The launch and dedication of the Naro New Testament (NNT) on November 10 in Ghanzi is one way of San spiritual empowerment and promotion underscoring Botswana’s commitment to be more accommodating to minority cultures and their significance in governance structures, the Naro Language Project (NLP) Bible Translator Dr. Hessel Visser has said.
Speaking to Standard Lifestyle in Ghanzi recently, Visser said the concurrent launching of the desk full colour Naro 2013 Calendar alongside the New Testament, coupled with the imminent publication and circulation of the Old Testament in the near future, paves the way for broadcasting one of the San dialects, with an estimated 18 000 people, on national networks once it has been captured, read and understood.
Visser is a philanthropic missionary of the Netherlands-based Norwegian Reformed Church (NRC) who came to Botswana in 1991 in the company of his wife, Dr. Coby Visser, at the behest of the Ghanzi San community.
He says the first print run of the black resin-bound 2000 copies of the New Testament, known in Naro “Kabas Qae-xg’ae sa”, were typeset in Malawi, printed in South Korea and published by The Bible Society of Botswana and sold for P40 per copy. NNT is also available on battery-powered audio tape and compact disc formats.
He said: “The inaugural theme of the NNT launch was: ‘Listen to God & Speak to Him’ translated as ‘Nqari ba komsana naka kg’ui cgoa Me!””
The translation and compilation process took close to 20 years due to the complex orthography and unavailability of competent local staff.
“We were lucky to engage the services of Form V graduate Catherine Tauxae Breba as translator in 1998,” he says. “As the major translation had to be made from the Greek and Hebrew versions, it was difficult to find Naro equivalents of terms such as the sea, ship or whale. We commend the NRC for the generous sponsorship which made the publication possible.”
Apart from the cultural dividends, the NNT translation coincides with the New Testament Matthew 28:19 where Jesus Christ stated: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
NNT also comes third after the Ikalanga version of the Bible, published in 2009 in conjunction with the International Bible Society, the United Bible Society, World Vision and other Christian organizations and commissioned by BBS.
According to Visser, NLP, a faith-based-project which translated the whole Bible, developed Naro orthography and lexicon leading to the compilation of the first dictionary with more than 2000 entries. This made gospel songs and the scriptures accessible to the Naro speaking community.
The orthographic segment of the Project included the teaching of the basic elements and other essential government processes for enabling officials such as teachers, nurses and public officials to correctly record San names.
Apart from biblical translations NLP has Naro folklore, health topics such as general wellbeing, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, language literary and psychosomatic support to primary school leavers through life skills project in collaboration with the Thuto Isago Trust (TIT).
The project has also published a Naro translation of the Vision 2016 pillars and continued to circulate up to 350 printed copies of the monthly newsletter, Naro Nxara with a dedicated readership.