Speaker of oldest surviving San language dies

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Simon Sauls poses for a portrait during an interview about the N|uu San language.
Simon Sauls poses for a portrait during an interview about the N|uu San language.
(Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Alon Skuy)
  • One of the last two speakers of the N|uu language has died.
  • The Northern Cape government confirmed the death of N|uu mother-tongue speaker Simon Sauls.
  • Sauls advocated for the preservation of the language.

One of the last two remaining fluent speakers of the oldest surviving San language has died.

In a statement on Monday, Northern Cape Sport, Arts and Culture MEC Desery Fienies confirmed Simon Sauls had died.

"It is with sadness that we announce that we have lost another fluent speaker of the N|uu language," Fienies said.

"As a province, we have indeed lost valuable knowledge from him."

READ | Khomani San elder gets second chance after knee op

Sauls was "well acquainted with animals and insect names in the N|uu language" and was one of only two people fluent in the language.

The language belongs to the Khomani people of the Kalahari desert. The language became known to researchers in 1998 through a land claim which helped form the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

"Sauls was also instrumental in fighting for the recognition, preservation, survival and promotion of the N|uu language. It is through his efforts that we realise that we have an African heritage that we can be proud of, and not as reflected by foreigners," Fienies said.

Sauls was the brother of Katrina Esau, who authored the first children's book to be published in the N|uu language. The book was launched last month.

The book, !Qhoi n|a Tjhoi (Tortoise and Ostrich), is a story told by Esau, who is one of the last mother-tongue speakers of the N|uu language.

President Cyril Ramaphosa receives a book from Katrina Esau. Photo: GCSI

Esau has received many accolades for her efforts to preserve and promote her language and has been honoured as a South African Living Legend.

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