Marius Chapatte was born in September 1924 in Tavannes in the Swiss Jura Mountains. After having finalized his schooling and trained as an accountant, he joined the Swiss Mission in Lausanne in 1947 as an assistant accountant, and in 1949 went to Birmingham to learn English. In 1950 he and his first wife, Nelly, arrived at Elim for an introduction into Tsonga language and culture, and into the mission’s work in the Transvaal. In 1951 he moved to Johannesburg where he spent the next 40 years as a missionary accountant and administrator for the Swiss Mission, later known as Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Africa.
The nationalisation of the mission schools in 1955, and hospitals in 1976, and the appointment of African administrative staff, left Marius with more time to develop Sasavona Publishers and Booksellers. He became heavily involved in the promotion of literature in Xitsonga and was the instigator and supporter of many Tsonga poets and authors who managed to convince the various literary committees that their work was worth publishing.
In 1967 he was responsible for the publication of the “Tsonga-English Dictionary” compiled by René Cuénod. His initial work as a proof-reader, editor and publisher remained as a hobby, and since his retirement he has continued adding terms, ideophones etc. to this ever expanding list of Tsonga words. His aim was the publication of a Tsonga-English/English-Tsonga dictionary. The additional works used as a basis for it are:
English-Tsonga/Tsonga-English Pocket Dictionary, compiled by Ch.W. Chatelain, first published in 19O7, enlarged and revised 6th edition published by Sasavona in 1974.
· Everyday Tsonga by M. Ouwehand, published by Sasavona in 1965.
· Tsonga Idioms by H.W.E. Ntsanwisi, published by Sasavona in 1968.
· Tsonga Terminology and Orthography No. 3 published by the then Department of Bantu Education in 1976.
· Vutlhari bya Vatsonga/The Wisdom of the Tsonga People, by Henri Philippe Junod, first published in 1936, revised and enlarged edition published by Sasavona in 1978.
· Unpublished Tsonga-English/English-Tsonga Dictionary, MS compiled by D.I Mathumba and E.J.M. Baumbach.
· Vuvulavuri bya Xitsonga, by H.A. Junod, revised edition published by Sasavona in 1967.
The objective of making this list available is not a statement of the exactitude of his research, but is a wish to make the basis of the Tsonga language available to a maximum number of people to that it can be expanded upon and used as much as possible. Wiktionary seems to be an ideal way for getting this off the ground.
Pierre Chapatte 12:09, 6 March 2007 (UTC)