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01 July 2022 | Story Marcus Maphile | Photo Supplied

The University of the Free State Library and Information Services (UFSLIS) hosted stakeholders from SABC Lesedi FM, the Free State Department of Sport, Arts, and Culture, the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), and delegates from the National Library for the launch of the first-ever African Languages University Press in South Africa and Africa.  The launch, which took place on 24 May, deliberately coincided with the Africa Month commemorations – as the UFS’ answer to the United Nations General Assembly (Resolution A/RES/74/135) proclamation of the period between 2022 and 2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.  

This proclamation aims to draw global attention to the critical situation of many indigenous languages, and to mobilise stakeholders and resources for their preservation, revitalisation, and promotion. The University of the Free State Department of African Languages aims to be a publisher of high-quality original African language monographs and research in order to promote access, preservation, and use of marginalised African languages.  

In his opening remarks, Marcus Maphile, Assistant Director: Library Services, said, “As a broad academic publisher, the African Languages Press will be working across a number of markets, all presenting challenges and opportunities for established and engaged university presses. One of the opportunities will be to challenge the mainstream book publishers to re-enter the indigenous language publishing market.” He further said that this was done to make writing and reading in African indigenous languages fashionable, for other nations to envy our rich multilingual cultural heritage. 

The guest speaker for the launch was the UFS honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) recipient, Dr Jerry Mofokeng wa Makhetha, who applauded the University of the Free State for taking such a bold step towards enriching and developing African indigenous languages. 

The launch offered the UFS the opportunity to reach out and engage the international community on potential partnerships and collaborations towards developing African languages. The Library Director, Ms Jeanette Molopyane, provided insight into the challenges faced by libraries due to the shortage of books in African languages, while positioning the University of the Free State Library as a trendsetter and a leader in the development of best practices in the field of libraries.  

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