Jalada, a pan-African writers collective and Kenyan online journal based in Nairobi, has done a first in African publishing. By releasing “The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright,” the collective has made Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s story the most translated story in African languages. wa Thiong’o a long time herald of writing in local languages initially wrote Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ, in 2016 in his language Kikuyu.

 

(Jalada)

(Jalada)

In the past, Jalada has pushed the boundaries of African literature, publishing issues that explore themes of sexuality and speculative future. “The Upright Revolution” is part of Jalada’s ongoing effort to contribute to the world of literature in African languages. Prior to this translation issue, it released several issues under the language issue banner. Now, readers from across Africa can enjoy wa Thiong’o’s story in over 32 languages.

 

Interestingly, “The Upright Revolution”  is not only now available in indigenous African languages such as Ewe, Luganda, Shona, Kiswahili, Hausa, Lingala, Igbo, Somali, XiTsonga among others. Jalada’s first translation issue also includes colonial languages English and French, as well as informal languages like Sheng and Nigerian pidgin.

 

Creole, or a mix of languages, that exists in Sheng and West African pidgin have often led to those languages being labelled “slang.” Sheng itself is a contraction of Swahili and English, taking the first words of both languages. The inclusion of these forms of creole as languages shows that Jalada is taking a unique approach to the topic of languages and literature in Africa. Jalada’s efforts are just the tip of growing recognition of the importance of literature printed in African languages evident for example in renewed interest in Hausa romance novels.

 

How important is it to encourage writing and reading in African languages? Will emphasising language differences lead to tension? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below or by tweeting @rafeeeeta