Alert! Sindiwe Magona’s translation of Stories of Africa by Gcina Mhlophe has been included on the 2015 International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) SA honour roll.
During an event held in Pinelands last week, the South African section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY SA) announced their honour roll, which will all be presented at the IBBY World Congress in New Zealand next year. During the run-up to this event these books, six in total, will all be exhibited around the world at conferences and book fairs, and form part of permanent collections in some of the biggest international youth libraries.
Magona is recognised in the category “Translator: into isiXhosa” for her formidable translation of Mhlophe’s folk tales to Umcelo Neentsomi Zase-Afrika.
Books LIVE was present at the announcement of Magona’s inclusion on the IBBY SA honour roll and have transcribed her acceptance speech:
To say that I am ecstatic would be an understatement.
I bitch a lot about translation, especially of children’s books that are sometimes totally and completely ignored. I remember a book I found in IBBY some years ago when I first retired and returned to South Africa. I found a book published in the states, and that book didn’t make it in Xhosa. I saw the book, I read the book and it had been shredded, or whatever.
Translation is important, and especially I think now in this country. I feel that the translation of children’s books could be part of our nation-building. It shouldn’t be that 20 years and more into the new dispensation children are still divided according to linguistic affiliations. I feel that Gcina Mhlophe’s book – which I translated from English to isiXhosa – those folktales should be available to all the children of South Africa. I grew up with Xhosa folktales, which I enjoyed. But I feel that English speaking children, children who speak Afrikaans as a mother tongue, Sesotho, Tswane, should all enjoy those folktales. I enjoyed Gcina’s tales in isiZulu when I could understand them translated into English.
I feel this is something that we – it is just a wish and a hope and a prayer – that we should be knitting a South African literature, especially for the young.
The previous translator who was here, who translates into Afrikaans [Kobus Geldenhuys], said something: What do you translate, and how do you translate it? Obviously you have the text in the original language, which you must then transport to the target language. You need to translate the story. You need to translate the sentiments, the joy, whatever is there, even the grief. Do you do it literarily, or do you do it poetically, or is it a marriage of the two? These are some of the decisions you have to make as a translator.
I love language, and for the benefit and for the pleasure of being reasonably steeped in both languages, isiXhosa and English. I am not a mother tongue English speaker, I don’t fool myself, but I have enough understanding and have used it enough, have studied it enough that I more or less control it, as much as one can be almost mother tongue. But know that there are things that one cannot translate … and you have to be respectful in dealing with someone else’s work. That you honour them, so that the person who reads the book in Xhosa does not begin by understanding that this is a translation. Translation should be hidden! You shouldn’t leave a big footprint a translator! It should read as an original for the person who is going to read the new work.
I would hate for anybody reading a book I translated to say, “Oh, this is what is must have said in English”. No. No. If your works looks like “this is what it must have been” then it is literal, and the person who is reading it in the target language should derive as much pleasure and respect for the person who created the original work. That shouldn’t be lost! You are serving not just the audience, you also serving the creator of the work. I think for me this is both a burden and an honour, and that is what I try to do.
I am very happy to get this recognition. I did not even know that such things existed, but I am happy to receive it.
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Helené Prinsloo tweeted live from the announcement:
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IBBY SA is the South African national section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), an international body with 74 national sections around the world.
IBBY SA is pleased to announce that the following books have been selected for the IBBY Honour List to be presented at the IBBY World Congress in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2016 as having made a special contribution to recent South African literature for children and young people:
Fanie Viljoen: Uit (LAPA Uitgewers, Pretoria) – for making it easy for all teenagers to experience and emphathise with a young man’s growing realisation of his sexual orientation
Charmaine Kendal: Miscast (Junkets Publisher, Cape Town) – for its sensitive exploration of the inner journey of a trans boy; probably the first South African teen novel about transgender
Translator: into Afrikaans
Kobus Geldenhuys: Hoe om jou draak te tem (Protea Boekhuis, Stellenbosch) translated from Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon – for capturing the spirit and sense of the fantastical in his translation
Translator: into isiXhosa
Sindiwe Magona: Umculo neentsomi zase-Afrika (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg) translated from Gcina Mhlophe’s Stories of Africa – for transmitting the magic of the original folktales so faithfully
Translator: into Sesotho
Selloane Khosi: Baile le Moketa (Jacana Media, Johannesburg), translated from Gerard Sekoto’s Shorty and Billy Boy – for a clear and lively version of the 1973 story of Sekoto’s, only recently published for the first time.
Dale Blankenaar: Olinosters op die dak / Rhinocephants on the roof by Marita van der Vyver (NB Publishers, Cape Town) – for his rendering of the eerily atmospheric world of the writing
The above announcements were made at an event hosted by IBBY SA at the SASNEV building in Pinelands, Cape Town, on Thursday 17 September 2015.
The announcements were made by Lona Gericke, former children’s librarian, former chair and vice-chair of IBBY SA, and a former member of the international Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury. She holds the Awards portfolio on the Executive Committee of IBBY SA. IBBY SA’s current Chairperson Professor Genevieve Hart handed over the certificates.
Five of the six people nominated were able to attend the event and receive their IBBY SA certificates in person. Likewise, five of the six publishers involved were the happy recipients of IBBY SA certificates.
“We are really glad that the six categories were spread among six different publishers,” said Lona Gericke. “It means that more and more publishers are doing excellent work in the field of literature for children and young people.”
Is there anything especially noteworthy about this year’s Honour List nominees? “Isn’t it striking,” commented Genevieve Hart, “that the two ‘Author’-category nominees have both written books about sexual diversity? It is a very significant area of teenager experience, and one welcomes such careful and sensitive treatments.”
What lies ahead for these six books? Copies have been despatched to the head office of IBBY in Basle, Switzerland. At next year’s IBBY World Congress they will be on display, will appear in the Honour List of Books brochure, and will be the subject of a screened presentation in a plenary session of the Congress, after which they will move on to be displayed at the famous Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
So, the recognition and the exposure for these writers, translators and illustrators could be very significant for their careers.