Mqhayi’s chapter and verse: Kees van die Kalahari becoming u-Adonisi wasentlango
Xhosa’s best and most well-known imbongi and poet, S. E. K. Mqhayi, once translated an Afrikaans book Kees van die Kalahari into Xhosa—a story about the trials and tribulations of a leader baboon and his tribe. The Xhosa translation had been prescribed for generations of pupils and became one of the language’s most well-known texts. As part of a larger project which will compare the two texts in their totality, this essay is a preliminary exercise to determine the history of the translated text and more specifically to explore what Mqhayi’s possible translation strategies could have been which rendered the book so ‘homegrown’. According to Sindiwe Magona, ‘It was prescribed to me in high school and I taught it, but neither I, nor my colleagues, realised that it was a translation. And even now, there is no feeling that behind this text there is another one, it feels so authentic!’ There are in fact two other texts: the original English text which spawned the well-known Afrikaans book Kees van die Kalahari, written/translated by the brothers S. B. and G. C. Hobson. The Afrikaans text won the coveted Afrikaans Hertzog Prize for prose and was reprinted 33 times.
Keywords: Kees van die Kalahari, S. B. and G. C. Hobson, S. E. K. Mqhayi, translation strategy, translation, u-Adonisi wasentlango.