The varying responses local artists receive from their audiences for the language they employ is remarkable. Black music lovers tend to appreciate all forms of music in their indigenous languages. But release a book, say in Sotho or Zulu, and almost no one will buy it. All local bestsellers by black authors are published in English. German-born Rhodes University lecturer and independent publisher Fouad Asfour has two theories why the indigenous languages book market performs badly. He blames the publishing industry for being largely white and untransformed; and the arts-loving public for gravitating towards popular culture, which books are not. “The problem is that the [publishing] industry is framed for a white audience. It hasn’t yet quite transformed. Reading and writing has been associated with colonialism. For books to become popular culture they must become less white,” Asfour says. Wits University languages and literacy professor Leketi Makalela thinks monolingualism is a fla...

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