File Image: IOL
File Image: IOL

Indigenous language course welcomed

By Dominic Adriaanse Time of article published May 27, 2019

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Khoisan language activists have welcomed UCT’s introduction of an indigenous language course, and said they hoped it would help save the culture.

The university recently announced the introduction of a short course on Khoekhoegowab, the indigenous Khoisan language, at its Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (EMS).

The co-ordinator of UCT’s Multi- lingualism Education Project at the Centre for Higher Education Development, Professor Mbulungeni Madiba, said the project fostered multilingualism on UCT’s campuses.

The first course runs from this month to August.

Retired University of Namibia professor Wilfrid Haacke, a Khoekhoegowab language expert and UCT alumnus, said there were bout 167000 speakers of Khoekhoegowab, of whom roughly 39% were Nama and 60% were Damara.

The long-term goal was for Khoe­khoegowab to become a fourth language at UCT after Xhosa, English and Afrikaans, said the EMS director Dr Medee Rall.

Khoisan heritage activist Bradley van Sitters was a guest speaker at the course announcement, and said: “Unfortunately many of the continent’s indigenous languages are endangered. We cannot celebrate things that are African without celebrating the languages. One third of the world’s 6 000 languages are spoken in Africa.”

Van Sitters said the different names given to Africa, its settlements, rivers and natural features and even its people had a multilayered history that reflected the different indigenous languages spoken through time.

First Nation Khoe language and cultural activist and writer, Denver Toroxa Breda, said he had approached UCT’s head of department for languages in 2015 to introduce Khoekhoegowab at the institution.

“I was informed that there wouldn’t be enough interest in the language, and now years on they introduce this course, although it’s not enough. UCT must establish a department for the teaching, research and restoration of this language,” he said.

Khoe peoples’ activist Noleen Peterson said: “As an institution whose founders contributed to the loss of our languages, UCT should take the Khoe language to our children on the Cape Flats. It needs to be accessible to all our children. That would be a start to restitution, forgiveness, and healing for us.”


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