KhoiSan Bushman Endangered Language Project (South Africa)

 In Cultural Exchange, Current Projects, Projects

KhoiSan Bushman Endangered Language Project (South Africa)

The small classroom is always full with children, excited to learn.
Chief Stanley Petersen with CEO Sello Hatang of Nelson Mandela Center of Memory
Ouma Katrina receiving Ubuntu award from Nelson Mandela Foundation
Student of the Language school.

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Online fundraising for KhoiSan Bushman Endangered Language Project (South Africa)

$600 Buys a laptop
$325 Video camera.
$150 One month costs of school.
$100 Held recorder.
$ 60  Mp3 for the children.

KhoiSan Katrina shake hands president
Ouma Katrina Esau with South African President Zuma receiving an award for her community work with the school.

KhoiSan Bushman endangered language project (South Africa)

Project Name: KhoiSan Bushman endangered language project
Project number: CE004
Location: South Africa
Summary: This project undertakes the task of helping to preserve the language and culture of the Khoisan people of South Africa. The funds enable the Khoisan to build a dedicated structure and buy needed supplies such as recording devices to record and teach their ancient ancestral language.

How many people will this project support?
This project supports an entire nation of indigenous people to protect and preserve their language and culture for future generations.

The issue
Education and Indigenous Culture.
The rampant poverty of South Africa inhibit efficient and effective instruction and recording of language and culture. This school will inspire youth to learn about their own culture and also help heal the KhoiSan from past wrong doings of being punished for speaking their own language. (More information on this in the article below.)

The solution
By providing funds to those actively trying to preserve language and culture they can purchase equipment and supplies that will be most effective in reaching their goal.

Potential long term impact
If the KhoiSan are funded and supplied with the needed tools the Khoisan language will be preserved for future generations as well as empower and inform the present generation.

Volunteers needed:
If you are an expert in preserving languages, or have a skill that could support the preservation and documentation of this ancient language, we would like to hear from you. Contact us at

Website designer/developer working with wordpress Jupiter template. The KhoiSan have asked us to create a website for the school. If you are interested in working with the KhoiSan and The Great Gathering as a volunteer; please send us an email to send us a CV of your work. Subject line: KhoiSan Volunteer website.

How you can help
In the first stage of this project we are seeking funding for basic equipment and operating costs. The KhoiSan are also looking for funding to buy a small bus so the children do not have to walk for miles to attend the school and funding to build a new school. (Interested and able to help? Contact us directly. 

Once this initial goal is met we will focus our attention on purchasing land and a building for the KhoiSan people to support their cultural preservation through education.

If you are interested in making a larger donation to this project to support the KhoiSan and would like more information, please contact us. We will be happy to share more details on this project for the future development and planning.
Email us at or call us directly at: 928-237-3010

Start up costs:
$3600 6 laptop computers

$ 650 2 video cameras
$ 200 4 high quality sd cards for video
$ 70 1 tripod for recording
$ 350 4 hand held voice recorders
$1950 30 mp3 players (For the children to take home and listen and practice NU language.)
$ 300 2 backup drives
$ 250 purchase several thumb drives to back up and to share with the community
$ 300 1 television for the classroom
$ 15 1 dsl cable for display from computer to tv
$ 70 speakers and cables for classroom
$ 900 chairs, tables, small fridge,
$ 1800 one year of operating costs of 150 dollars a month for electricity, paper, pens etc.

$10,455 US dollars.

Learn more about Omau Katrina, the KhoiSan people and NU language school:

The KhoiSan people of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa are losing their language. Today there is an advocate and teacher that is working tirelessly under impoverished circumstances to protect, preserve, and teach the language and culture of her ancestors so that we do not lose the ancient knowledge. Her name is Ouma (Grandmother) Katrina Esau and she is one of the last three fluent speakers of NU.

Language is the foremost vessel of culture and tradition as is evident when attempting to translate idiomatic phases. Without the under pinning traditions, culture, and knowledge an idiom has no tether to context and therefore no meaning. “Language is the medium used to paint the history of a people through perpetuation of tradition and learned sensibilities.” J. White.

Ouma Katrina Esau, one of the last three fluent speakers of the KhoiSan language ‘NU’ (akaN/uu,N!u), states, “A Nation without a language is voice-less and useless…Other people have their own languages. Why must my language be allowed to die? It must go on. As long as there are people, the language must go on.”

At the age of 82 Ouma Katrina, a KhoiSan Elder, is determined to preserve, teach, and speak her ancestral language of NU. Her parents were Bushmen who raised her in the ‘old ways’ in the KalahariDesert. She was raised with NU as a mother tongue and only learned Afrikaans later in life.

She now lives is the Upington area of South Africa which is the entrance to the Kalahari Desert; her childhood home and historic range of the KhoiSan people. The people of the Kalahari are the trunk of our evolutionary tree.

Five specific groups of indigenous people from South Africa the Saan, (aka Bushman,Basarwa, Khomani-San) the Nama, the Koranna, the KhoiKhoi (aka KhoeKhoe) and the Griqua have been combined under the overarching name of KhoiSan. The KhoiSan are from the Kalahari region. Their history is rife with colonial inequities. They were robbed of their culture, language, way of life, and traditions.

South African President Zuma made the following statement in the State of the Union address on February 9th 2012: “It is important to remember that the Khoi-San people were the most brutalized by colonists who tried to make them extinct, and undermined their language and identity. As a free and democratic South Africa today, we cannot ignore to correct [sic] the past.”For example, the mere use of their language was a crime and was punishable by death.

The KhoiSan were also restricted from accessing their lands. In time their culture, ancient wisdom, and language were eroded to the point of being lost. Only the Elders of their society retained the ancient knowledge and as they died so did their combined knowledge. Since Apartheid ended in 1994 the KhoiSan have been demanding that their rights of culture, language, way of life, and lands be returned to them.

Due to displacement and economic circumstances most KhoiSan now live in urban centers. The former inter-connectedness of the KhoiSan has been unraveled by city life and residual colonialism. Partly due to their disconnection they have all but lost their culture and the language that perpetuates it.

The people’s history in relation to to world’s evolution:

The Khoe and San peoples in southern Africa play an important role for our understanding of the evolutionary history of humans. These peoples are directly descended from the first branching of the genealogical tree of today’s humans. This is shown in a study led by Uppsala University researchers and being presented in the early online version of the journal Science Today.

The study is based on an analysis of 2.3 million genetic variants from seven groups of click-speaking Khoe and San peoples, a total of 220 individuals from southern Africa. The analysis is the largest genetics tudy ever of the Khoe and San peoples.

”…Our study shows that most people who self-identify as Khoe or San are descendants of the earliest diversification of the human genealogical tree,” says lead author Carina Schlebusch from South Africa, a postdoctoral fellow at Uppsala University.

These peoples belong to a branch that diverged from other peoples at least100 000 years ago.

Reference: DNA Study

The Nu language may well be the oldest language on earth and it is on the verge of extinction. Its closest linguistic relative is the Nama language of the Northern Cape and Namibia which has thousands of speakers and is the only KhoiSan language that has official recognition. By comparison NU has three speakers; one of whom is Ouma Katriena.

NU is distinctive because of its use of clicking sounds. This linguistic trait is unique to the Kalahari Region of South Africa and is thought to be 25,000 years old.

Ouma Katrina is determined to save NU for her family, her people, and the world. Her sisters, Hanna Koper, age 95 and Griet Seekoei, age 84, are also working as hard as possible to save this ancient and important language. They are now the last three fluent speakers of NU on the planet. Ouma Katriena continues her quest from her little home on the edge of the Kalahari.

Her dedication to preserving the language knows no bounds. She utilized the meagre tools at her disposal and created a booklet that she now uses to teach NU classes. About forty students comprised of both children and adults attend her classes. Ouma Katrina was offering classes in a one-room wooden school. The school was built with heart and passion in order to have a dedicated building in which to continue the ancient knowledge and culture that language perpetuates.The name of her school is ‘Reik Na Die Sterre’ – Afrikaans meaning ‘Gazing at the Stars.’

Unfortunately,on November 6, 2013 the school house was damaged by fire and its contents; a few computers, video cameras, and some chairs, were destroyed. Of course this has not stopped Ouma Katrina. She now holds open-air classes outside her simple home.

The efforts by Ouma Katrina Esau have not gone unnoticed. In 2012 in Freedom Park she received the UBUNTU award from CEO of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Sello Hatang. The UBUNTU award is given in recognition of service to others and your community.

Ouma Katrina was presented with the NationalOrder of South AfricaApril of 2014. This award is bestowed upon those who have contributed to the advancement of democracy and having a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans. “…honored in this category for preserving the endangered culture and language of the San people,” -President Zuma. “Katrina Esau: For excellent contribution in the preservation of a language that is facing a threat of extinction. Her determination to make the project successful has inspired young generations to learn.”

We support the KhoiSan and Ouma Katrina in their efforts to document,preserve, and teach the NU language which will lead to the preservation of their culture, ancestral identity, and traditional knowledge. Language and knowledge inform each other and instill understanding in users. By supporting this language project we are supporting the preservation of the world’s oldest living language.

Online fundraising for KhoiSan Bushman Endangered Language Project (South Africa)
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