#IYIL2019 creates mindfulness of language extinction
On 20 March 2019 Minister Anroux Marais launched the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL) in the Western Cape as part of the national Human Rights Day commemorations.
The launch took place at the SA Sendinggestig Museum – known by many as the Slave Church – amidst the buzz of busy Long Street of Cape Town. The museum dates to the early 1800s where slaves were taught literacy.
In his opening remarks Chief Director of Cultural Affairs Guy Redman welcomed and reminded the multi-cultural audience that there are some words that no longer have memory. He referred to the department’s Nama booklet and posed the thought-provoking question: “How do we rescue a language from extinction?” He highlighted the United Nations’ designation of the Year of Indigenous Languages to prevent any further loss of local languages.
An interesting link was made between language and cultural expression by the Chairman of the Museum Ron Martin. Martin is an active member of the Khoi and San Resurgence Movement and explained the power of words after using the fierce term “cultural genocide”. He invited Bradley van Sitters to interact in indigenous dialects and various click consonants with the audience.
Timo Gounema from the I AL-OM Aboriginal Customary Council shared his views on indigenous languages and explained the work of the Afri-Kwé Language Project. “The click consonants are great gifts of our language", he said. Courtney Lemmert, a Khoikhoi from the Korana tribe, thrilled the audience with an inspiring performance of a self-composed song about justice, peace and love for all.
Secretary-General of the South African National Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Carlton Lufuno Mukwevho presented a message from UNESCO about the important role of language in the daily lives of all people. “Every language deserves to be known, recognised and given greater prominence”, he said. He stressed the value of Afrikaans and advised to elevate other languages instead of bringing down Afrikaans. “All languages are important”, he said.
In her keynote address, Minister Marais highlighted the importance of indigenous languages and social inclusivity. “It is through language that we communicate with the world, define our identity, express our history and culture, learn, defend our human rights and participate in all aspects of society”, she said.
The Chairperson of the Western Cape Language Committee (WCLC) Nkosikhulule Nyembezi and Director of Arts, Culture and Language Jane Moleleki wrapped up the event with a strong message to preserve indigenous languages.
Through creating mindfulness of the value of indigenous languages, we are enabling people to understand each other better and protecting languages from extinction, BETTER TOGETHER.