Bradley van Sitters made history by becoming the first Khoi praise singer invited to usher the president into the National Assembly. Photo: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Indigenous activists have come out in support of the first Khoi praise singer at the State of the Nation address (Sona), who has received some backlash from a handful of critics.

In what has become a historic moment, Bradley van Sitters was the first Khoi praise singer invited to usher the president into the National Assembly, and he used the opportunity to honour indigenous martyrs and icons, including Krotoa and Sara Baartman.

Namibian journalist Emil Seibeb has since accused Van Sitters of rambling gibberish and stitching random words together.

Khoi activist Noeleen Peterson said the journalist undermined the cultural significance of what had taken place.

“I’m upset that a beautiful historic moment that had brought recognition for the first people has now been used to discredit someone, who at his own costs teaches the language to young and old across the country. 

"Bradley has gone to Namibia to learn the language and of course his use of dialect would be different to those of native speakers,” she said.

Peterson said University of Cape Town Khoekhoegowab lecturer Dorothea Davids, also from Namibia, had been interviewed and confirmed that Van Sitters’ use of the language was correct.

Davids said Van Sitters had studied under University of Namibia scholar Dr Levi Namaseb and that his use of the language and what had been written down was correct.

Van Sitters is also a co-facilitator of the Khoekhoegowab language course at UCT and a member of the Aboriginal/Xarra Restorative Justice Forum’s language commission.

The forum’s chairperson, Tauriq Jenkins, said the moment was symbolic, as it was the first time since the 1600s that the Khoekhoegowab language had been spoken in a political decision-making chamber.

“The argument by the Namibian journalist and other commentators is an unfair vilification, especially when considering the true meaning of the moment in terms of recognition of the Khoi people, restorative justice and transformation,” he said.

Jenkins said the forum was proud of the work Van Sitters did in promoting and reviving the language and that the situation should be used to strengthen ties within the indigenous groups and among language speakers.

Van Sitters said he was not creating a new dialect of Khoi language but believed speakers of the language would eventually create a new dialect.

Cape Times