Pretoria – Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi has unveiled a memorial in honour of Magrieta Jantjies who played a significant role in preserving the Nuu language.
Speaking on Monday at the unveiling ceremony in Upington, Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said Jantjies played an important role in South Africa’s socio-cultural environment.
“She deserves this honour and our department has therefore erected a memorial for her so that the next generation will learn about this heroine,” she said.
Ouma Griet, as she was known, was Khoisan and one of the last to speak the language fluently. Nuu has been displaced with Afrikaans and Nama by the current Khoisan generation.
The late Jantjies lived in Rosedale, in Upington in the Northern Cape and she passed away on 31f December 2015.
The Nuu language is listed as one of the critically endangered languages in the world by UNESCO. This language was spoken largely around in the areas Upington and Olifantshoek and possibly other surrounding areas as well.
The language has 112 distinct sounds, which was passed on orally down the generations, but was never written down. It has one of the biggest speech sound inventories in the world, with more than 45 click sounds, 30 non-click consonants and 37 vowels.
When the apartheid government took over in 1948, those who spoke the Nuu language, around the farms, were compelled to speak Afrikaans. Gradually, the language began to recede and decline with some of the words becoming completely extinct.
Jantjies grave was identified as a grave of cultural significance in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act.
“Today we should all be celebrating and, if it was possible, having our conversation in Nuu. It is these languages that are a masterpiece of our diverse and unique cultural heritage,” Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said.
“Let us be proud of our languages, a cultural heritage which is enshrined and protected by our Constitution.
“We should be encouraging those who still speak these languages to transmit them to the younger generation,” Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said.
She encouraged South Africans to preserve and promote their languages. “It is through languages that we are able to preserve our diverse cultures.”
Jantjies was honoured as the country was commemorating Women’s Month. This year marks 60 years since the historic 1956 women’s march, where women marched against pass laws.