Brochure of indigenous geographical names launched

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport have released an official brochure detailing some of the Khoekhoe Geographical Names. Pictured from left are: Mxolisi Dlamuka (Director of Museums, Heritage and Geographical Names), Cultural Affairs and Sports MEC Anroux Marais, Professor Mawande Dlali (Member of the Western Cape Provincial Geograpnical Names Committee) and researcher Anita van der Merwe.

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport have released an official brochure detailing some of the Khoekhoe geographical names in the Western Cape. The launch of the brochure took place at the Platteklip Wash House in Oranjezicht on Human Rights Day last week.

MEC Anroux Marais said geographical names were considered by most people to provide a sense of belonging to the suburb, the town or city where they live. “A highly emotive aspect of debates around the ongoing transformation of the heritage landscape in South Africa is changes to, or possible changes to, existing geographical names,” she said, pointing out that there are more than 12 000 geographical names in the province.

Ms Marais added that places have been given names by successive generations of inhabitants through time. “Many of the indigenous names of geographical features in our landscape have been retained, for example, Attaqua’s Pass and the Outeniqua Mountains.

“Others have been translated into the languages of settlers from Europe. For example, certain Khoikhoi names were translated into Portuguese, Dutch and later English and, eventually, into Afrikaans or isiXhosa.

“Many places with indigenous names were given new names. Table Mountain, Tafelberg and tabula monsa, Latin for Table Mountain, was known by the Khoi as Hoerikwagga, meaning mountain at the sea. Many more places and geographical features have been given names over the past 500 years that reflect a variety of interests, values and perspectives.”

She added that the standardisation and verification of all 12 000 geographical names in the Western Cape was progressing well.

“This process involves researching the historical background of every name, capturing the information, and correcting the spelling of geographical names where necessary.”

Ms Marais said the research was done last year.

“It was seen fit to tie the celebration of human rights with the launch of the geographical Khoekhoe names brochure. The place against the mountain where the official launch took place, next to the Camissa River, was significant in the sense that this was the river by the wash houses where previously people washed clothing.”

She added: “In the Western Cape there are many geographical names derived from Khoekhoe heritage. These names represent aspects of our province’s history that should be restored and cherished for future generations. This brochure promotes place names in this province that are derived from Khoekhoe heritage which is a tangible indication that the Western Cape Government acknowledges the province’s shared heritage and its diverse cultures. The launch of this brochure is pivotal as it will raise awareness on the origins of the geographical names across the province.”