.

Tabengwa said Ikalanga should be reintroduced and other languages introduced in learning institutions’ syllabi.Boikhutso ward councillor Robert Mosweu concurred, saying the government should start by recognising all spoken languages in Botswana if it is to achieve its explicit goal.

Stanley Masalila, councillor for Bluetown ward, said one cannot be taught culture through dancing and singing.”One has to know his/her language first before talking about teaching him/her about the culture,” he said.Siamisang agreed with councillors that culture and language are inseparable. He promised that government would look into the suggestions to speed cultural revival in Botswana.

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