Bontle Senne has written two books for tweens in the nail-biting Shadow Chasers series – Power of the Knife and Lake of Memories – and hopes to publish the third before she turns 30 in October this year.
Heather Robertson of Nal’ibali spoke to the talented author about her inspiration, writing for children, and the importance of reading in your mother tongue:
Have your books been translated into African languages? What are your views on the availability of contemporary writing like yours in African languages to enable children to read in their mother tongues. Do you think enough is being done to encourage writers in African languages and mother tongue reading for pleasure in South African schools and homes?
They have not been translated yet but I hope that they soon are. I know that there is not enough being done to support producers of original, engaging and relevant work for children in African languages. There’s this idea that it’s an ideological thing, or a nice to have, or some kind of cute whimsy to want children to read and write in their indigenous language but that is only partially true. Without creating a generation of young people who can articulate themselves, understand others, acquire complex concepts in text, and explain their meanings to others, we don’t have doctors, accountants, or engineers. We don’t have anything. It’s not sentimental to want reading for pleasure in mother tongue to be taken more seriously. In the world of work, children need to have mastered their home language in order to master English in order to become their own masters.