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Conferences and Webinars

Indenturedness Interrupted’: Emancipation from Mental Slavery Event on 1 December 2021


The San and Khoi Centre hosted a public virtual event commemorating emancipation from slavery in the former Cape colony  slave community on 1 December 1838.The seminar presented a unique blend of community and academic perspectives on the theme of identity formation as a consequence of the South African slave heritage. The event was organised and structured to collectively begin to discover new pathways on how we as a society could rethink emancipation, social entanglement and language in South Africa. Speakers tackled the epistemological challenge of unpacking identity development in South African society in a manner that undoes the destructive ongoing divide and rule legacy of colonial power.


The community perspective was represented by Nadia van Dyck’s story and the San and Khoi Centre’s Khoekhoegowab language teacher and activist Danab Bradley van Sitters. Nadia could not attend due to illness but requested that her life story be presented by current Director of the centre, Dr June Bam-Hutchison. Nadia’s story quintessentially represents the conundrum experienced by many people with mixed heritage at the Cape – a region, due to its long colonial and segregation history, still significantly burdened by the colonial legacies of race. Though Nadia’s present cultural identity  is as a Cape Muslim woman,  her family story is one of strong ties to the San community through her father who taught his children the rieldans and San language around the fire at night where they grew up in the Karoo. The latter aspect of her identity is often invisibilised due to the limiting lens of both social and scholarly perceptions based on assumptions of who is entitled to claim ‘Khoi’ or ‘San’ identity and indigenous language rights.  


Danab  van Sitters  further explored the implication of having mixed heritage and how this lived reality goes against the social constructs of assumed ‘pure races’ and the fixity of races and how through the study of languages, we may be able to deconstruct such exclusive Verwoerdian claims as misnomers.

Dr Rashied Omar. Credit:

Dr Rashied Omar, also known as the Imam of the Claremont Mosque, led  the academic responses to Nadia’s story by speaking about the troubling colonial racist terminology the South African society has inherited. This should be recognised as an ongoing destructive legacy of othering and naming. One such term is the construct of being “Cape Malay” – in itself ahistorical and misleading which disavows Muslims from an African identity. This ‘de-Africanisation’ of people is cogently illustrated in the enforced racial classification of “Coloured” as an Apartheid-designated demographic group.  Dr Omar mentioned that emancipation from the inherited mental slavery entails embracing our African-ness and all the aspects of our heritage that make up who we are today in our cultural diversity. This is possible as identity development is not a static process, not fixed. In going forward, we need to construct an identity without violence towards the other and avoid furthering the process of  colonial and Apartheid “othering”.


Dr Justin Brown, a socio-linguist, described the reality of having mixed heritage as a default of being human. Yet perversely the descriptive lens we remain faithful to are defined by categorisation, physical appearances, and genetics. The lived reality of mixed heritage disrupts these assumptions and stereotypes as so cogently reflected in Nadia’s story. Such powerful stories are often hidden in the academic archive through its glaring absence.

Dr Zuleiga Adams Credit: 

Dr Zuleiga Adams, a historian, rounded off the academic responses to the community voices. She argued that we have inherited distorted perceptions of South Africa’s past and have unproblematically embraced human identification mechanisms which have collectively destroyed our sense of cultural entanglement and hybridity. A case in point is the Apartheid construct of “Cape Malay” as noted by Dr Omar. Dr Adams asserted that instead of pursuing questions of origins and purity in historical analyses, we should be pursuing various points of ‘beginning’. She further supported the notion to not romanticise the past out of an acknowledgment that people have made certain cultural choices based on survival, such as  about language. We either opt to stay congruent to our mother tongue or we choose to adopt language proficiency in the socially dominant language of the power governing the society we exist within – as in the case of hegemonic English.

The event was organised by the centre’s digital curator and researcher Shamila Abrahams, and chaired by community engagement strategist Tauriq Jenkins. Well-attended by both scholars and community members, further discerning insights were offered at the event on the political economy of identity and language by veteran activist Vanessa Ludwig who made the point that language claims are intrinsically part of indigenous identity and rightful claims to land – and should therefore not be treated as decontextualised from material conditions. Similar points were echoed in a response by veteran Khoe historian Dr Yvette Abrahams, who called for a series of related public events in the future to  explore these vexing questions of our times. The event itself forms part of the San and Khoi Centre’s commitment to restore social justice to indigenous communities through education and debate as part of the Centre for African Studies’ commitment to ‘rethink’  Africa.


HEALING THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE: A SURVIVOR'S VIEW OF DAMARA/HERERO/NAMA GENOCIDE OF1904-1905 seminar by Yvette Abrahams will take place on Tuesday 10th August at 4pm(SAST). The Zoom details are below. For more information see the poster. 

The event will take place on Zoom: 

Login details: 

Meeting ID: 893 0600 1166

Passcode: 160145


see video recording below:


Dr Carrine Zaayman will launch the San and Khoi Centres's annual Krotoa month lecture series chaired by Dr Yvette Abrahams with a seminar titled: (UN)Learning From The Ashes: Following Krotoa Into The Anarchive on Tuesday 13th July 4pm(SAST)

To register and find more details of the event please see details below and PDF poster to the event:

When: Tuesday 13th July 2021
Time: 4pm (SAT)
Where: Zoom
Meeting ID: 841 6988 3241
Passcode: 485552
To register go to:


Details of speaker: 

Carine Zaayman is an artist, curator and scholar committed to critical engagement with colonial archives and collections, specifically those holding strands of Khoekhoe pasts. Bringing intangible and neglected histories into view is a key motivation for her work. Her research aims to contribute to a radical reconsideration of colonial archives and museum collections, especially by assisting in finding ways to release their hold over our imaginations when we narrate the past, as well as how we might shape futures from it. She obtained a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town where she also worked at the Michaelis School of Fine Art and the Centre for Curating the Archive.At present, Zaayman is a postdoctoral fellow at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, as a team member in the NWO Worlding Public Cultures project, as well as a research associate at the Research Centre for Material Culture ( Zaayman is the Curator of UnderCover of Darkness, an exhibition and project concerned with the history of women in servitude,especially slavery, in Cape Town (

See video recording below:

(UN)Learning From The Ashes: Following Krotoa Into The Anarchive

'Knowing on the wind' - #oaba #ans' by Dr June Bam-Hutchison and Mr Tauriq Jenkins which took place on 21 September.

See link below for recording of the live event:

!Gâ re – Rangatiratanga– Dadirri:  Decolonizing the 'capture of knowledge'

29 July 2020

'Decolonising Knowledge Capture: Indigenous Threshold Concepts'  Room 1