SPU’s Centre for Creative Writing and African Languages: Developing and promoting linguistic diversity

On 7 December 2023, Sol Plaatje University (SPU) was delighted to announce the launch of the Centre for Creative Writing and African Languages, situated in the newly constructed Heritage Studies and Humanities Building on Central Campus.

 

The Centre’s primary goal is to nurture linguistic diversity, focusing especially on the under-represented languages spoken in the Northern Cape area, such as Setswana, regional variations of Afrikaans, IsiXhosa, and Khoe-San dialects. Through various initiatives led by the Centre, the upliftment of Creative Writing and African Languages demonstrates SPU’s steadfast commitment to preserving these unique languages for future generations. The Centre plans to engage with the community through diverse initiatives and will conduct writing workshops at the Northern Cape Correctional Services, launching programmes to enhance children’s reading and writing skills, thereby making a significant impact on the community’s development.

 

The Acting Head of School, Dr Cobus Rademeyer, welcomed staff and guests to the School of Humanities’ new home. “Thank you all for being here to celebrate an important milestone for the University and the School of Humanities with the launch of the centre. We could not have achieved this alone, but with much dedication, interaction, and collaboration with SPU staff and external partners, we bear witness today to the launch of the Centre for Creative Writing and African Languages,” he said.

 

Prof Andrew Crouch, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of SPU, commended the School of Humanities for establishing the Centre for Creative Writing and African Languages. He remarked that this initiative has been a key strategic priority since 2015. “We aim to become a unique institution with an exceptional ability to generate new knowledge that addresses regional challenges,” he stated. “This marks our fifth centre launched since October 2021, indicating exciting progress in terms of development.” Prof Crouch further emphasised that language is crucial to one’s identity and culture; it transcends mere communication, carrying historical legacies and deep-rooted community affiliations.

 

Prof Victor Teise, Acting Director for the Centre, outlined why the Centre for Creative Writing and African Languages is essential in contemporary society. “African languages were ossified in the racial and linguistic geography of the apartheid imagination and left to stultify as English and Afrikaans became increasingly hegemonic hence majority of South Africans cannot read their own archive in their home languages. With the launch of this Centre, such challenges will be addressed. At the core of the Centre, we will recognise and respect the linguistic and cultural diversity existing at SPU and the broader Northern Cape, as well as the importance of Afrikaans, Setswana, and IsiXhosa as custodians of culture, tradition, heritage, and a means of communication, the development and establishment of multilingualism as a resource to facilitate cognitive development, epistemological access, inclusiveness, transformation, social cohesion, and respect for all languages; an acknowledgement that languages, especially in the Northern Cape, are critical resources at SPU in the transmission of knowledge, cognitive development, and effective participation in intellectual capital, a knowledge economy, and technical and scientific innovation,” he explained, giving an overview of the Centre.

 

Creative Writing at SPU is currently taught at the undergraduate level – from the first year up to the third year. The plan is to introduce Honours, Master’s, and PhD programmes in Creative Writing with a focus on African languages through the Centre. The Centre will feature various units such as the Academic and Training Unit; Research Unit; Manuscript Studies and Literary Translation Unit; Social Impact Unit; Museum and Archiving Unit; and the Khoe and San Language Unit.

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