Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi to unveil a memorial of unsung heroines Mrs Magrieta Jantjies as part of Women’s Month celebrations

DMThis year marks 60 years since the historic 1956 women’s march, when our heroines marched against pass laws. The Department of Arts and Culture would like to honour the unsung heroines who made sacrifices during the liberation struggle and also those who did outstanding work for the benefit of their communities in the areas of arts, culture and heritage.

On the 25 August 2016, Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi will unveil a memorial for one of the unsung heroines Mrs Magrieta Jantjies. 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 N!uu language imposed by the apartheid government.

The Department of Arts and Culture tasked and funded its agency, the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA), to erect a memorial in honour of the late Mrs Magrietta Jantjies. The memorial will be unveiled on 25 August 2016, at Rosedale Cemetry, Upington in the Northern Cape Province.

On that evening, Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi will also host a gala dinner to launch the first publication of its kind, Women of Power:The Unsung Human Treasures.

This publication of Women of Power is the celebration of 18 women who are our living human treasures but remain in the margins of society. The Department of Arts and Culture has undertaken this initiative to recognise and celebrate women who play a pivotal role in the development of our communities. These women make enormous contribution to their communities in very unique ways through arts, culture and heritage, yet they remain unsung heroines in the broader society. Many of them are resident in rural areas and their exploits do not capture newspaper headlines or attract the attention of popular media on a national scale.

It will depict biographies of the outstanding 18 women and honour them for having done the significant work in their communities from all nine provinces. Deputy Minister requested all nine provinces through the offices of the MECs; to submit two names of women who meet the criterion indicated above, this was to make the total number of 18 women to be profiled. Their profiles were compiled and the publication is ready to be launched.

Media enquiries: Peter Mbelengwa – Spokesperson for the Deputy Minister – Cell: 082 611 8197 / Email: petermb@dac.gov.za

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