UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus-based Centre for African Literary Studies (CALS) recently launched the country’s first Zulu literary museum as part of the 2012 Midlands Literary Festival.
The museum was officially opened on 24 August by Professor Donal McCracken from UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society.
McCracken paid tribute to the Zulu culture by quoting British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who said: ‘The Zulus are a remarkable people; they put an end to an empire, they convert bishops and they defeat generals.’
He added: ‘I trust that the isiZulu Literary Museum, here in an institution, will prosper, will grow from strength to strength and comprehensively reflect the literary writings of that truly remarkable people.’
The Zulu literary museum has been made possible through generous sponsorship from Pietermaritzburg-based Shuter and Shooter Publishers who handed over a cheque for R125 000 at the launch.
Speaking at the event, Publishing Director for Indigenous Languages at Shuter and Shooter, Mr Ray Wela, said this museum is critical for the preservation of the isiZulu language.
‘Someone had to take this initiative forward and we are grateful to the university and CALS for doing this,’ said Wela
According to UKZN lecturer, Dr Darryl Earl David, who is the inspiration behind the Zulu literary museum, 18 years have passed since 1994 and ‘no African language has managed to get a literary museum off the ground’.
Precedents have already been set as South Africa has an English Literary Museum in Grahamstown and an Afrikaans Museum in Bloemfontein. ‘A literary museum is truly the holy grail in literary circles,’ said David.
David is most grateful to Acting Director for CALS, Professor Christine Stilwell, ‘for having the belief in my vision and for seeing it through’.
The Centre for African Literary Studies is the ideal home for a Zulu literary museum as it
boasts one of the largest repositories of African literature in the world.
Opened in 2004, the Centre came into being to house the collection of Professor Bernth Lindfors, one of the largest private collections of African literature. It has been described by renowned bibliographer, Mr Hans Zell as ‘a rare and quite unique collection, unparalleled in the world’.
Stilwell, described the Centre as an ideal space ‘where people can experience and celebrate African identity and achievement’. In addition, ‘It provides a view of the wider Africa for local students and scholars.
‘The launch of the Zulu Literary Museum will provide an opportunity to focus on Zulu literature and begin building a very fine collection that does credit to the literary tradition in our province,’ she said.
Stilwell is also grateful to the National Library of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Provincial and Public Library and Information Service and UKZN libraries for the donation and loan of material in isiZulu.
The official launch of the museum spearheaded the three-day 2012 Midlands Literary Festival which provided literary enthusiasts with a feast of cultural entertainment, including poetry, music, book launches, and generally all things literary.
Ms Gcina Mhlophe, renowned author and story-teller, who was one of the presenters at the festival, also participated in some of the festivities around the launch of the isiZulu Literary Museum. She said she was very proud of the museum and would tell everyone she knew to come and visit it.
‘The museum is the brightest feather in our cap…not just for KZN, but for the whole country,’ she said.