The Chichewa version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet romantic play started with stage plays in Mzuzu and Lilongwe recently which attracted impressive audiences.
But now people have a chance to read the play as Dzuka Publishing, a subsidiary of Times Group has published the Chichewa version of the book titled Romio ndi Julieti.
Dzuka Publishing Manager Maureen Masamba confirmed the development Wednesday saying the book is currently with the printers and that it is scheduled to be on the market mid May, 2016.
According to Masamba, Romio and Julieti was translated by renowned writer Stanley Onjezani Kenani after being approached by freelance theatre director and Bilimakhwe Arts Artistic Director Amy Bonsall.
“Stanley Onjezani Kenani was approached by Amy Bonsall to translate the book into Chichewa as part of her PhD research requirement,” said Masamba.
She said as Dzuka Publishing Company Limited, they thought it was an exciting challenge to publish a Chichewa translation of a Shakespeare book.
“Romeo and Juliet as a book has been used in the secondary school curriculum for several years, and Chancellor College English Department has graduated students who have studied Shakespeare for years,” she said.
Masamba added that for them as publishers, it was more of a social responsibility other than the economic benefit of it.
“As publishers, it is our duty to make available as many publications on the market as possible to encourage the society to develop a reading culture,” she said.
Masamba said those people that have read and enjoyed the original English version of Romeo and Juliet will definitely love the Chichewa version.
“The translation is reader friendly, that is to say that the Chichewa used is the unconventional type, the day to day kind of Chichewa that people are familiar and can identify with. The book has both the English text, and the corresponding Chichewa text for ease referencing if need be,” she explained.
Mzuni drama lecturer Misheck Mzumara, who also starred in the play, said recently that as Mzuzu University they were interested in Bonsall’s research as they would like to know how the translation of Romeo and Juliet could assist in the learning and teaching of Shakespeare in Malawian schools.
The Mzuni drama lecturer played Romeo in the 2012 production but this time he played Capulet.
Amy said she began her career directing Shakespeare and that she has always loved Shakespeare’s work.
“There is so much you can do with it, it can be set in different times and in different places from the original play, creating a variety of meanings for disparate audiences,” she said.
Amy said they thought of translating Romeo and Juliet to Chichewa after noticing that it was a good choice as it was on the curriculum in Malawi.
She said there are so many themes that are relevant to Malawi that are explored within the play citing parent’s disapproving of what their children are doing, different families fighting and the differences between the generation.
Kenani said he translated Romeo and Juliet because Bonsall asked him to.
“I accepted the challenge because I considered translating Shakespeare intellectually stimulating. In the process, I learnt a lot about both English and Chichewa, especially because some of the commonest English words do not have their Chichewa equivalent,” he said.
Kenani said he was happy that Dzuka agreed to publish this translation.
“I was curious to see what Shakespeare’s work could read like in Chichewa. So far Mzuzu University and Chancellor College have made very encouraging remarks about the translation. They say they are impressed,” he said.
Kenani added that the aim of the translation was to make Chichewa readers appreciate the works from foreign lands, the way they appreciate Bwampini (A.E. Dziko’s translation of Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey) and Chipasupasu (Benedicto Wokoma atani Malunga’s translation of Things Fall Apart).
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