Florence Masebe

Nyamuthenga, Khadzi ya Makovhagada! Muduhulu wa Vhafamadi! Tshiongweeee!!!!


Khadzi's Diary


Whose language is it anyway?

Stop applauding me for speaking my home language well. Does that even make sense to you?
“You speak Tshivenda so well” Do the people who keep saying this to me really believe that it’s a compliment or a positive statement. Commending me for speaking my mother tongue well? How else am I expected to speak my own language? Then there are those fetishists who will say “I just love the way you speak Tshivenda. It’s so sexy.” No, it’s not. It’s just a language. I speak it because it’s mine, not to impress or to sound sexy. There is nothing exotic about it. A person I do not even know recently told me how they’ve never liked my 
language but the way I speak it makes them fall in love with it. People think such things are compliments. How very awkward. Anyway, what I really want to raise today is the way in which our television writers don’t seem to respect our languages when it comes to most of the dramas on our screens. This includes many that I’ve been in myself. I speak every one of the South Africa’s official languages. I don’t always use my home language as an actor. In fact I’d rather not speak Tshivenda if I’m the only actor in the cast who can speak the language. I find it perpetuates the fetishism that I detest so much. I get tired of hearing people say: “ I have no idea what you’re saying but it sounds so exotic”. Why are we like this? I don’t particularly like this South African television practice where you find actors having full conversations in three different languages. I can understand a Motswana and a Mopedi having a conversation with one another while each sticking to their own language and still understanding each other. I have a hard time though, as an actor, when I have to speak Tshivenda to a co-actor who cannot even greet in my language. I’m in no way putting blame on my fellow actors. I just want to reach a point where languages are respected by 
producers and creators of television drama in this country. 
Why are indigenous languages treated with such disregard by television 
producers and directors? We have nine different indigenous languages. Our 
writers and casting directors carry on as if once you speak one of the nine 
you’ll magically understand the rest. Show me a family in which a mother 
speaks Tshivenda while the father speaks IsiNdebele and their child speaks 
Sesotho? There is a show I love where a mother speaks perfect Sesotho while
her son speaks IsiZulu. On my first season of the health drama Soul City my 
character spoke SePedi while her sons and husband spoke isiXhosa. It never 
made sense to me. I hope the viewers were more understanding than me. On 
my current show Ring Of Lies, I speak Tshivenda while my husband speaks 
Sesotho, his brother speaks SePedi and our son speaks Sesotho and a bit of 
Tshivenda. Why do we have such. Who told our television creators that this is 
cool? When are we going to start to take ourselves and our languages 
seriously? Why do casting directors think it’s fine to create the linguistic family 
mess that we see on our screens all the time?
When are we going to treat our indigenous languages with the respect and 
honour they deserve? Television is a powerful medium. It can help develop and 
advance our languages. Sadly, if we carry on with this language oddity that our 
writers and directors keep on enforcing on audiences, this powerful medium 
will become one of the most effective tools in destroying our already 
vulnerable languages. 
Somewhere in a content meeting, I hope a brave commissioning editor will rise
and put a stop to this madness. Cast your actors according to talent and 
linguistic skill. Don’t force audiences to believe what we know does not happen 
in real life. Let’s respect black people’s languages. Our languages are our 
heritage. Let’s handle them with pride and honour. 
As for me, I speak Tshivenda proudly because it is of value to me. I’m likely to 
refuse to speak it in a drama if the producers do not bother to cast according to language. I’ll stick with whichever language my on screen family speaks. I 
may be the only one who cares. Maybe it’s not even a big deal. After all, it’s 
just black languages, right? I think Not.

Florence - 14:36:59 | 2 comments