About the Conference

Indigenous languages in contemporary African society

The intellectual theme was chosen in recognition of the fact that 2019 is the United Nations' International Year of Indigenous Languages. Our vision is that through engagement with each other at this conference, we can play a role in the advancement of knowledge in indigenous languages while providing a platform to promote collaboration between institutions and various relevant linguistic academic disciplines.

The United Nations (2018) declared that “indigenous languages are essential to sustainable development; they constitute the vast majority of the world’s linguistic diversity, and are an expression of cultural identity, diversity and a unique understanding of the world”. The conference theme encourages a focus on challenges faced by indigenous languages in post-colonial African universities. We believe that a deeper appreciation of indigenous languages will facilitate much needed transformation in South Africa and the rest of the continent. It is through language and the full spectrum of linguistic expression that we gain access to cultural identity that will enable openness amongst various cultures. Openness will, in turn, facilitate an attitude of preservation and sustainable development.

The visual theme for this conference emanated from a visit to the University of Pretoria’s new Future Africa campus - a dynamic living, learning and research setting where architectural elements have been splashed in the traditional colours of the university. This scholarly space has been created so that Africa’s leading scientists and those from across the world can engage with each other in order to advance academic excellence, and to address the grand challenges that face Africa.

Not only did the blue, yellow and red speak of the vibrancy of Africa but reminded us of the De Stijl art movement (1917-1931) which embraced neat aesthetic balancing of precise geometric forms – bold, straight lines, squares, and rectangles filled with primary colours.

The reductionist quality of De Stijl art emerged partly in reaction to the decorative excesses of Art Deco, but largely as a response to the horrors of World War I and the desire to rebuild society in its aftermath.  These abstract artworks represented the laws governing the harmony of the world and were viewed as a universal visual language appropriate to the modern era and a new, spiritualised world order. The members of De Stijl embraced a utopian vision of art and its transformative potential.

Language too, is “the ideal fusion of form and function” and much like art, also has the potential for social and spiritual redemption.

We look forward to meeting you at this year’s SAALT/SALALS conference!

Organising committee