Last South African indigenous language speaker fights to preserve it

Katrina Easu, the last speaker of the South African indigenous hunter gatherer group’s language, N|uu, fights to preserve the language, as the European colonialism did not allow is speakers to speak it, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Easu stopped speaking her language when she was young, as she was mocked by people that were labelling it as an ugly language, and spoke Afrikaans, which is a language promoted by South Africa’s white minority rulers.

“We became ashamed when we were young girls, and we stopped speaking the language,” said Esau.

As Esau grew older, she realised the importance of her native language and preserving it, as she founded a school in her home town of Upington to teach this language to others.

“During colonialism and apartheid, Ouma Katrina and other indigenous groups were not allowed to speak their languages, their languages were frowned upon,” said Lorato Mokwena, a South African linguist from the University of the Western Cape.

She added “that is how we got to the point where we are with minimal speakers. It’s important that while Ouma Katrina is around, that we do the best that we can to preserve the language and to document it”

Esau started teaching N|uu to children in 2005, then later opened a school with her granddaughter, Claudia Snyman, who is a language activist. The school was vandalised during COVID-19 and is now an abandoned property.

“I am very concerned. The language isn’t where it’s supposed to be yet. If Ouma dies, then everything dies, I’ll do anything in my power to help her to prevent this language from dying,” said Snyman.

“I miss speaking to someone, it doesn’t feel good. You talk, you walk, you know, you miss someone who can just sit with you and speak N|uu with you,” said Esau.

Leave a comment