Original Research

Between freedom and self-subjection: the dilemma of writing in an African language

N. Maake
Literator | Vol 27, No 1 | a183 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v27i1.183 | © 2006 N. Maake | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2006 | Published: 30 July 2006

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N. Maake, North-West University, Vaal Triangle campus, South Africa

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This article is an analysis of the dilemmas that confront an author who chooses to write in an African language. (Language choice remains a particularly vexing issue in African literature.) On the one hand a language that he is a master of gives him the freedom to assert himself and oppose the imperial way of thinking, which is liberating. On the other hand choice of language confines his work to a specific audience and a particular set of literary canons. Sometimes certain influential gatekeepers overtly prescribe boundaries and limit the possibilities of transcending them. On the other hand, as a case study of Sesotho literature shows, the literature itself manifests generic and thematic propensities that limit the freedom of literary expression. From the subjective and privileged position of being a writer in Sesotho himself the author in the end makes a number of suggestions on how to overcome this stifling status quo.


African Literature; Choice Of Language; Overcoming The Parochialism Of Literary Traditions; Sotho-Literature; Representations Of The Other; Travel Writing


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