Man on mission to make the Khoisan language official

2016-09-27 08:39
Khoisan leaders outside Cape Town Magistrate's Court (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Khoisan leaders outside Cape Town Magistrate's Court (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Joseph Chirume, GroundUp

Port Elizabeth - Residents of Port Elizabeth were recently surprised by the sight of a man walking across town dressed only in animal skin.

Chief Khoisan Africa said he was walking to highlight the importance of Khoisan culture and was on a lone mission to push for the recognition of the Khoisan language.

Draped in animal skin, the 47-year-old resident of Bloemendal clasped in one hand a traditional walking stick while the other carried a bag filled with bows and arrows.

"I would like to appeal to the government, including the ordinary citizens, that Khoisan people are the original owners of South Africa. The Khoisan people have a language called Khoekhoe," he said of his mission. 

"People should know this. We have been lobbying this for many years with the successive governments but to no avail.

"Remember that when Jan van Riebeeck and other foreigners arrived in South Africa he was met by none other than the Bushmen and the Khoisan people.

"The other races came afterwards. I have decided to take it on my own to move on the streets and tell people that the Khoisan people are still alive. We have a proud culture to protect and we want all the citizens to understand this."

Petition for President Zuma

Africa, who has three children, said he is unemployed and depends on the goodwill of people he teaches Khoekhoe and the Khoisan culture.

"I am also walking to promote the total unity of all South African races. The most important being the scrapping of the 'coloured' identity. There is nothing called 'coloured race'. We are all Africans and we share the same origin. We all come from the Bushmen. This is Heritage Month so the government should promote unity of all cultures in our country.

"The Khoekhoe language is spoken by more than 20 000 descendants of the Khoisan people across southern Africa, including parts of Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Yet it is not recognised as an official language,” he said.

On October 2 Africa, who claims to be one of the few descendants of the Khoisan who still had the rare traditional skill of making fire by rubbing sticks together, intends on walking from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria to present a petition on October 20 to President Jacob Zuma.

He wants the president to add Khoekhoe to the list of official South African languages.

He also said he would like the president to restore the rights and dignity of the Khoisan people, including educating children in northern Port Elizabeth about their origins. This, he said, would help in the fight against gangsterism and drug abuse.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  culture

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