Posts Tagged ‘afrikaans’

Speaking In Code

August 2nd, 2009 91 comments

codeChapter 1

Go ahead.

Ban it.

Strike it from the school curriculum.

Take every Afrikaans page that’s ever been penned and burn it in front of the Voortrekker Monument.

Change the name of every Afrikaans-name-bearing city, suburb, town, highway, street and residential driveway.

Gag the mouths of every remaining Afrikaans-speaking South-African*.

You’ve been trying to crush Afrikaans into all kinds of zero since 1994.

Read more…

I Am A Patriot

July 14th, 2009 19 comments

theveldI was discussing the first topic for, being “When was the first time you knew you were South African” with my family, and my mother, on pondering for a while, said: “I don’t think I ever realised it”.

That was something of a revelation for me, in terms of now analysing my own feelings about South Africa when I was growing up. As I cogitated on these words I realised we had never grown up in a “South African” family. No emphasis was ever placed on the fact that we were South African; no one in the family was sports mad, no one was glued to televisions shouting support for our team; no on waved flags; in fact we never even owned a flag. I was never taught the anthem until I got to primary school; speaking Afrikaans was quietly not done, we never had and were never encouraged to have Afrikaans friends.

Both my maternal and paternal extended families were throwbacks from England and the culture and ideals we were taught or which came to us through osmosis, were very English. We were exposed to a much more Eurocentric culture too, in terms of the films we were taken to watch, the music and theatre we were exposed to, and the pursuits we followed.

Without any specific instructions or directions being passed down, the idea of South Africa and of being South African was understood, somewhat sub-consciously, to be infra-dig.

Thus it was that I spent the first twenty six or twenty seven years of my life being slightly embarrassed to belong to such a backward country (I was not thinking here or really aware of its politics, was thinking chiefly of its culture) and I knew that should I ever head overseas the last place I would claim to come from would be South Africa.

To my mind – which had (I now see) been smoothed and pointed and guided down the emerald green paths of the English countryside rather than into the khaki grey ochre bosveld of my homeland – I’d far rather be taken for English or even Australian than being connected with boorish backwater people from a land no one knew existed.

English fieldsSlowly as I grew older and started to read and be exposed to South African poetry, ideas, film and stories, I came to understand that my land did have its own story to tell, but I was still resistant to the idea of identifying myself as South African. All of these feelings existed on a subtle plane within my mind – not often acknowledged, certainly never inspected or analysed – and were never an active part or conscious part of my growing up or day to day experiences.

In 1994 in the midst of the greatest changes we as a country had ever seen, I was a young mother, alone in South Africa while my closest family lived in England. I was pretty caught up in my own day to day experiences but I do remember the day I read that we were to have a new flag.

I was suddenly outraged, maybe there was something of the dog-in-a-manger about my reaction; certainly I had never realised or thought I was attached to the previous flag in any way, but now that I knew they (uncertain who they was, in my mind) were taking it away I wanted very much to be a South African, and I wanted to understand my country, and I wanted to learn about all that I had missed. I felt a new flag would mean I had lost this country I had suddenly come to love.

In all this emotional upheaval and confusion, I realised one thing clearly: I am now a South African, if I never was one before.

It’s too simplistic to end here but I have reached my word limit; I shall explore this reaction at greater length in articles to come.

Categories: Realisation Tags: , , , ,

This Is Not Dallas, And There Is No A-Team

July 1st, 2009 24 comments

Ok. So…. I’m supposed to write about when I first realized I was living in SA. Unfortunately my memory is not what it should be. Too many good times, too many drugs and too many years separate me from my youth.

a-teamWhen I did I first realize I was living in SA?

I haven’t a clue.

A better question to ask is; when did I realize I was not living in America?

My first inkling that I was a world away from the home of the free, land of the brave was because of Afrikaans.

How come my TV displayed images in an incomprehensible language every second night? Why did the SABC logo keep changing to the SAUK logo?

I learnt from an early age to hate Afrikaans for ruining my entertainment, for devaluing our prized TV, for sounding so guttural, and dare I say it… for sounding so kak. (Which is kinda ironic cause ‘kak’ is now one of my favorite words ever.)

Another clue that I was not living in DALLAS was that our cops looked nothing as cool as Ponch and Jon from CHiPs and that I had to wear a fucking school uniform, unlike the lucky Afrikaans-free kids on TV. And not just any school uniform! Our school uniform was a bloody safari suit that made me feel Afrikaans even though I couldn’t understand a bloody word of that language. Can you imagine the horror of a hip happening Jewish kid having to dress like Boer? Oh the humility!

Looking back, though, a safari suit was a great school uniform. I didn’t have to wear a tie or tuck in my shirt. But at the time I absolutely hated it.

saukI only started becoming aware of a wider world in my early teens when I started reading the newspaper. It was only then I realized that my country was like no other country in the world – and that there was something seriously wrong. And it was a little thing that brought it to my attention, a tiny thing really.


Kinda like those retractions newspapers print when they’ve made an error. A small apology tucked away on the second or third page. Hardly noticeable at all amongst the horror stories and advertising.

It was those small notices informing us the newspaper had been censored by the government, that told me I was living in a very odd country, and that there was something happening I couldn’t yet comprehend. This little censorship notice was usually tucked away between two articles, or hidden somewhere on the second page.

It was a small thing, a couple of lines, but it spoke volumes to me. They told me I wasn’t getting the whole story. They told me some Afrikaans official was determining what I could and couldn’t read. And that pissed me off. Still does, I suppose. I’ve been wary of governments ever since.

Yup, a small censorship notice was all it took to open my eyes, to finally reveal that the country I was living in was not one where you could call the A-Team if you had a problem. And for a long time I hated living here, and I fucked off as soon as I could. But all that did change… I returned. I love it here. However that’s a story for another time.