Preserving the San culture and language

Recently, a team of researchers from the Faculty of Human Sciences visited San communities in the Otjozondjupa Region to launch the Protect, Preserve and Promote Indigenous Cultures and Languages (P3ICL) project. The aim of this N$ 3.9m project, funded by the European Union, is to enable researchers to gather data that will contribute to preserving indigenous cultures and languages.

The team consisted of Professors Sarala Krishnamurthy and Haileleul Woldemariam, as well as Jeanne Hunter and well-known local poet and author, Keamogetsi Joseph Molapong. The launch was attended by several chiefs and community leaders such as Chief Tsamkxao of the Ju/’hoansi San and Chief Glony Arnold of the !Kung Traditional Authority.

“The launch was a great success. The leaders generously shared information with the research team about the various San groups in Namibia and clarified a number of questions regarding the endangered San cultures and languages,” said Prof Krishnamurthy.

She added that the team had the privilege of viewing books written in San languages and meeting a Ju /’hoan language expert, Kerry Jones. She is one of the compilers of the first picture dictionary of a San language.

During the trip, with assistance from trained student data collectors, the researchers also visited the Omaheke region and interacted with !Kung families at homesteads located in Corridors 15, 17 and 18, in the Gobabis area. The aim was to collect data from community elders in the form of cultural expressions such as folktales and songs, dances, myths, proverbs, jokes, riddles and superstitions.

So far, under this project, similar research has been conducted among the Ovambadja people in Okalongo and the Ovadhimba in Ruacana, in order to revitalise these cultures and languages.
The three-year research project is currently in its second year. Additionally, the team has begun digitising the collected cultural expressions and creating data for a repository. They will further co-design contemporary cultural products, raise cultural awareness, and advocate for the integration of the three indigenous cultures under study in national policy documents and development plans.

At the end of the project, a conference will be held to disseminate the outcomes, the lessons learnt and to map the way forward.

Date: 
Friday, July 26, 2019
for Month: 
July, 2019

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