At's and Sajeela's Ways of Learning LO24728

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 06/01/00

Replying to LO24702 --

Dear Organlearners,

Sajeela M Ramsey <> writes (>)
in reply to my (>>)

>>I once met a wise Nama (a Xhoi nation) in Namaqualand. We
>>got into some deep talking. He said this: "When men enter
>>the world as baby boys, the first human they connect to is a
>>woman. When they leave the world, the last tears shed on
>>them is by a woman. Woman are just here -- its is men who
>>come and go. Why cannot we wake up to this fact."
>What a beautiful image! I would love to learn more about the Xhoi
>culture. Another rich repository of a life-space lived differently
>my own. I love and honor particularly the wisdom that indigenous
>people bring with their experience. You are lucky to live (or have
>lived) in proximity to this Nama.

Greetings Sajeela,

I respond to this quotation separately to my previous reply. The reason is
that there are some facts (not opinions nor beliefs) in this "Xhoi
culture" which are sacred to me and which I do not want to get mixed up
with perceptions through metal models. I want to get to the issue of
gender and learning, but please have patience because I have to draw up
the context.

The Xhoi peopleS (plural!) were called in colonial times "Hottentots".
The San peopleS were called "Bushmen". Fellow learners will need these
colonial names to read up more about them.

Today they are referred collectively as the Khoisan people. The use of
Khoisan have to be seen in the same manner as the use of European when
referring to, say Italians and Germans. Both the Xhoi and San have "click"
languages -- tongue and larynx gymnastics. Both have yellow-brown skins
rather than brown-black. But otherwise they are much different.

Some write Xhoi and others write Kwhe or Khoe. The writing should perhaps
be !Xhoi where the ! indicates a palate click of the first consonant. To
do it, make the sound "choi" of "choice". Now do it again, but force a
click with the tongue on the "ch". The result will be !Xhoi. There is a
genus of birds all over Southern Africa which often makes the same sound,
only longer. I forgot the scientific name, but they are called the
Loeries, the Khwe-birds and the "go-away"-birds. The latter name tell how
hunters hate them because they sound the "!Xhoi" as warning to all animals
on any hunter's first appearance.

As a result of the news reports on the recent "land-grabbing" taking
place in many parts of Southern Africa, undoing "colonial crimes", I have
to tell the following so as to paint a richer picture.

The San have lived in the whole of South Africa for many, many millenia.
Then they became gradually pushed back by Xhoi peoples migrating some two
millenia ago from the north-west of central Africa through the desert
regions. Five hundred years later they also became gradually pushed back
by the Banthu peoples from the north-east of central Africa through the
lushy tropical regions. Another seven hunderds years later they became
pushed back from the south-west by Europeans (settlers, colonialists)
coming over the sea. Thus, should we try to establish who were the
original "owners" of South Africa, it is the San peoples and only them.
(Actually, the original "owners" were the humanlike "people" of the genus
Australopithecus rather than the genus Homo, but none of them are left
over to "claim ownership".) This is why I have put "colonial crimes" in
quotation marks -- only the San people are not guilty of it.

Establishing dates are very difficult. The best reliable source is
archeological evidence which itself requires a mastery in complexity. Why
not written sources like in other continents? There are none because
neither script nor the wheel were invented in Southern Africa! The Mental
Model in colonial times was that this lack of script and machine was the
best evidence of the barbaric nature of the San, Xhoi and Banthu peoples.
This Mental Model, acquired by rote learning, is clearly documented in
script and paintings since the first Europeans arrived.

Few ever asked "Why were script and wheel not invented?" The answer? They
they did not need it! Why? Because they had other ways of doing that for
which we need script and wheels for doing! They were not doing nothing so
that they could be labeled as barbarians. The three civilisations of the
San, Xhoi and Banthu peoples were as different from each other as they are
from the two civilisations of European and East-Asian nations. They were
living civilised, each in its own manner. Authentic rather than rote
learning will help us to understand how they lived civilised, yet
completely different to any of us. Bearing in mind the little which I
could find to read, I am convinced that the social system of the Xhoi
peoples and the social system of the Banthu peoples were any day at least
as complex as that of their European or Asian counterparts.

I have to rush to get to the Xhoi peoples self. Today the only nation left
over are the Nama-kwa (people="kwa" or qua in all the Xhoi languages.)
The rest have disappeared as a result of interracial marriages and their
offspring were called "coloureds" (presently Brown people ?) in the
apartheid era. But here are some names of Kwa (peoples) which ought to
remind us just what vast culture immerged -- Aoninkwa, Attakwa,
Chainoukwa, Damakwa, Girikwa, Gonakwa, Gorachoukwa, Goringhaikwa,
Hankumkwa, Hessekwa, Inkwa, Karigurikwa, Kochokwa, Koranakwa, Outenikwa.

The Namakwa are the "leftovers" because they have lived in the driest
parts of our land -- our deserts. There the colonialisation was least
because fools cannot live in a desert -- or is only fools try to live in a
desert ;-)? One such a desert has the very name of Namaqualand. Its
closest part is 1800km away from Pretoria and it takes two days of hard
driving with a truck to get there. So I have to work hard to explore my

I wonder if there is more than a hundred Namas in Namaqualand who can
still speak Nama. I usually have to search for days to find one who can
speak it. They all speak now as mother tongue Afrikaans, the same as my
people. In Southern Namibia there are still thousands of Namas who speak
Nama as mother tongue in addition to Afrikaans.

It is very sad that so little is known of the rich diversity in the
seemingly three(?) main Xhoi languages, each with many dialects. While
philologists all over Europe studied the languages of the ancient
civilisations in Europe, North Africa, Middle East, Far East, etc., by
means of documentation in script, these Xhoi languages without scriptual
documentations were allowed to immerge without taking notes.

In rote learning, when the vanquished vanishes, it means nothing.

While these Xhoi languages immerged, the Xhoi people collaborated in
letting Afrikaans emerge as their new mothertongue during its womb years
(1652-1750). I give 1750 as date because in the late 1700's people
speaking fluently the official High Dutch first began complaining about
this horrible "Cape Dutch" which the brown Hottentots, the mixed and the
white Grensboere (border farmers) were speaking. Today they would have
called it the creolisation of Dutch. The forebears of the Grensboere
themselves spoke Frankonish (from which High Dutch got standardised),
Twents/Drents/Gronings (dialects of Saxon=Low German), French, some
Schwabish and English as well as a little Portugese. Then there is also
the Malay language of the slaves form the Far East to reckon with.

But did these Xhoi languages really immerged? No, not as I understand it.
It was a creative collapse just as their European and Malaysian
collaboraters let their languages collapse creatively. Out of all these
creative collapses emerged Afrikaans -- a language loved and despised. It
is the youngest language in the world with still some very old relics of
the Lowlands Languages in it. It has more complex vowels than any other
langauge. Yet its grammer has been streamlined beyond wildest dreams,
making it very difficult for Afrikaans speaking people to learn languages
with complex grammers. It is even difficult to learn English which itself
has a "relatively simple" grammer. That is why, should you ever go to
Namaqualand, please take care when speaking in English. All the
Namaqualanders irrespective of racial origin speak Afrikaans and most of
them can speak only Afrikaans. Many want to run away when addressed in

As for the social system in Namaqualand, we have to take two social
systems of the past into consideration. The one system is that of the Xhoi
peoples and the other is that of the Lowlandic peoples (Frankonish, Saxon,
Jutish) before the conquest of Charlemagne. Let us focus on the issue of
gender. In both systems the father and mother in a family followed
joint-shared leadership. In the house the mother's word was law and
outside the father's word was law. Both parents took care of the education
of their children in a sort of "guild fashion" (LO?). Mothers taught both
boys and girls the ways of a mother, but the girls had to take the
responsibility. Fathers taught both boys and girls the ways of a father,
but the boys had to take the responsibility. Parents never quarreled
before children and family decisions were by concensus after open dialogue
which involved all the family. Grandparents acted as midwifes for the
broader education of the children.

Even today one has to search hard and wide for any signs of male
domination (chauvinism) or female dominism (feminism). Both the man and
the woman in a family refer in a curious way to themselves as a dual team.
They say "ons is mos maats". The closest English will be "We are indeed
mates". We work together, we play together, we laugh together, we cry
together, we "kafoefel" (make love) together, we rear together, we pray
together and we die together. For when we do not become together in the
desert, the desert is nobody's mate for doing otherwise.

I wish I could get you so far as to understand that the last thing which
Namaqualanders have on their mind, is "gender dialecticism". That does
not mean that they dont have a healthy sexual life. Sex is for them just
as essential as water, food and clothes -- things which they will never
make banal by trying to capitalise on it. But when a man and woman speak
to each other, even as strangers, there is no sexual overtones. The latter
is reserved for body langauge.

The Namaqualanders have the most expressive way of communicating with
"non-lingual" sounds and body language alike after a certain level of
intimacy (openness) have been reached. A dialogue in normal Afrikaans on a
topic may last for, say, an hour. Then the "non-lingual" sounds will
follow. For example, the one will say after a couple of minutes
"ta-ta-ta". (It means "now that is something, is he not?") The other one
will respond after some minutes "tje-tje". (It means "yes, and we have not
said all"). Another will respond later on with "ai-ja-jai". (It means "I
have thought about many of the unsaid things"). Then becomes the body
langauge -- a slap on the forehead, a feeling of the throat, a pull of the
ear, a swaying of the head, several kinds of rocking while sitting --

The body language is so vivid that it defies description. I will give one
example. When a woman indicates that she is ready for intimacy some or
other time, she will make a mock, swinging blow to the man. If the man
wants to respond, he will make a mock fall sidewards as if a heavy wieght
boxer gave him a knock out blow. That is all -- message sent, message

In the case of language and gender of whatever living species, only when
sex can be visually established, will the names distinguish gender. For
example, a bok (goat) is a "ram" (ram) or an "ewe". Since sex is not on
their mind, they will speak rather of a "bok" than a "ram" or "ewe", even
when pointing to actually a "ram" or an "ewe". Only during actual
copulation or when slaughtering a goat, they will refer to "ram" or "ewe".
(It is foolish to slaughter ewes indiscriminately in the desert.) All
other things are named in a genderless fashion.

As for the use of personal pronouns (he-his-him, she-hers-her), they have
found a wonderful gender"less" solution. Please hold your breath because
there is no chauvinism here. A woman is refered to with he-his-him just as
a man. A man will say of his wife "hy maak koffie" (he makes coffee)
whereas we would have said in English "she makes coffee". A woman, when
speaking of another woman in labour, will say "hy kry kind" (he gets
child) rather than "she gets a baby". When a man embraces a woman,
somebody else will say "hy omhels hom" (he hugs him) whereas we would have
required "he hugs her" to indicate a hugging between heterosexuals.

Here is a true story. It concerns two lady teachers in a school. The one
(A) grew up locally and the other one grew up in the Boland ("high land")
where the "cultivated societies" are found. Willem (William) sits closets
to the door while B is teaching. A comes in, whisper something in Willem's
ear and leaves. When B finishes, she asks Willem "What did teacher A
said". He says "He says you must ....." Teacher B objects: "Willem, miss A
is a she!". Willem, as any local will do, replies: "Yes miss B, I will
never speak of you as a him because you are a she, but of her I will speak
as a him because she is a he."

It seems, as far as my enquiries by mouth goes, if the Xhoi languages had
only one pronoun for all the genders and even the genderless. Thus in the
Afrikaans of Namaqualand they will speak of everything POSSIBLE as a "he",
rather than a "she" or an "it". In other words, even genderless things are
refered to as a "he" rather than as an "it". For example: "hy reen" (he
rains) rather than "it rains". Can you fellow learners imagine what
confusion will ensue when a feminist gets there and tell them everything
possible ought to have been a "she" because what they have there is
chauvinism in the vilest sense. By the way, can you now imagine why they
are afraid to speak Engslish? When is a "he" not a "him", but a "she" or
an "it" ;-)

Perhaps the most dearest is the way in which they greet each other hello
and goodbuy. It is done with a kiss whenever a person is not a stranger. A
man will kiss woman, girls, men and boys on the mouth, almost in the
ancient Lowlandic tradition, not intimately, but in a short yet gentle
manner. When I meet a Namaqualander for the first time, it is a handshake.
But when I meet that person again, even only the second time after a year
or two, it is a case for the greeting kiss. To shake hand in this case is
a terrible thing to do -- it indicates that you have an aversion to
effective connections.

Rick, perhaps we might try for a couple of months the following
experiment on the LO-list. When using personal pronouns, let all
who want to participate, write she-her-hers. But to indicate what is
going on, everyone participating in the experiment should begin
"her" contribution with
    REMEMBER LO experiment -- only she-her-hers in use here!!
It means that even "it" has to become "she"!

Sajeela, this has been a long contribution just to tell how people can
actually live without dialecticism -- in this case gender. Will you please
not read the rest because it concerns something much deeper than the
human-creature dialecticism. Some do choose to travel with me in the
deepest corners of consciousness and it is for them which I report the

>Making whips eh? Why take a whip to a living creature or teach
>a young child to do that? I ask only rhetorically. Please please
>don't answer, because I won't respond to you most likely. It's just
>too far from my own frame of reference and I choose not to go
>that journey with you At.

Dear fellow learners, in the case of Jessica I never try to put "being"
before "becoming". So I do not question her "being" before any
"becoming". Well, I asked her the next day why she needed the whip. I knew
it was important to her by the way in which she used that whip, letting
her imagination run wild.

Her answer shocked me almost out of my wits:
"To use it on battery operated lions"

Why Jessica?
"Because they drive our real lions away."

Why Jessica?
"Because we need them to keep the other beasts of prey at bay."

How Jessica?
"Because the other beasts of prey cannot win real lions."

Why the whip?
"Real lions need real humans to help them".

I did not force her by questioning to explain to me how "battery operated
lions" are chasing away "real lions". Why not? When she said it, she gave
that Mona Lisa smile which only comes as the generative adjoint of
emergent learning. She made on the level of tacit knowledge an effective
connection between the "ill effects of technology" and the "sustaining of
nature". She then even emerged to the level of explicate knowledge by
articulating it with the metaphors "battery operated lions" and "real
lions". She did this by authentic learning which most "industrialists" in
the G*8 countries are incapable of doing despite all their rote learning.
She clearly acknowledged, even as a child, her responsibility to act with

Millenia ago another person also made a whip and asked, after using it, if
the temple is a house of prayer or a robber's den. Today we again have to
ask the same question about Mother Earth. Is she a house of prayer or a
robber's den? Is she a home for "real lions" or a home for "battery
operated lions"?

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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