Shango Linwe Li A Konadzea
I thought I’d take a picture of the completed map before writing all the labels. Right now I want to discuss the words at the top. I’ll write more about the map later.
After deciding that the map would be 175cm tall so the grid cells could be a neat 6.25cm in height and width, I knew there would be some space above the map, enough space to write some sort of pithy saying. I didn’t know exactly what to write. All I could think of was “Another World is Possible”, which was painted on a mural on the back of the Civic Media Center where I volunteered in college. I thought it might be a good motto for a South African school, as opposed to the generic “Education is Light” or something, because there’s so much rubbish here that people accept as just the way it is.
When I asked for a translation, I was given “Shango Linwe Li A Konadzea”, which sounds right in Venda but I knew it might be a problem because shango also means country, and I didn’t want to give the impression that I was trying to promote some imperialist agenda. (“Another country is possible! And it’s called America!”)
I didn’t get any other ideas, though, so I just went with it. I had it painted in blue because I wanted to save the black paint for the labels. We finished it after school, and the next day at school I challenged some of the learners to tell me what it means. I know it’s ambiguous, but in Venda it becomes even more imprecise. “Linwe” means “other” but it can also mean “some”. Some of the translations I got were along the lines of “Some countries are possible” and “Another world is easy”. Not really what I was going for.
I was kind of shocked when some of the teachers disagreed with it, saying no, another world is not possible. (To be fair, they thought I meant space exploration.) I complained to our administrative assistant about their ambivalence. “Don’t listen to them”, she said in Venda. “They don’t know anything.”
The children still read it when they walk by, and even if then don’t understand it, maybe some day they will. And despite everything, maybe some day it will be true for them.