National Book Week’s Books Beyond Words online storytelling event brings Khoisan history, heritage and folklore to its Facebook
Live event this weekend. A radio show host, Dina Christiaan, will present a story, in Nama, of which only some 2000 speakers remain in South Africa.
Nama is the cultural name for the Khoekhoe (Khoekhoegowab) language and considered the most prevalent non-Bantu language that uses “click” sounds. The language descended from the Central or Khoe group of the Khoisan language family, and is spoken by the Nama, Damara, and Haillom tribes of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. (Language Inc).
“NBW has a strong focus on promoting and preserving indigenous languages. Bringing a story in one such language to our audiences who have been with us since the past 7 weeks of the lockdown is an effort to expose South Africans to the country’s language diversity. Knowing we come from a rich linguistic landscape should make us all proud,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO, South African Book Development Council.
The weekly event hosted by South Africa’s annual reading awareness week, National Book Week (NBW), dedicated to encouraging leisure reading and promoting the importance of books has been inviting one storyteller every weekend since the lockdown began in March for a live event, to tell children an interesting story, sometimes from their own books.
NBW is a joint initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) and The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).
President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address on Wednesday night hinted at further easing of the level 4 restrictions though a decision on the sale of all books has not been forthcoming. In level 4 only educational books are being sold. Many in the industry believe books for leisure reading could have served as ideal diversion for children and parents, both trying to make sense of the prolonged isolation.
“The storytellers we feature on Books Beyond Words are working to keep the storytelling tradition alive and taking the art form to a wider audiences. Dina uses the intensity of solo performances and the intimacy of conversations from her experience as a radio host to pass down the inherent flavour of Nama through her oral storytelling,” adds van der Sandt.
“It is a proud moment for NBW to be able to serve as a platform to carry culture and our languages forward. The new necessary for us has also been to do this online in an effort to preserve tradition and reach out to the young. Storytellers thrive on reaction, so please do engage with Dina by positing comments and directly interacting with her performance.”