As we wrap up the heritage month, which embraces the diversity of South African cultures and languages, UCT has announced that an undergraduate programme offering the Khoisan language Khoekhoegowab will be developed over the next five years.
This comes after the university marked a milestone in its transformation journey with the launch of the Khoi and San Centre. According to UCT, the centre will foreground erased or marginalised indigenous knowledge, rituals, language and “ways of knowing” of the San and Khoi clans across the university and its communities, with many of their descendants still living across the Cape Flats.
The new centre was virtually launched last week by Vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng via a summer school webinar titled, Knowing on the wind – #oaba #ans. The centre aims to become the foremost research centre of its kind, producing research of international standing and developing bespoke African philosophies and epistemologies through socially engaged research partnerships in San and Khoi studies.
June Bam-Hutchison of the Centre for African Studies (CAS) at UCT, said she was delighted that the archives – the languages, knowledge and rituals – of those who once lived on the slopes of the mountain were being made visible through the centre.
“The Sarah Baartman renaming process came with a promise. What underpins this is the genuine and sincere continuing struggle of beginning to truly unpack the complexities of the wrongs of the past, but also beginning to uncover a narrative that reveals us as South Africans,” added Tauriq Jenkins, chairperson of the A/Xarra Restorative Justice Forum at CAS.
The new centre would also develop a San and Khoi digital archive based on minoritised South African languages and host research fellows and visiting fellows to grow a strong cohort of PhDs in the field. She said the launch was a moment to spiritually honour those whose ancestral land UCT occupied.
“Their spiritual footsteps echo loudly through time in the caves of these mountains. Their knowledge resides deeply in the erased landscape and surrounding fynbos. This part of history was never part of the country’s narrative during apartheid,” concluded Phakeng.