Khoi and San Centre launched at University of Cape Town

Tanya Farber Senior science reporter
!’Aru Ikhuisi Piet Berendse, with a bushel of rooibos, carries the forms of heritage the centre aims to preserve.
!’Aru Ikhuisi Piet Berendse, with a bushel of rooibos, carries the forms of heritage the centre aims to preserve.
Image: Esa Alexander

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has launched a groundbreaking Khoi and San Centre.

Speaking at the launch, vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng said the centre aims to become the “foremost research centre of its kind, producing research of international standing”.

The centre will foreground erased or marginalised indigenous knowledge, rituals, language and “ways of knowing” of the San and Khoi clans across the university and its communities.

Many of their descendants still live in communities across the Cape Flats, and many are students, staff and graduates of the university. The development continues years of groundwork by academics such as Dr June Bam-Hutchison, who said she was “delighted that the archives — the languages, knowledge and rituals — of those who once lived on the slopes of the mountain were now being made visible through the centre”.

Bam-Hutchison said: “It is almost unthinkable that these things have been moved to [the] centre at the historically white university associated so much with colonialism and those deep wounds of the past.”

Last year UCT held its maiden Khoekhoegowab language short course, a partnership between the Centre for African Studies (CAS) and the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies. With only 167,000 speakers remaining, Khoekhoegowab is one of the continent’s endangered indigenous languages.

 An undergraduate programme offering the language is in development.

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