!Ke e: /xarra ke: Multiple Origins and Multiple Meanings of the Motto

‘!Ke e: /xarra //ke’ is the motto of the Republic of South Africa. Since its introduction by President Thabo Mbeki in April 2000, there has been much controversy and public debate about many aspects of it. This paper challenges one such criticism, that made by the South African San Institute (SASI), in its Annual Review April 2000-March 2001, where it states that, although the motto is meant to translate as ‘Unity in diversity’, from a San perspective the motto has the sense of ‘Settlers unite’. The present author argues that, first, the key phrase itself comes directly from words spoken by a specific /Xam individual in a specific linguistic context in 1878. Second, sentences like ‘Unity in diversity’, ‘Diverse people unite’, and the more literal ‘People who are different come together’ carry only part of the complex meaning of the motto in the /Xam language. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Title: !Ke e: /xarra ke: Multiple Origins and Multiple Meanings of the Motto
Author: Barnard, Alan
Year: 2003
Periodical: African Studies
Volume: 62
Issue: 2
Period: December
Pages: 243-250
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
External link: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=T60BMELJ9R310TYQLYRT
Abstract: ‘!Ke e: /xarra //ke’ is the motto of the Republic of South Africa. Since its introduction by President Thabo Mbeki in April 2000, there has been much controversy and public debate about many aspects of it. This paper challenges one such criticism, that made by the South African San Institute (SASI), in its Annual Review April 2000-March 2001, where it states that, although the motto is meant to translate as ‘Unity in diversity’, from a San perspective the motto has the sense of ‘Settlers unite’. The present author argues that, first, the key phrase itself comes directly from words spoken by a specific /Xam individual in a specific linguistic context in 1878. Second, sentences like ‘Unity in diversity’, ‘Diverse people unite’, and the more literal ‘People who are different come together’ carry only part of the complex meaning of the motto in the /Xam language. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]