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Katrina Esau, alias Ouma Geelmeid, is the youngest of the three remaining speakers of Nǀuu. In tandem with her granddaughter, Claudia du Plessis, she has been engaged in teaching her highly endangered mother tongue for more than a decade. The Centre for African Language Diversity Centre (CALDi) at UCT has been supporting these teaching efforts through the development of educational materials since 2012.
Nǀuu is one of the more than 100 distinct non-Bantu click languages which were spoken by hunter-gatherers before the arrival of Khoekhoe pastoralists and various Bantu-speaking peoples. The spread of European settlers in Southern Africa accelerated the rapid physical and cultural decline of hunter-gatherer communities and surviving members were marginalised and linguistically assimilated. Today, Nǀuu is the last of these languages still spoken in South Africa.
The trilingual Nǀuu-Afrikaans-English reader which will be launched at the Book Lounge has been produced in collaboration with ǂKhomani community members. It is now being used in the Nǀuu language classes conducted by Ouma Geelmeid. Even though it was mainly designed as a language teaching tool, it will also be of interest to the wider public as well as an academic audience. The reader documents a language on the brink of extinction and plays a crucial role in the practical implementation of the community’s aspirations to revive their heritage language.
The reader is not available for sale, but can be freely downloaded on OpenUCT.