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Bushmen: Last Stand for Southern Africa’s First People

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Sounds of the Bushmen
Listen to the distinctive sounds of a click language.

MP3 version

Praising his language, Mukalap, a native southern African sent greetings in the late 1930s to an audience of European delegates at the Third International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Ghent. That language, a symphony of clicks called !Ora (pronounced kora), was spoken over a large area of southern Africa. Today it survives less in memory and practice than in documentation, such as this recording. The translation here serves Mukalap’s message even today, so that “you may realize that the people in this country speak a beautiful language... ”

Online Extra
!Ora: A Language of Symphonic Clicks

a Bushmen child regards his shadow

Photograph by Chris Johns

Translation of Audio Recording

Yes, I salute you, you the sons of the sea, you who lie beyond the sea. I do not know you. I have not seen you with my eyes. You have not experienced me that you may know me, that you may realize that the people in this country speak a beautiful language (if I may say so to you, these Europeans catch and punish a man); so that you may also know that there are people living in this country. You do not know what nation we are. Listen, listen, just for once how they speak so that you should not again be ignorant. In turn I do not know your language as you do not know mine. I do not know your language you sons of the sea. Let me be happy, very happy. If you can do this you will be glad: actually there are people in that country. If you would say something, if you would write back, if you would write to these two Europeans a message for me. Yes, glad Europeans of the sea, if in turn you can give these Europeans a message, so that for my part I will be very happy about that matter. For this matter I beseech you. This, I don’t know about you. Today you will get to know me through my tongue. Although you cannot see me with your own eyes we may see each other through God in heaven. Thus far I shall speak.

Adapted from a translation by W. Haacke and E. Eiseb
Audio recording by Anthony Traill

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