According to the official census there were 7,506 Hai//om speakers living in northern Namibia in 1991 but as with all figures on people and languages of low reputation this count is not very reliable. Many speakers of ≠Akhoe Hai//om have maintained an unusual cultural profile as hunter-gatherers. Striking features include healing trance dances, hunting magic and intensive usage of wild plant and insect food, a unique kinship and naming system, frequent storytelling, and the use of a landscape-term system for spatial orientation. The proposed project aims to document the ≠Akhoe Hai//om language as it is still spoken in these particular cultural contexts.
- Rapid social change. The pressure of surrounding Oshiwambo, Nama/Damara, English and Afrikaans speaking groups increasingly threatens the above mentioned cultural practices.
- Oppression and discrimination. The speakers of ≠Akhoe Hai//om suffered greatly from colonial violence. Recent survey data testifies that after independence threats have continued.
- Political powerlessness.
- Economic poverty.
- Lack of mother tongue education
Team in the field
Going through the electronic database with ≠Akhoe Hai//om speakers. Maais Goboses, Oahetamas Goboses, and Thomas Widlok
Transcribing digitalized video-tapes of everyday conversation. /Khomxa Khoeda Junior Primary School at Mangetti-West (/Gomais). From left to right: Gertie Hoymann, Linda Uises, Mariane Kheimses, Christian Rapold
Making use of video technology, for research, for education…
…and for entertainment
≠Akhoe Hai//om mother tongue education is restricted to the family sphere (!Hares Horetsus with her youngest boy).
Research team on the move in ≠Akhoe Hai//om country. From left: Thomas Widlok, Abakub //Gam//gaeb, Christian Rapold