Memoirs of Life in South Africa

English 162: Literature and Place (A Queens College Study Abroad Course)

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Through translation, you are silencing me….

January 20th, 2012 by Merzela · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

Blog 11: Choose a piece of testimony in the “Special Hearings” section of the TRC web site and present it for the rest of us. Be sure to use quotations from the piece you choose. Make a connection to an idea Krog writes about in her book.

I will give a brief summary of KEDEBONI DUBE testimony. Her testimony was under the heading “Women’s Hearings.” In the beginning of the testimony Ms Dube is asked whether she will speak in Zulu or Sotho. She answers, “I will speak Zulu mix and I will mix it with Xhosa.” She goes on to tell the story of how the Inkatha invaded Swanieville and the comerades were looking for her. She was afraid and was caught by the comerades. They took her to a church where a man she knew recognized her. He took her from the church, threatened her and raped her repeatedly during the night. He told her he would kill her if she told anyone what he had done to her. She went back home a highly distressed woman. She told no one of the incident at first except for her boyfriend. He told her that it was a disgrace and that no one should know about it. At one point she says “We should not talk about this, because people will look at him [my boyfriend] in such disgrace that his girlfriend had been raped.” She finally tells her mother and sister about the incident. When they argue with her, they accuse her of having AIDS; a stigma in her community. However, she does not have AIDS but she contacted syphilis when she got raped.

This was a very difficult testimony to read. The translation was in English and I felt there were many “silences” in her testimony. First, she uses a mixture of two languages that I’m assuming may have been difficult for the translator to translate. Besides a few grammatical errors (such as when “were” is used as appose to the more appropriate “where”) there are other things in her testimony that may have not been translated correctly; Mainly when the word “husband” is included in the testimony. The problem with this is that the word “boyfriend” is used everywhere else. At one point the translation seems to be saying she has a husband who thought the rape was shameful but that her boyfriend was still looking for the guy who raped her. Soon after it says that she says her boyfriend thought it was shameful. Was Ms Dube having an affair? I highly doubt so. It seems that “husband” was the wrong translation seeing as it is not coherent with the rest of her testimony. Another issue that I found in the testimony was the inability to translate the cultural she was raised in. Ms Dube repeatedly said she did not want to tell anyone about the incident and reading her testimony, we can get that she had a feeling of shame. Yet, the person questioning her repeatedly questions her on why she didn’t tell anyone about the incident, not even her doctor. She goes on to explain how her family and her boyfriend thought that her rape was shameful and that she in a way was the shame. Rape carried a particular stigma in her culture and that was not translated in her testimony. The many silences in her testimony were caused by this inability to translate the context in which she and her society understood her rape.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Talisa Feliciano

    I appreciate the title, because the misunderstandings arise almost entirely from translation errors. The problem continues because these testimonies are not available in the original languages and they should be.

  • Jason Tougaw

    This does sound really difficult to read. You do a nice job, though, of reading it with a careful eye to questions about culture and translation.

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