Introduction: Beyond the languages I claim as my own

The Upright Revolution 1


Thirty three writers from across fourteen African countries are gathered in Jalada’s Inaugural Translation Issue. Each is unique and special in their striving to render in their languages as close as possible the tone and rhythms of the original piece. Gathered here, in Jalada’s new model of translations, is a talented group of translators, editors, assessors and proofreaders. Looking at each translation, I am moved with admiration for the ways in which each voice has made itself heard. I hope that you, too, will look at each translation, each language, even the ones that you do not as yet understand, with the same kind of awe you have for the words and sentences that have formed the medium and texture of your love of the language/s you claim as your own.

Following Jalada’s groundbreaking emphasis on translation in African Languages in its 2015 Language Issue, we reached out to Ngugi wa Thiong’o who graciously agreed to send us a previously unpublished story for our inaugural Translation Issue. Professor wa Thiong’o is uniquely placed to be the first distinguished author and intellectual featured in our periodical translations issue. He has, for many years, been the most vocal proponent in publishing in African languages.

Professor wa Thiong’o’s story; Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ, was originally written in Kikuyu and then translated by the author into English as The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright. In its many lessons, it is a reminder that we are one, and that in our togetherness we have the power to transform the future that we hope for ourselves. A majority of the translations are based on the English version, though a few Francophone writers used the French translation to translate into their own mother tongues. And the Somali translation was based on the Arabic translation.

The translations included in this issue include English, Amharic, Dholuo, Kamba, Lwisukha (Luhya), Kipsigis, Kinyarwanda, French, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, Afrikaans, Hausa, Meru, Lingala, IsiZulu, Igbo, Ibibio, isiNdebele, XiTsonga, Nandi (Kalenjin), Rukiga, Bamanankan (bambara/mandingo), Lugbara, Lubukusu, Kimaragoli, Giriama, Sheng, Ewe, and Naija Langwej.

We worked with translators of all levels of experience, from a recent high school graduate to distinguished professors. For many of these translations, Jalada was very fortunate to find willing editors with considerable orthographical knowledge of their language’s textual application. In most cases, translations were further read by native speakers to ensure fidelity to the original piece. Although deeply rewarding, none of this was easy, and this Translation Issue is the fruit of many months of hard work and collaboration, multiple deadlines and setbacks.

In the spirit of the Collective and its interactive practises, Jalada will continue to work with translators to increase the spectrum of African expression. In a few of these pieces, therefore, an observant reader might find decidedly English sensibilities. In any case, some of these translations are the very first attempts of the participating translators. Like all art, there will be growth from these humble contributions in which we take immense pride, to a future literary landscape of beautiful constructions that will be definitive of each African language. Jalada has come to be Africa’s literary melting pot where we meet in a blend of the Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone expectations over a distinctively African base.

The process has also played a key role in expanding Jalada’s Database of linguists and translators on African Languages across the continent.

We hope you enjoy the Translation Issue.

Moses Kilolo,

Jalada Africa, Managing Editor.