The University of Cape Town (UCT) has bestowed an honorary doctorate on the last living fluent speaker of the NCuu language, Katrina Esau. Esau is highly commended for her contribution towards language studies, and her mission to preserve the endangered culture of the San People.
She has dedicated herself to the mammoth task of teaching a largely oral language and the unique traditions and customs of the San People. She set up a small school located at the front of her house in Upington in the Northern Cape to teach the language.
“Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa), Her Excellency ǂXuu Katrina Esau.” – Professor Lewis #UCTGrad2023 pic.twitter.com/fgs3NMOR45
— UCT (@UCT_news) March 29, 2023
UCT Orator, Professor Alison Lewis says this is a profound achievement.
“Rescuing a language is just such a profound achievement and I think it’s more than just the language. With the language comes the cultural heritage, and things like family, approach to the earth, and approach to life in general. I think it is much more profound than just the language itself.”
Esau says she is honoured to have her work recognised. Speaking through her Chief Advisor, Anthony Williams, the 90-year-old says saving the last remaining San language is her life’s work.
“She’s overwhelmed by the occasion. It’s an outstanding achievement. But more because she’s a cattle herder, she attended to the sheep in the field. This is what she’s been saying, I’m just translating, for her to be honoured in this way is really out of this world.”
Last year Esau received a copy of the Nluu and Nama dictionary which includes the Northern Cape dialect of Afrikaans, and South African English.
Ouma Katrina Esau receives Nluu and Nama dictionary 11 October 2022: