It's time to share my beautiful language with others

Bare-knuckle boxing tournaments are an integral part of the Venda culture. (Gallo Images)

Bare-knuckle boxing tournaments are an integral part of the Venda culture. (Gallo Images)

One of the most nerve-racking moments of my life, other than the birth of my first child, was the day my family visited my isiXhosa-speaking in-laws in the Eastern Cape for my lobolo negotiations.

I was less worried about our uncles trying to outmanoeuvre each other – that was to be expected. What bothered me the most was the constant ringing question: "How are they going to bridge the language gap?"

As languages, Tshivenda and isiXhosa are about as far apart from one another other as Venda and the Eastern Cape are in physical distance. Can you imagine things going wrong because something was lost in translation at such a critical moment?

In honour of Youth Day the M&G has published a series of takes on all our official languages. Read the rest here.

South Africa is a fortunate country because of its diverse heritage. In the end the two families saw this as an opportunity to bridge their cultural differences. What was a worry became the main ingredient in making the encounter worthwhile and successful.

Each time I think back, I am humbled at how this was a huge wake-up call for me.

I realised that up to that point I had hardly made an effort to export my language.

Most Tshivenda speakers in urban areas tend to speak other languages fluently. As a result of our history of bantustans we can still see how languages like Tshivenda are being alienated.

The core of the youth struggle in 1976 was to fight against Bantu Education. As we get nearer to celebrating 20 years of democracy, there is still more we can do to promote a united nation.

In my own life, in the critical phase where I was establishing my family, I can say for sure that it is the small acts that count.

I am a filmmaker and storyteller. My job is to tell stories and being true to the authenticity of all our languages makes us tell stories better. As producers we are

discovering through our programmes that more and more South Africans want to learn and understand other languages, such as Tshivenda.

We must never underestimate the power of popular culture in undoing the language segregation that was engineered in the apartheid era. TV shows like Muvhango, La Familia and Vuwani have done a lot to expose Tshivenda to other ethnic groups.

As I have learnt from my own story, it's time to speak loudly and share my beautiful language. You might be called Vhamusanda or Vhomakhadzi now and again, but hey, we have to start somewhere.

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