14.01.2013 - Culture Sector

The #Khomani Community of South Africa mourns one of the last N|uu language speakers

Sadly, increasing numbers of indigenous communities are beginning to disintegrate, losing their knowledge and their language.

UNESCO counts 2473 languages in danger, according to the UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

The N|uu is one of those languages that slowly begin to disappear to the point of almost total extinction.

Ms Ouma Aenki Kassie, who was one of the last speakers of the N|uu language, listed as ‘critically endangered’ by UNESCO, passed away in Upington, South Africa, on 7 January 2013 (see obituary).

N|uu, spoken by #Khomani community of South Africa, is a San language the majority of whose consonants are clicks. Most #Khomani nowadays speak Khoekhoegowap (Nama) and/or Afrikaans as primary language.

With the passing of Ms Ouma Aenki Kassie, there are likely only 7 N|uu speakers left.

In 2006, UNESCO helped the #Khomani to do some language revitalization work but more concerted efforts are needed to save this precious piece of humanity’s heritage from disappearing.

A lost language is not only lost cultural heritage, it is also lost traditional knowledge, such as precious knowledge about medicinal herbs or local species or environment. Thus, with each language that disappears, humanity is impoverished in manifold ways.

Help UNESCO work with communities and Governments to safeguard endangered languages!

Contact: Anahit Minasyan, Programme Specialist

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