Africa South Africa

‘Ouma Katrina’ Honoured With Literature Doctorate by UCT in Recognition of Preserving San Language

The university said Ouma Katrina, as she is fondly known, made it her life’s work to teach the language and educate the youth on other unique traditions of the San people. 

She was bestowed a Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) degree by UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe during Wednesday afternoon’s graduation ceremony for the humanities faculty.

You can watch the UCT video for a moving account of her extraordinary life so far, and how she decided to revive a language declared extinct in 1973.

The university said Ouma Katrina taught at a small school in her house in Upington, Northern Cape. 

Join the 1 million News24 readers who are signed up to receive the top, must-read stories of the day in their inbox. Join them and get premium news, every weekday at 6 am.

When News24 interviewed her in 2019, she said she was dipping into her pension money to buy teaching materials.

Her biggest struggle was to keep the attention of pupils who entered their teens and started finding parties and relationships more enjoyable.

The university said she strived to share knowledge that would help the San to preserve their language and cultural ways for generations to come.

The revival of ancient languages and preservation of cultural practices, which were sidelined during centuries of colonialism and oppression, came to the fore during a court case in Cape Town involving the struggle to preserve land considered sacred at the site chosen for the new Amazon building. 

That case centred on the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council’s bid to preserve the land.

The court ultimately rescinded an application to stop the construction, but the drawn-out case highlighted the move to preserve ancient spaces and cultures.

UCT said Ouma Katrina was planning to produce educational CDs and DVDs to spread the language’s reach. 

It added: 

She has contributed significantly to the linguistic granary through publication, proliferation and direct engagement as forms of knowledge production, which include not only linguistic heritage but the values, sounds, feelings and the tangible and intangible memories they carry.

“Her work has inspired linguists, scholars, archivists and language activists across the globe.”

In a video prepared by the Department of Arts and Culture, Ouma Katrina said what made the language unique was that it had five different clicks. 

She also wrote the book Qhoi n|a Tijho, which is understood to be the only children’s book published in N|uu. 

Ouma Katrina added her honorary doctorate to the Order of the Baobab in Silver awarded by then-president Jacob Zuma in 2014. 

Source: News 24