Printer Friendly

A critical analysis of domestication in Makhambeni's translation of Chinua Achebe's novel No longer at ease (1960)/ 'n Kritiese ontleding van inburgering in Makhambeni se vertaling van Achebe se roman No longer at ease (1960).


Through translation the target reader is exposed to other cultures. Translators, therefore, have to use the target language to convey the source text message to the target reader. There are various choices at their disposal as to how they wish to convey the source text message. They may choose to adopt the norms and conventions of the source text message, and therefore those of the source language and culture, or choose those of the target language. Commonly, adherence to the target language norms and conventions leads to a strategy in which the foreignness of both linguistic and cultural conventions is reduced. According to Venuti (1995) this is domestication. Since translations are rarely equivalent to the original this article seeks to examine how Makhambeni uses Venuti's domestication as a translation strategy, with the purpose of rewriting the original to conform to functions instituted by the receiving system. The descriptive approach to translation, which advances the notion that translations are facts of the target culture, will be used to support the arguments presented in this article. It will be shown that, although Achebe has used a lot of Igbo expressions and cultural practices in his novel Makhambeni has not translated any of the Igbo expressions and cultural practices into Zulu. Instead Makhambeni used Zulu linguistic and cultural expressions such as similes, metaphors, idioms, proverbs and of cultural substitutions to bring the Igbo culture closer to her audience. It will be concluded that through the use Zulu linguistic and cultural conventions Makhambeni has effectively minimised foreign culture and narrowed the gap between the foreign and target cultures. She has successfully naturalised the Igbo culture to make it conform more to what the Zulu reader is used to.


Deur 'n vertaling word die teikenleser blootgestel aan ander kulture. Vertalers moet dus die teikentaal gebruik om die boodskap van die teks vanuit die brontaal aan die teikenleser oor te dra. Daar is verskillende keuses tot hulle beskikking om die teksboodskap vanuit die brontaal oor te dra. Hulle kan kies om die norme en konvensies van die brontaal se teksboodskap aan te neem en dus die van die brontaal en kultuur te behou, of om die van die teikentaal kies. Gewoonlik lei navolging van die norme en konvensies van die teikenleser se taal tot 'n strategie waardeur die vreemdheid van die linguistiese sowel as die kulturele konvensies verminder word. Venuti (1995) beskou dit as inburgering ('domestication'). Aangesien vertalings selde ekwivalent aan die oorspronklike is, beoog hierdie artikel om vas te stel hoe Makhambeni gebruik maak van Venuti se inburgering as 'n vertalingstrategie met die doel om die oorspronklike te herskryf om aan te pas by funksies wat deur die ontvangende sisteem (teikentaal) ingestel word. Die beskrywende benadering tot vertaling wat die idee voorhou dat vertalings feite van die teikenkultuur voorstel, sal gebruik word om die argumente wat in hierdie artikel aangevoer word, te ondersteun. Daar sal aangetoon word dat, alhoewel Achebe baie Igbo-uitdrukkings en kulturele praktyke in sy roman gebruik het, Makhambeni nie enige van die Igbo-uitdrukkings en kulturele praktyke in Zulu vertaal het nie. In plaas daarvan het Makhambeni gekies om linguistiese en kulturele uitdrukkings in Zulu soos vergelykings, metafore, idiome, spreekwoorde en kulturele plaasvervangings in hulle plek te gebruik om daardeur die Igbo-kultuur nader aan haar Zulugehoor te bring. Die gevolgtrekking is dat Makhambeni deur die gebruik van Zulu linguistiese en kulturele konvensies, die vreemde kultuur suksesvol onderbeklemtoon het en die gaping tussen die vreemde en teikenkulture vemou het. Sy het die Igbokultuur suksesvol genaturaliseer om dit te laat aanpas by dit waaraan die Zululeser gewoond is.

1. Introduction

Through translations windows into other cultures are opened for the target language reader. Without translation no source language tale or story can be told to speakers of other languages. Language is a medium through which the source (original) text message is conveyed into the target language (receiving language). Thus, language and translation are inseparable. According to the biblical story of Genesis 11, human language was confused by the Most High, so that people would not understand one another. Translation then came in as a measure to offset this confusion.

When conveying the source text message into the target language, translators have to make a choice to either subject themselves to the original text with the norms realised in the original text, or to subject themselves to the norms active in the target culture (or in that section of it) which would host the end product. If the first option is adopted, the translation will tend to subscribe to the norms of the source text, and through them also to the norms of the source language and culture. If on the other hand, the second option is adopted, norms of the target culture are triggered and set into motion (Venuti, 2004:208). According to Van Leuven-Zwart (1991:158), every act of translation and every instance of decision-making in the translation process is governed by certain norms. If translators decide to adopt the target-oriented approach, they adopt a translation method that will change the source language norms and replace them with target language norms. Venuti (1995) regards the adoption of a method which lessens the foreignness of the source text as domestication. Domestication has a normalising and neutralising effect in that it deprives the source text producers of their voice by reexpressing foreign cultural values in terms of what is familiar to the domestic culture.

How successful has Makhambeni been in reducing the strangeness and foreignness in Chinua Achebe's No longer at ease? Amid the countless methods of translation which have been endorsed in translation studies, domestication (Venuti 1995) has emerged as one that could be used to bring the foreign culture closer to the target language audience. Put in simpler terms: domestication, according to Venuti (1995), is the replacement of the linguistic and cultural differences of the foreign text with a text that is intelligible to the target language reader.

Translation as a process is not a new concept to the indigenous languages of South Africa. It began in the mid-1800s with the translation of the Bible by the various missionary groups who worked among African communities. Currently, the African languages of South Africa can lay claim to a number of translated literary works, starting from the translations of Shakespeare's classical works to the translation of the most recent works written in English.

Translation into Zulu started with the translation of J. Bunyan's novel Pilgrim's progress, which was translated by J.K. Lorimer and Benjamin Zikode as Uhambo Iomhambi; O.L. Shange translated The merchant of Venice into the Zulu play Umhwebi wase Venisi; a Zulu adaptation of Macbeth was done by Welcome Msomi in his stage play entitled uMabatha; some of Chinua Achebe's novels have also been translated into Zulu. Things fall apart has been translated as Kwafa gula linamasi by C.T. Msimang, and No longer at ease has been translated by N.M. Makhambeni as Kwakwenzenjani. Other works that have been translated into Zulu by D.B.Z. Ntuli include Mandela's biography, titled Long walk to freedom, as Uhambo olude oluya enkululekweni, and Kahlil Gibran's poetry collection entitled The prophet as Umpholofithi. Ntuli has also translated The plays of Zakes Mda as Imidlalo kaZakes Mda.

Although there are a few literary works that have been translated into Zulu, it is gratifying to know that there has been Zulu literary works that have been translated into other languages and cultures as well. Included among these are literary works such as the translation of J.L. Dube's novel, Insila kaShaka into English by J. Boxwell, the novel Asikho ndawo bakithi which has been translated into French by Mngadi, Mazisi Kunene's poetry, which was originally written in Zulu and then translated into English, and M. Masondo's Inkundlanye which was translated into English.

Although there has been some progress in the translation of literature into Zulu, the transference of the source text message into the target language still poses a problem, because languages do not express concepts in exactly the same way. Incompatible linguistic and cultural norms prevailing in the languages involved most often become a hurdle in translation. Translators therefore have the task to explore methods or translation strategies that would render the source text message in a manner that will make the translation read like the original text, as well as have the same effect on the target audience as the source text would have on its audience.

In this article it will be shown that although Achebe has used a lot of Igbo expressions and cultural practices in his novel, Makhambeni has not translated any of the Igbo expressions and cultural practices into Zulu. Instead, she used Zulu linguistic and cultural expressions such as similes, metaphors, idioms, proverbs and cultural substitutions to bring the Igbo culture closer to her audience. It will be concluded that through the use of Zulu linguistic and cultural conventions, Makhambeni has effectively minimised foreign culture and narrowed the gap between the foreign (source) and target cultures. It will be shown that Makhambeni has successfully naturalised the Igbo culture to make it conform more to what the Zulu reader is used to. In looking for the most appropriate method or translation strategy, she chose to adhere to the target language norms and conventions. A translation that is target language oriented is one where the translator preferred to minimise the strangeness of the foreign text. In using norms and conventions that prevail in the target language, a style unique to the translator and different from that of the original writer becomes evident.

The translation of Chinua Achebe's novel has not only boosted the Zulu literary system, but it has also opened a new window into the cultural life of the Igbo people for Makhambeni's audience. In reading Makhambeni's translation, her Zulu audience will learn about the life of the Nigerian Igbo people after gaining their independence from the British. The other benefit that could be derived from the translation is that, although it is written in Zulu, the translation will help the Zulu reader reflect on their own situation in South Africa.

Before we examine how the foreignness of Achebe's text has been reduced in translation, a summary of the story and the theoretical model that will underpin this discussion will be provided. An outline of domestication and foreignisation will also be given, followed by an analysis of language use in Makhambeni's translation, and this will be concluded by showing how successful she has been in domesticating Achebe's novel.

2. Descriptive translation studies

The arguments presented in this article will be underpinned by the descriptive approach to translation. Motivation for choosing the descriptive approach to translation is derived from the understanding that any research into translation--whether it is confined to the product itself or intends to proceed to the reconstruction hypothesis--should commence from the premise that translations are facts of the target system only (Toury, 1985:19). Within the descriptive approach translations are viewed as texts in their own right, not just representations of other texts. Within this target oriented and empirical perspective, the initial criteria for selecting individual texts or a corpus of texts are firmly based on the target language system (Toury, 1995:29). Toury argues that translation phenomena could be explained by their position and role in the target culture.

Toury's approach is firmly target oriented, since he considers that translations are facts of the target culture, their characteristics therefore being conditioned by target cultural forces.

The view that translated texts operate first and foremost in the interest of the target system that is hosting it, and not in the source text system that produced the original, is also held by translation scholars such as Venuti (1995:18). Venuti asserts that whatever meaning the translation conveys is imprinted by the target language culture. Therefore, the whole range of linguistic and cultural transformations, reconstructions and alterations could be seen to result from the implementation of values, beliefs and ideas, that exist in the target language community.

Aaltonen (1993:26) contends that the translator makes conscious or unconscious choices that are not accidental by nature, but imposed on her/him by the system to which the completed translation will belong as an element. She further asserts that a translator's survival depends on how willingly she/he follows the conventions of the system, or how tolerant the system views different translational choices.

Lefevere (1992), who sees translations as the most recognisable type of rewriting, maintains that translation is influential in projecting and disseminating the image of the original writer and his/her work beyond boundaries of his/her culture to another culture.

It is from this perspective, that translations are considered as facts of the target culture only, that Makhambeni's translation is not compared with the source text in this article. Examples drawn from this translation will be used for analysis and will, thus, not be compared with source text examples.

3. Domestication in translation

According to Toury (1980:53) the choices that translators make are the concern of the initial norm. This involves a basic choice between adhering to the norms realised in the source text, which, it is assumed, reflect the norms of the source language and culture, and adhering to the norms prevalent in the target culture and language. Adherence to source norms determines a translation's adequacy with respect to the source text. Adherence to norms originating in the target culture determines its acceptability within that culture. The notion of norms considers as fact the issue that the translator is basically in a decision-making process. Toury (1995) asserts that being a translator involves playing a social role, rather than transferring phrases and sentences across a linguistic and cultural boundary. He further explains that norms are a category of descriptive analysis and not a prescriptive set of options. Adherence to source text or target language norms is also related to the notion of foreignisation and domestication respectively.

Translators domesticate or foreignise their translations. Domesticating a translation means that the translator uses a transparent, fluent style to minimise the strangeness and foreignness of the source text for the benefit of the target language readers. According to Venuti (1995), a domesticated translation is formulated when the translator adheres to the values of the target community. The norms that dominate the target community take over and dictate the translation process; the translated text then clearly reflects and is a product of the target system norms.

Foreignisation on the other hand, refers to the type of translation wherein the target text deliberately breaks the conventions of the target language, by retaining something of the foreignness of the original text (Shuttleworth & Cowie, 1997:59). This means that the reader is kept to feel the linguistic and cultural values of the source culture. This strategy encourages a translation in which traces of the foreign are left intact as much as possible.

The strategy that the translator adopts results in his/her work taking on a literary style that is unique to him/her. Various scholars discuss the notion of the translator's style under a variety of labels. Hermans (1996:27) talks about the translator's "voice" in acknowledgement of the other voice in translation. Baker (2000:245) argues that style is "a kind of thumbprint that is expressed in a range of linguistic--as well as non-linguistic--features". In formulating this definition, Baker emphasises the linguistic patterning in each translator's work: the translator's characteristic use of language, his/her individual profile of linguistic habits when compared to other translators.

4. Analysis of domestication in Makhambeni's translation

Makhambeni uses similes, metaphors, idioms, proverbs and cultural substitutions in a manner that differs from the way Achebe uses Igbo linguistic conventions in his novel. Each of the linguistic devices used by Makhambeni will be critically analysed in the following section to determine how they make domestication possible in the translation.

4.1 The title of the translation

Domestication in this translation starts with the very title of Achebe's novel. Makhambeni presents the title as a question Kwakwenzenjani? ("What went wrong?") (1992). This is a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is structurally the same as any other question, but usually is not designed or is not expected to elicit an answer. Rhetorical questions are multifunctional. Abioye (2009:3) distinguishes between rhetorical functions which include the following: to charge emotions, to express strong feelings of outrage, vehement indignation and to jolt readers/listeners out of a state of complacency/stupor; stylistic functions which may be used to embellish one's writing as they provide variety in writing style and equally create a break from the conventional writing format/style; persuasive functions that indirectly help in forming or even changing an opinion as well as in stimulating arguments by presenting issues, sometimes directly to the reader; and grammatical functions which are found in thematic focusing that is often referred to as "the peg on which the message is hung".

It is apparent that Makhambeni used the rhetorical question purposefully to excite and arouse an interest in the reader. Using a question as the title of the translation--and not a statement as Achebe has done--gives an illusion that things are not all right. The title paints a disquieting picture in the reader's mind. He/she is immediately anticipating problems, difficulties and troubles--in fact, Makhambeni's title summarises the structure of the novel's plot.

4.2 Metaphors and similes

Similes and metaphors in literary texts are among the numerous devices that serve to alert the reader to aspects of the world by inviting him/her to make comparisons (Davidson, 1981:211). In describing the essential qualities of metaphor, theorists often describe simile as the simple form of comparison against which the creative form of metaphor is set.

In Zulu, a simile is generally expressed by employing the formatives njenga, sa (as), nganga (the size of) and kwa (like), et cetera. The following are examples of similes used in Kwakwenzenjani?:

* "Yaguqukisa okwezulu intokazi" (The lady changed and looked like a dark storm) (p. 15) (1)

In comparing the look on the lady's face to a dark storm, Makhambeni creates an image that resembles something Zulu people know very well. When a storm is looming, the sky becomes black and dark clouds roll forcefully. Such a condition becomes very threatening and people would often run off to a safe haven and put away all that is valuable in their eyes, lest these be destroyed by the threatening storm. By using this comparison Makhambeni wanted to show how angry the lady was. She did this by using an appropriate Zulu simile that is very close to the culture of her audience.

* "Abantu abansundu bakhophoza okwabalobokazi" (Black people blushed like a bride) (p. 2)

The use of the simile okwabalobokazi with its collocate bakhophoza brilliantly illustrates the attitude of black people during Obi's trial. This simile reveals how they kept their eyes on the ground, because they felt ashamed and embarrassed. In Zulu culture the bride always keeps her eyes on the ground and never looks her in-laws in the eyes as a sign of respect. The verb khophoza (to look timidly), skilfully explains the humiliation these people felt. This simile has, therefore, been tactfully chosen for the reader to perceive how embarrassed the people were.

* "Nanto-ke leli lunga lekhansela selixoxa libeka imibono yalo esamibuzo lithi" (Here is the member of the council talking and posing his views which are like questions saying) (p. 2)

In addition using the familiar forms of similes, the form -sa- has also been used by Makhambeni. Doke and Vilakazi (1972:719) maintain that this is an indefinite prefixal formative attached to nouns to indicate "something like" when used as adverbs. The use of -sa- illuminates that the views of the member of the council were presented to the people as questions. The member of council did not want it to appear that he was imposing his views on others, and therefore used questions instead. Thereby he came across as polite. This simile is thus appropriate in that it accentuates the fact that politeness is valued in Zulu culture. It is for this reason that the member of the council is presenting his views indirectly in the form of questions.

Examples of some of the metaphors used in Makhambeni's translation include the following:

* "Hamba uyofunda ukuze ubuye uyisibani, usikhanyisele sonke e-Umofia" (Go and learn and become a lamp, when you return that will light up for all of us in Umofia) (p. 8)

The metaphor of isibani (lamp), which is very familiar in the Zulu culture, has been used together with its collocate usikhanyisele (light up for us). The education which Obi will receive is depicted as the lamp; the light that it gives forth is the enlightenment that goes with education. This implies that Obi's education and enlightenment will also benefit the Umofia community in more ways than one.

* "(Intombazane) ... iwunwabu Iona oluguquka nezimo ezehlukene?" ([The girl] ... is she a chameleon which changes with different locales?) (p. 15)

A chameleon is known in Zulu culture for changing its colours and taking the colour that is in its immediate environment. The metaphor of a chameleon is usually used with an undependable person. The use of the metaphor of a chameleon in this part of the story is very appropriate, as the girl who was looking cheerful and in high spirits a few minutes ago changed and was now looking like a dark storm threatening to destroy whatever came her way.

* "Akazi ukuthi isiqhwaga sakwabuthongo sagcina simnqobe nini" (He does not know when the fearsome person of sleepland defeated him) (p. 16)

In Zulu culture valour was and remains a desirable quality. In traditional Zulu life a brave person was appreciated and cherished. Because of his great strength, a fearsome person easily defeats his opponents. In this example Makhambeni equates sleep to a brave person. When sleep has arrived, it is known that even the strongest people succumb to its power. The use of isiqhwaga sakwabuthongo shows how Obi was defeated by sleep.

* "Kube sengathi la mazwi ayisiswebhu enyameni ka-Obi" (These words felt like a whip to Obi's flesh) (p. 1)

When judgement was about to be passed on Obi's case of corruption, Makhambeni likens the words of the judge to a whip (isiswebhu). It is evident from her use of language that the words used by the judge were painful and unbearable to the young man. The use of this metaphor shows how precise Makhambeni is in explaining deeds and events.

4.3 Idioms and proverbs

The wisdom of the people is knit in proverbs that constitute vehicles for expressing and conveying thoughts, feelings and ideas. Proverbs are used to express the morals as well as the ethics of society. They are convenient standards for appraising behaviour in terms of approved norms, and because they are pithily and wittingly stated, they are ideally suited for commenting and correcting the behaviour of others irrespective of their age and dignity (Ndukaihe, 2006:217).

Makhambeni's translation abounds in Zulu idiomatic and proverbial expressions to fulfil a number of functions. They have been used to describe human behaviour, natural phenomena and social situations. The following idiomatic expressions are found in Makhambeni's translation:

* "... bangamathe nolimi" (They are like saliva and the tongue they love each other) (p. 2, 17)

This idiom Bangamathe nolimi is one among several such idioms which the Zulu people use to express deep love among people. The tongue and saliva are always together. The one cannot be without the other.

* "... lo mndeni udla imbuya ngothi" (This family eats greens using sticks--this family is very poor) (p. 6)

A very poor person would not have anything to eat. Such a person would be thought to be eating "imbuya" (green leaves). The situation would also be compounded by the fact that the poor person would not even have any utensils to use, and he/she would, therefore, use uthi (stick). Makhambeni's use of this idiom is skilful. No other form could have described extreme poverty as this idiom has done. This idiom succinctly conveys the notion of dire poverty.

* "Inhlansi yothando kuClara isivutha ilangabi" (The love sparkle is burning like a flame--Clara is madly in love) (p. 25)

Words such as inhlansi (spark), vutha (bum) and ilangabi (flame) will always form collocations with the word uthando (love) in Zulu. Makhambeni uses these words to sketch a picture that illustrates how from a spark Clara's love grew into a big flame. These words perfectly express the great love she had for Obi.

Examples of proverbs found in Makhambeni's translation include the following:

* "Hhabe nansi ingulube inginonela bo!" (My goodness, the pig is getting fat for me--this is an expression of surprise) (p. 15)

This proverb is said by a person who finds him-/herself involved in matters of which he/she has no knowledge. It implies that one finds it difficult to comprehend the situation or what is said in that situation, just as you would find it difficult to eat pork that is very fatty.

* "... nelanga likhipha umkhovu etsheni" (The heat of the sun takes out the witch doctors dwarfs from under the rock--it is very hot) (p. 17)

The Zulu people were very observant of natural phenomena. They have since time immemorial observed that when the temperatures are very high rocks become very hot, and as a result nothing will stay under a rock in that situation--even witchdoctors' dwarfs come out under rocks.

* "Impela kungawa ilanga licoshwe yizinkukhu" (The sun may fall and be picked up by fowls--that could never happen) (p. 11)

The Zulu people have proverbs that state with certainty if things will not happen. The proverb "ilanga lingawa licoshwe yizinkukhu" falls in that category. The people know that it is very unlikely that the sun will ever fall to earth. But if this could by chance happen, it will be eaten by chickens, something that is also improbable. Similar proverbs present in the language are "Ungabona amehlo esibungu" (You can see the eyes of a worm; Inkomo ingazala umuntu--A cow can beget a human being). Makhambeni's use of these proverbs is therefore very appropriate in depicting something that will never happen.

* "Ukwanda kwaliwa ngumthakathi muzi wakithi" (An evil person does not want prosperity--thank you) (p. 16, 23)

Evil people are not welcome in Zulu culture. They are associated with witches who kill innocent people using traditional medicine. This proverb is used when someone has shown compassion to another. The use of this proverb expresses gratitude.

The proverbs used by Makhambeni in her translation show how she conscientiously picked her language in order to bring the text closer to her audience.

* "Sekuyangikhanyela impela manje. Ithemba kalibulali" (Hope does not kill--be hopeful) (p. 26)

As with all human beings, the Zulu people also experienced despair, sadness and desperation. At such times idioms such as ithemba kalibulafi were used to give hope in situations that otherwise seem grim and hopeless.

* "Nokho asikho isilima esindlebende kwabo" (Nobody is called a long-eared fool at his/her home) (p. 5)

This proverb is used to castigate someone who shows contempt towards someone who is physically challenged. It means that even if this contempt could be shown to this person, he/she is equally loved by his family. Makhambeni has used this proverb in a befitting manner, because, although some people were showing contempt to Obi's shameful deed, Obi was still an Igbo--their own flesh and blood.

4.4 Zulu cultural substitutions

The use of cultural substitutions involves replacing a culture-specific item or expression with a target language item that does not have the same propositional meaning, but is likely to have a similar impact on the target reader. The main advantage of using cultural substitutions in the target language is that it gives the reader a concept which he/she can identify with in the target culture, something familiar and appealing (Baker, 1992:31). Examples to illustrate the use of cultural substitutions include the following:

* "Naye siye samkhokhobela isiqhwaga sakwabuthongo" (The giant of the land of sleep stealthily stooped on him--he fell asleep) (p. 17)

The picture that is painted here is of a very fearsome person isiqhwag" (giant) who is from the land of sleep kwabuthongo and who stealthily stoops on an unsuspecting victim. Makhambeni's use of words here plainly demonstrates how a Zulu person feels when overcome by sleep.

* "Wake wazama ukudansa nayo, ... kodwa behlulana ngoba eyibhimbi Iokuzalwa u-Obi" (He tried to dance with her ... but failed because he was one who cannot dance according to the rhythm of the song since birth) (p. 13)

Dancing and singing are very much a part of the Zulu people's way of life, and each dance formation or movement symbolises an event or happening within the clan. Therefore, people who cannot dance according to the rhythm will easily stand out, because the opportunities for dancing are countless. The use of this expression to show that Obi could not dance rhythmically is apt.

* The use of the phrases "umntaka-Okonkwo" (child of Okonkwo) and "umfoka Okonkwo" (son of Okonkwo) (p. 10, 11)

Makhambeni's translation abounds with the use of "umntaka-Okonkwo" (child of Okonkwo) and "umfoka Okonkwo" (son of Okonk'wo). These phrases are used in reference to Obi, whose father is Okonkwo. This is a cultural substitute. "Umntaka" (child of) indicates an association with a particular clan. If Obi belonged to one of the Zulu clans, Makhambeni would have used his address or clan name, isithakazelo. Using address or clan names shows politeness and respect. Politeness and respect are core Zulu values in a patriarchal system.

* "Wawasho qede la mazwi wahwaqabala umntanomlungu" (The child of the white person said these words and frowned) (p. 1)

With the use of "umntanomlungu" (the child of a white man) as exemplified in "Wawasho la mazwi qede wahwaqabala umntanomlungu" (He said these words, and the child of the white man frowned) the author refers to the judge during Obi's trial in a way which highlights a period in the history of the Zulu people. This period depicts a time when only white people were judges in the courts of law in South Africa.

* "Nginedlozi" (I have ancestrol spirits) (p. 40)

In translating culture-specific concepts such as the Igbo concept of an osu, Makhambeni uses the Zulu word idlozi (ancestoral spirits) to depict the distinction made between Christians and people who believe in ancestral spirits. Qsu are a group of people whose ancestors were dedicated to serving deities of the Igbo in shrines and temples and therefore were deemed property of the gods. Relationships and sometimes interactions with Osu were and still to this day are, in many cases, forbidden. An Osu could not intermarry with the freeborn people, attend their assembly, or shelter them under his roof (Wikipedia, s.a.).

In Achebe's novel, Clara is an osu. Makhambeni uses the concept of idlozi in her translation as an equivalent of the Igbo term. The parallel she draws is the following: In South Africa, especially during the early years of missionary work, Christian converts were not permitted to marry non-Christians, because non-Christians still practised traditional African religions, which revered the ancestors, amadloziiZulu. The use of idlozi in this context is therefore apt since ancestral worship is currently abhorred in Christian circles. The common belief is that the so-called ancestors are demonic spirits and need to be confronted and exorcised, or idols which need to be spurned for they only lead to further misery and bondage (Anderson, 1993:37).

* "Phendula okubuziwe kuphela. Nakhu okunye ubothi: 'nkosi' okanye 'Sikhulu' uma ukhuluma nezikhulu, Mnu Okonkwo" (Answer only that which you have been asked. And you should say 'Lord' or 'Boss' if you talk to superiors, Mr Okonkwo) (p. 38).

Makhambeni uses terms of respect to indicate seniority and higher status at the workplace. Although mnumzane is the Zulu equivalent for the English word sir, Makhambeni deems it appropriate to use a word that reflects the power relations that existed between black employees and white senior personnel in South Africa during the time the translation was done. Instead of mnumzane ("sir"), Makhambeni uses the words Nkosi ("My lord") and Sikhulu ("My boss") as exemplified in "Nakhu okunye ubothi: Nkosi okanye Sikhulu urea ukhuluma nezikhulu, Mnu Okonkwo." (In addition: You should say: Nkosi or Sikhulu when talking to senior personnel, Mr Okonkwo.)

Mnumzane is an address form derived from the noun umnumzane, an equivalent of sir in English. It is a polite way of addressing an elderly male. Nkosi is also a form of address derived from the noun inkosi ("king"). It is a polite way of addressing a white person in a senior position at a workplace. The use of the term equates the senior colleague to a king, who by principle is permitted to give orders to his subjects. It is interesting to note that Bayede ("We salute you Oh king!") is used in addressing the king. The address form Sikhulu ("the Great one") (p. 38), is used to address both elderly males and colleagues.

The translator's use of this strategy largely depends on how much licence has been given to her by those who commission the translation and what the purpose of the translation is. On a more general level the decision to use this strategy will also reflect, to some extent, the norms of translation prevailing in a given community (Baker, 1992:31).

4.5 The use of descriptions

Makhambeni's descriptions of people, places and situations are made distinct by her choice of language. Her rich descriptions paint a vivid picture of the item described and the manner in which she describes them brings them closer to what the reader is familiar with. The following examples are illustrations of her descriptions:

* "Izindebe zigcotshwe ngombala obomvu ofaniselene nenzinzipho zazo. Ungafunga uthi ngunodoli womlungu obonakala emawindini ezitolo" (The lips were painted with a red colour which matched their nails. You could swear that she was a European doll on display in the windows of the shops) (p. 11)

The use of this description paints a clear picture in a reader's mind of how beautiful Clara was. There was a period in the history of South Africa where dolls displayed in windows were made in a white person's complexion only and these were made to be very beautiful. Makhambeni's striking comparison of Clara's beauty to these dolls cannot go unnoticed.

* "Ubuhle bale ndawo bungakwenza uphike ukuthi ike ifikelwe ubusika" (The beauty of this place makes one deny that it experiences winter) (p. 18)

Winter is a time of gloom with every green vegetation having turned into a fawn or brown colour to indicate lack of life. Makhambeni has used this image to draw parallels when describing the beauty of the place in question. According to her description, the beauty that this place exudes seems to be saying that winter, which leaves all green vegetation dead, is not experienced in this place.

* "Ukhona ngempela lo mlisa. Lapha esihlalweni ugcwele waze wachithekela ngasemaceleni" (This male person is big. He has filled this chair to such an extent that he spills over to the sides) (p. 37).

Makhambeni's description of this man seated on a chair is exceptional. Through this description, a picture of a very obese person is drawn. This person is so big in this chair, his body even spills to the sides of the chair. This description shows how remarkable Makhambeni is with her use of language.

* "Umkhaba Iona uthe bihli phezu kwamadolo" (The belly is hanging over the knees) (p. 37)

This is another example that illustrates Makhambeni's skill in using language to paint vivid pictures of what she is describing. In this example the reader notices how big the belly of this person is. By using the ideophone bihli (gliding or falling apart), Makhambeni illustrates that this person's belly was so big that it rested comfortably on his knees.

When one reads Kwakwenzenjani? it becomes apparent from Makhambeni's use of her own style that it is her voice telling the Igbo story to her Zulu readers, and not Achebe's.

5. Conclusion

Makhambeni has used her own characteristic style to transport into Zulu, Achebe's novel that revolves around Obi Okonkwo and the Igbo culture. She uses a great linguistic repertoire drawn from the Zulu language to convey the story. She has used numerous forms of style. For the purposes of this article, similes and metaphors, idioms, proverbs, cultural substitutions and the manner in which she describes certain items in the story, were dealt with.

She has shown that translation does not only involve using language to transfer the source text into the target language, but that it also involves making decisions as to which norms, values and conventions to take into consideration. As a translator she chose to subject herself to the linguistic and literary norms active in Zulu by not transferring Igbo terms and expressions that have been used by the original author. She opted to use the Zulu linguistic repertoire that has brought the Igbo culture closer to the Zulu people.

Using norms and conventions that prevail in the target language, Makhambeni has shown that translators also have a unique style different from that of the original writer. Not only has Makhambeni used Zulu linguistic conventions to bring Igbo culture home to the Zulu people by minimising the strangeness and foreignness of the foreign text, but she has also drawn colourful pictures in the manner she describes people and scenarios. The language used has been decisively and methodically selected to have the same effect in the target receptor, as that which the original receptor had.

She has naturalised the Igbo culture to make it conform more to what the Zulu reader is used to. She therefore bridged the gap between Igbo and Zulu cultures and reduced the foreignness and strangeness of the foreign text. She has successfully domesticated Achebe's No longer at ease.

Makhambeni has shown creativity not through a borrowed Igbo idiom but by using the Zulu idiom. We could finally conclude that the manner in which she employed language in her translation has made foreign Igbo culture familiar to her Zulu audience, and without her translation the Zulu people would not have known about the Igbo culture.

List of references

AALTONEN, S. 1993. Rewriting the exotic: the manipulation of otherness in translated drama. (In Picken, C., ed. Proceedings of 13 FIT World Congress. London: Institute of translating and interpreting, p. 26-33.)

ABIOYE, T.O. 2009. Typology of rhetorical questions as a stylistic device in writing. Journal of language society and culture, 29:1-8.

ACHEBE, C. 1960. No longer at ease. New York: Astor-Honor.

ANDERSON, A. 1993. African pentecostalism and the ancestor cult: confrontation or compromise? Missionalia, 21(1):26-39.

BAKER, M. 1992. In other words: a coursebook in translation. London: Routledge.

BAKER, M. 2000. Towards a methodology for investigating the style of a literary translator. Target, 12(2):241-266.

DAVIDSON, D. 1981. What metaphors mean. (In Johnson, M., ed. Philosophical perspectives on metaphor. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press. p. 200-220)

DOKE, C.M. & VILAKAZI, B.W. 1972. Zulu-English dictionary. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

HERMANS, T. 1996. The translator's voice in the narrative. Target, 8(1):23-48.

LEFEVERE, A. 1992. Translation, rewriting, and manipulation of literary fame. London: Routledge.

MAKHAMBENI, M.N. 1992. Kwakwenzenjani ? Cape Town: Heinemann.

NDUKAIHE, V.E. 2006. Achievement as value in the Igbo/African identity. Berlin: Lit. Verlag.

SHUTTLEWORTH, M. & COWIE, M. 1997. Dictionary of translation studies. Manchester: St Jerome.

TOURY, G 1980. The nature and role of norms in literary translation. (In Toury G., ed. In search of a theory of translation. Tel Aviv: The Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics. p. 51-62)

TOURY, G. 1985. A rationale for descriptive translation studies. (In Hermans, T., ed. The manipulation of literature: studies in literary translation. London: Croom Helm. p. 16-41.)

TOURY, G. 1995. Descriptive translation studies and beyond. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins.

VAN LEUVEN-ZWART, K.M. 1991. Translation studies, the state of the art: proceedings of the First James S. Holmes Symposium on Translation Studies. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

VENUTI, L. 1995. The translator's invisibility: a history of translation. London: Routledge.

VENUTI, L., ed. 2004. The translation studies reader. London: Routledge.

WIKIPEDIA. s.a. Igbo culture, Date of access: 22 Jan. 2010.

Key concepts:



norms and conventions

target language

translation strategies




norme en konvensies



M.R. Masubelele

Department of African Languages

University of South Africa



(1) References in this article with only a page number refers to Makhambeni (1992).
COPYRIGHT 2011 Literator Society of South Africa
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Masubelele, M.R.
Publication:Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Previous Article:Never let me go: science fiction and legal reality/Never let me go: wetenskapsfiksie en regswerklikheid.
Next Article:An alphabetic acrostic lament/'n Alfabeties-akrostiese klaaglied.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |