International Mother Tongue Day 2019


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Iziko Museums of South Africa

An indigenous languages celebration at the Iziko South African Museum. Iziko Museums of South Africa will celebrate International Mother Tongue Day, on Saturday, 23 February 2019. A public discussion on the importance of revitalising indigenous languages, especially through language activism, will take place at the Iziko South African Museum from 10h00 until 13h00.

In light of 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages, this discussion aims to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalise and promote them.

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International Mother Tongue Day is a global initiative started by UNESCO, International Mother Tongue Day’s purpose is to promote multilingualism – encouraging and creating awareness of the usage and preservation of our rich and diverse linguistic heritage across all cultures.


Iziko South African Museum
Iziko South African Museum

There are an estimated 7000 languages in the world, each uniquely encoding the history, culture and world view of its speakers. In a rapidly changing world, linguistic diversity contributes to our sense of community and identity. It is currently estimated that at least half of the world’s languages will disappear by the end of the 21st century – lost to emigration, economic rationalisation and, too often, systematic discrimination. This is at a rate of nearly one language a month. Most languages do not have a written form, so when an endangered language is no longer spoken it can take an entire cultural history with it.


The discussion will bring together language activists, writers, poets, language practitioners and cultural activists in a conversation about the role of indigenous knowledge and languages in contemporary South Africa. This event is a platform of engagement, providing visitors with the opportunity to discuss, examine and understand how indigenous languages can contribute to sustainable development within the country.

The panel of speakers for this year’s discussion include:

  • Mr Denver Breda – Munainai Khoi Language Project
  • Dr Sebolelo Mokapele – Senior lecturer in Linguistics at the University of the Western Cape
  • Ms Nompumelelo Radebe – Western Cape Government Language Services
  • Mr Deon Xhamela Nebulane – Ubuntu Bridge
  • Mr Karel King and Mr Timo !Ngonnemaoa – !AL-OM Aboriginal Customary Council Taal Projek Stellenbosch

This initiative also seeks to further awareness around the necessity to take urgent steps at both national and international levels.

For any further event information please contact Xola Mlwandle on 021 481 38952 or email or Zenande Oupa on 021 481 3812 or

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