Before Bantu-speaking populations spread across sub-Saharan Africa over 5,000 years ago, the San people were the first cultures to exist in Southern Africa. The San live across areas that are part of modern-day Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa and are ancestral speakers of various Tuu, Kxʼa, and Khoe languages. Today, Khwedam, a Khoe language spoken by around 8,000 people (as of 2011), faces external pressure from dominant Bantu (e.g., Setswana) and Indo-European languages (i.e., Afrikaans and English). Crucially, the Khwedam language is not taught or used in education, and government-mandated forced migrations have spread out speakers of the language.
Moshe Maghundu, founder of the Southern African San Development Organisation (SASDO), is leading a project with the goal of publishing Khwedam learning materials and holding a three-month Khwedam language workshop. “The issue is only a few [people] can write,” said Moshe when explaining the rationale behind hosting the workshop in coordination with publishing educational materials and books. German missionaries have worked with the language in the past and created a dictionary, which has since been digitized in the form of an app. But because Khwedam is almost exclusively a spoken language and its writing system is not widely adopted, not many people who wish to use the available resources can. These difficulties are compounded by the growing pressure of national or regional languages. Moshe, who is based in South Africa, says that although he speaks Khwedam at home, he switches to Afrikaans as soon as he leaves the house. “I want to see my language used for teaching at schools and I want to read books in my own language. We need resources and training to make this happen," he says. Moshe and SASDO are not only working to ensure that the next generations of San children learn to speak their ancestral language. They are working for a future where Khwedam is a bigger part of education, the literary arts, and community discourse.
Moshe's BackgroundMoshe Kxoegoe Maghundu is a Khwe man, from the Caprivi region in the Republic of Namibia. He currently resides in Platfontein, Kimberley, South Africa, where he has worked for the national broadcaster (SABC) since 2010. In 2020 he founded the Southern African San Development Organization (SASDO), which supports the development of San communities in Platfontein, Kimberley.