|Can I complete the whole of Round 9 of ABC Wednesday based on our four week stay in South Africa in February? Click on the photos to enlarge.|
‘A lot of my white friends ask me if I speak Zulu when I’m at home. You know why they ask that?
‘Because they can’t f*****g well say Xhosa!’
The joke only works if you understand that Xhosa is the major language spoken by black Capetonians and is itself an extremely difficult word to pronounce .
It isn’t pronounced ‘corsa’, as in the car, or ‘khosa’ with the Xh making a coughing sound. The X represents one of several barely audible, but essential clicking sounds that are part of the spoken language.
Xhosa is also a tonal language and the same sequence of consonants and vowels can have different meanings when said with a rising or falling or high or low intonation. That and the click consonants make it very difficult to master.
My daughter managed to learn at least some of the language from her friend Lebo, though she never really mastered the clicking sounds.
Xhosa is one of South Africa’s official languages spoken by 7.9 million people, or 18% of the population.
There are two theories for the origin of the name: one that it came from a legendary leader called uXhosa, the other that it stems from an earlier language and the word amaXhosa meaning ‘fierce’ or ‘angry’ people.
The Xhosa people originally settled in what is now the Eastern Cape and first came into conflict with Dutch settlers moving east from Cape Town in the 18th century.
Between 1811 and 1812, British forces pushed the Xhosas further east where they also found themselves under pressure from the Zulus to their north.
Ultimately, the various tribes were dispersed under the historical process known as the ‘mfecane’, or ‘scattering’.
And, of course, they suffered under the apartheid system that blighted the country for so many years which you can still see remnants of today.
The liquor store in Observatory has two entrances, one where you can browse the selves before making your selection, the other a plain counter.
Many of the locals still prefer this system for its anonymity so they are not seen choosing the cheapest alcohol from the shelves.
Notable Xhosas include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former president Thabo Mbeki and, most famous of all, Nelson Mandela.
The photos from this post are my favourites taken in South Africa and show local children dancing in Cape Town city centre one memorable Sunday afternoon.