One of the last remaining speakers of Khomani San language laid to rest

2016-01-09 18:36


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Uppington - One of the last speakers of the Khomani San language, N/U – has been laid to rest at Uppington in the Northern Cape.

There are no only four people in the world who can speak the language, estimated to be around 25 000 years old.

Members of the Khomani San tribe burnt herbs at the entrance of the house in Rosedale, Uppington, where the funeral of the 74-year-old took place.

“This is to cleanse the place. And rid it of bad spirits," David van Wyk, one of the members of the tribe said.

It was followed by traditional Khomani San songs and dances, which later turn into gospel music as the religious part of the funeral took place. 

Then in N/U a group of children recited a poem.

Ouma Magrieta's death on New Year's Eve raised fears about the survival of one of the world oldest languages.

"People keep on dying. Faster than the growth of the language. It scares me," Katriena Esau – the leader of the western Khomani San and one of the remaining speakers said.

"Long ago, we were told to be ashamed of the language and we only spoke it behind closed doors. We just started trying to get people to get their pride back.

"I've been trying to teach the young people at the school I manage from my house. But it's cramped and we don't have the right infrastructure. And so people are not eager to come," Esau said.

Language experts were astonished a few years ago when they "rediscovered" the language long thought to have died out.

They found eight people still able to speak the language. Since then they’ve recorded some of the people in an effort to preserve the language. A children’s book – with everyday phrases - was also released.

The eight has dwindled to four – Ouma Magrieta the most recent to die.

"She wanted to teach us the language [N/U]. But then she became ill and it never happened," her daughter Lena Ora said. 

Read more on:    kimberley

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