UCT Libraries always celebrates Africa Month in one way or another. This year we had intended to launch a new website for the ǂKhomani San | Hugh Brody Collection. And then the fire. So we’ve had to put our work on that project on hold.
Usually, the ǂKhomani San material is kept in the Jagger Basement. If it had been there during the fire, it is likely that the material would have water damage. Luckily, because of the project we were busy with, the material was up in Digital Library Services and with various staff members at their homes. And, this collection is entirely digitised.
This collection tells the story of the land claim process, that allowed the ǂKhomani San to gain governmental recognition of their place as one of southern Africa’s First Peoples as well as the horrific relocation that exiled them from their land in what is now the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
In the process of the land claim project, linguists were thrilled to discover that the Nǀuu language was not extinct! A number of the ǂKhomani elders spoke the language and the collection includes a number of incredible interviews with them that record the language for posterity. The elders were able to translate recordings made with their ancestors in the 1930s and identify them from photographs that make up part of the Bleek and Lloyd Collection.
Due to the incredibly important linguistic component of this collection, we’ve been working with Kerry Jones and her team from African Tongue. Kerry helped draft a statement to the ǂKhomani Community, in both English and Afrikaans, which is the language most of them speak, and distributed it through the Kalahari.
Many of the ǂKhomani Oumas shared the sentiment that God was protecting their stories, and this is why they were saved from the fire. Children attending a youth drama group at the Andriesvale Community Hall did a celebratory dance when they heard the news. The drama group was run by the daughters and granddaughters of Kheis Brou. She was one of the last Nǀuu speakers and features heavily in the collection. The statement was also placed at the Andriesvale trading store that is on ǂKhomani Land, and where many buy their groceries.
In Witdraai, the statement was placed outside the home of community elders Isak and Lydia Kruiper. Footage in the collection shows Anna Swarts, Isak’s mother, telling traditional stories and discussing the importance of storytelling. Like Anna, Isak and Lydia speak the Nama language. Boetie Gert, Isak’s blind brother, lives with Isak and Lydia. Since Anna died more than 25 years ago the brothers have not seen or heard anything of her. They were understandably overjoyed when Kerry played some of the footage for them. And then they shared twelve additional undocumented stories that Kerry was able to film.
The new website is only on hold. We will come back to it, as soon as we are able. The website will include images, transcripts, film clips, and other media from the collection. We have also paused work on the accompanying finding aid, that will list the material at the item level.