Regardless that it took me two full years to find out about the treasures I had walked past countless times, in time I became aware. The heritage, the knowledge and the infinite wisdom written down by Africans who established an opening to publish their gifts with Lovedale Press. Located in the small town of Alice in the Eastern Cape, lives a shrine of black intellectual labors which were penned explicitly for the mindful elevation of the country’s suffering people.
I am a student and writer, African and poor, creative and misled, speaking on my encounter with heroes who are yet to receive their recognition.
The Word is said to be blessed, clearly because it is where all things begin. Relationships, opportunities, ends, realizations, the understanding of a man’s purpose coming through words, written down honestly by someone who understands. The day I met the forefathers working at Lovedale Press I was confused, lost by the lack of correlation between the significance they held and how broken they appeared.
So often as youth we believe that things of worth are supposed to shine like new gold, shimmering with the reflection of enormous monies. Lovedale looked the opposite, worn out, the wood seemed to be peering off, the machines looked like they were used for grinding. When in actuality these were old manual printers which gave our people masterpieces from the likes of S.E.K Mqhayi, Walter Rubusana, AC Jordaan, Sol Plaatjie and other talented and respected Artists. Published during a turbulent time when the black voice was marginalized, suppressed or silenced by Apartheid forces who were seeking to establish a direct white narrative. Lovedale press stood as beacon of hope for those South Africans who dreamed of a better reality.
As I spoke to these heroes of Lovedale press they told me how much value the place withheld, how much tradition the room consumed, and how hard it was for them today to simply exist. Speaking on a situation of not having published works since the year 2001 having bought the business as workers from the owner, in order to preserve the people’s heritage that is of great meaning. The preservation of history, customs and behaviors which are both inherent and forgotten within black people in society.
A lot of black youth do not know this place, even though it is a home of heroes. They took me around the small building, showing me the shelves, the indigenous works that lie there waiting to be discovered, plays, novels and poetry that was published many years ago. Many before I was born. Standing and listening in awe of how seemingly minor this place was outside of its restrains.
As a writer I was excited just to page through, trying to memorize the names of other black writers who never made it to the light. The heroes told me rich stories of back in the day, the emotions that once existed in this building, the busyness that came with deadlines, and of course the satisfaction that came with bringing new knowledge to the people. Bringing questions to my mind on why we couldn’t uphold our great writers the way the English do Shakespeare and other Western writers.
The way the hero spoke at Lovedale Press I believed it was possible. Only that we did not believe in it as much as this hero did. Or as much as the English did in their own work. Because if we did then Lovedale Press would be recognized for its work in this country. It would be celebrated for its ability to create a channel that allowed black people to write for black people in their own language.
The owners of Lovedale press are everyday people who started out as workers. Today they are heroes because of their decision to not close this publication, regardless that they do not get anything anymore out of it. Only for the sake of preservation.