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Zulu podcast about science breaks barriers

Ntokozolo Nomasiko Msomi and Sibusiso Biyela are the hosts of trending Zulu science podcast, Ilukuluku. Picture: Supplied

Ntokozolo Nomasiko Msomi and Sibusiso Biyela are the hosts of trending Zulu science podcast, Ilukuluku. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 24, 2022

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Hosts of the Ilukuluku podcast, Sibusiso Biyela and Ntokozolo Nomasiko Msomi wanted help children who spoke Zulu understand the world of science a little better.

Created with the Zulu child in mind, Ilukuluku is a science podcast hosted entirely in Zulu, sharing knowledge about the subject so that children can understand and be engaged

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Msomi said they started the podcast for the Zulu child who failed to connect with science, because of the language barrier they face.

“There are Zulu children who are interested in learning about science but because there is no science communication in the language, they can’t.

“We are trying to make things simpler for them so they can realise the subject matter is not as complex, once you understand it.

“The way you can learn is when you are taught in your mother tongue.

“The things you can always remember will be things that are spoken in the language spoken at home.”

Biyela works as a science writer and communicator, who works with researchers and institutions, and assists them in making their work more accessible to the public.

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“I am passionate about science communication and the decolonisation of science,” he said.

Msomi works as a language practitioner, with a specific focus on English, Zulu and French.

Biyela and Msomi have been friends for more than 10 years and talked about the idea of a podcast for many years but finally decided to do so last year.

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The pair are from Richard’s Bay but currently live and work in Joburg.

“We always had science-related discussions and we noticed that there was a gap in the market for this,” Biyela said.

“A lot of content available is in the American context. We wanted to close the gap using a unique angle that we would be passionate about,” he added.

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“We didn’t want it to be strictly educational but also to be conversational.”

Biyela said a key motivator in starting the podcast was their frustration with Covid-19 scientific information being communicated throughout the pandemic.

“There was a lot of bad science communication. Sometimes people won’t understand information that is badly explained and feel like they can’t trust it.

“There’s an idea that science isn’t for black people and it can be daunting discussing it in a language that isn’t your own. We want to be able to discuss these things in our own languages.”

The term Ilukuluku means drive, motivation and enthusiasm in Zulu.

Msomi said it was their own ‘ilukuluku’ that made them create this podcast.

Msomi said many days they would be on the phone for hours and realise how much content they had for a podcast.

“We’d always say that we should have recorded our phone calls and one day we did.

“That was when we realised that more people should have access to this,” she said.

Recording for the podcast started in August and the episodes released cover topics like climate change, the big bang theory and dinosaurs.

The pair decide on content decisions based on what piques their interest.

Each episode is only 15 minutes long as the hosts want to hold the attention span of their young listeners.

Biyela’s favourite episode is about dinosaurs.

“By every definition of the word, and what they’ve evolved into – dinosaurs are birds.

“Many people are surprised at this but that allows me to explain it,” he said.

Msomi said her favourite episode was the periodic table of elements.

“A lot of people don’t know how many of the elements are in the indigenous language.

“It’s not that we are ignorant to science, it’s just that as time goes on, the language diminishes,” she said.

In future, the podcast duo would like to work on interacting with their audience, where the podcast remains relevant and topical to what is happening in the world.

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