The Department of Arts and Culture working with its agency the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) unveiled a memorial for one of the unsung heroines Mrs Magrieta Jantjies in Upington on Monday, 29 August 2016 as part of Women’s Month celebrations.
Mrs Magrieta Jantjies is being honoured for her role in promoting the N!uu Language. Ouma Griet, as she was known, was Khoisan, and one of the last to speak the language fluently. N!uu has been displaced with Afrikaans and Nama by the current Khoisan generation.
The late Magrieta “Griet” Jantjies (70), was one of the five remaining Khoisan people who could speak a Khoisan language known as the N!uu language fluently. She lived in the area of Rosedale, Upington in the Northern Cape Province. She lived at a farm before moving to Rosedale in 2008 and she passed away on the 31st of December 2015.
The N!uu language is listed as one of the critically endangered languages in the world by UNESCO. This language was spoken largely around in the areas Upington and Olifantshoek and possibly other surrounding areas as well. The N!uu language has 112 distinct sounds, which was passed on orally down the generations, but was never written down. It has one of the biggest speech sound inventories in the world, with more than 45 Click sounds, 30 non-click consonants and 37 vowels.
When the apartheid government took over in 1948, those who spoke the N!uu language, around the farms, were compelled to speak Afrikaans. Gradually, the N!uu language began to recede and decline with some of the words becoming completely extinct.
Jantjies grave was identified as a grave of cultural significance in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act no 25 of 1999 (NHRA) section 36 (2) which states that “SAHRA must identify and record graves of victims of conflict and any other graves which it deems to be of cultural significance and may erect memorials associated with the grave…” This was prompted by the role played by Magrieta Jantjies in opposing displacement of the Nuu language imposed by the apartheid government.
SAHRA erected a memorial in honour of the late Mrs Magrietta Jantjies. This process is done in consultation with the family as they have to be given a chance to make a choice of the memorial that they would like. This involves choosing the design of the memorial and the inscription to be engraved on the memorial.