Pictured above L-R: Katrina Esau, Dr. Matthias Brenzinger, Dr. Sheena Shah, Claudia du Plessis (front,centre) and David van Wyk in Hillside, Upington
The first illustrated NÇuu-Afrikaans-English reader has been developed by the University of Cape Town’s Centre for African Language Diversity (CALDi), in collaboration with ÇKhomani community members in Upington. Copies of the final product were handed over to Katrina Esau and her community-run language school on Saturday 27th February, by the university’s Drs. Sheena Shah and Matthias Brenzinger. The reader supports the revitalisation and preservation efforts of NÇuu, South Africa’s most endangered language.
At the age of 83, Katrina Esau (alias Ouma Geelmeid) is the youngest of the remaining three fluent speakers of NÇuu and has been engaged in promoting her heritage language for more than a decade. Together with her granddaughter, Claudia du Plessis, and more recently with David van Wyk (secretary of the NÇuu language school board), Ouma Geelmeid is teaching her mother tongue to the younger community members in afternoon language classes. Her engagement in the revitalisation of NÇuu was officially recognised by the South African government, who awarded her the Order of the Baobab in 2014.
After being considered extinct by linguists, NÇuu was “rediscovered” in the late 1990s when some 20 speakers revealed their competence in the language. According to UCT postdoctoral research fellow, Sheena Shah, “Today, the ÇKhomani community considers the revitalisation of their language as crucial. The reader will play an important role in the practical implementation of the community’s aspirations to revive their heritage language”.
The production of the reader was made possible by grants from the A.W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Cape Town’s Research Office, the Endangered Language Fund, the University of Kiel and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.