What is in the language?


The initiative by an actor and playwright Obed Baloyi has seen him producing one of his debut play “Ga-Mchangani” at the Market Theatre Laboratory. His play, though using a tragically humorous Jim-comes-to-Jozi plot, the play highlights the stereotypes that people from the North are treated, with the objective of exposing the inequalities that exists the creative industry in South Africa.

This issue about othering as Zaza Hlalethwa has alluded to it in her original article titled “Giyani’ translates to viewers”, exposes how certain languages or cultures are used in plays to add humour and/or to fortify the existing stereotypes.

Consider that the three main languages spoken in Limpopo are Xitsonga, Sepedi and Tshivenda and the groups themselves are divided. It is interesting to see that the very groups do not exist side by side as they appears to be better than the other ones. The fear to associate is created with a view of wanting to protect themselves from appearing to be like the other language that is been shamed.

In a play, characters from the minority groups are normally given roles that will make them appear funny or stupid because of the ways in which they are made to say things.

A few weeks before its premiere President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned it in his Human Rights Day speech when he said South Africans are tasked with conserving languages that are in danger of becoming extinct.

Unfortunately, the flow of dialogue is sometimes interrupted by the producer’s decision to cast non-Xitsonga people in roles that require a Xitsonga speaker. To paint an authentic picture of Limpopo, Giyani’s cast also includes Khelobedu and Tshivenda speakers.

According to the article that appeared on Mail & Guardian of the12th Apr 2019 00:00, the producers subtly managed to bringing land conversations to the fore, with the intent to address the clashes between Tshivenda- and Xitsonga-speakers in Limpopo.

The other issue raised in the Mail & Guardian is the survival of residents in Malamulele village, with regard to basics such as public transport, job security and access to public healthcare, depended on whether one spoke Xitsonga or Xivenda. Similar tensions rose in Bungeni village in 2016. And from 2017 through to 2018, Vuwani village was plagued by violent conflicts between the two language groups.

Giyani — Land of Blood airs on SABC 2 from Monday to Wednesday at 9.30pm


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