Jun 13, 2021

Mawazo Writing Africa

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One of only two people who spoke SA’s ancient N|uu language has died

Simon Sauls, who was one of only two surviving people who could speak the N|uu language in SA, has died.

Northern Cape MEC for sport, arts and culture Desery Fienies on Monday conveyed her deepest sympathy and condolences to the Esau and Sauls families.

“It is with sadness that we announce that we have lost another fluent speaker of the N|uu language,” said Fienies.

Sauls’ death comes just after the Northern Cape provincial administration, in collaboration with Puku Books and Ouma Katrina Esau, launched the first children’s book to be published in the N|uu language on May 24.

In 2017, TimesLIVE visited Esau, one of the four siblings who spoke N|uu. Esau, who lives in the small township of Rosedale, in Upington, has the status of a chief in her community.

The language is believed to be more than 25,000 years old and is spoken by the San people.

Like other San languages, N|uu is a melody of clicks, often punctuated by exclamation marks when written.

Fienies said: “Simon Sauls was Ouma Katrina Esau’s younger brother and one of the last two fluent speakers of the language.

“He was well acquainted with animals and insect names in the N|uu language and as a province we have indeed lost valuable knowledge from him.”

Sauls was also instrumental in fighting for the recognition, preservation, survival and promotion of the N|uu language, said Fienies.

“It is through his efforts that we realise that we have an African heritage that we can be proud of, and not as reflected by foreigners.”