The Liberation of Afrikaans

One of the people I was excited to meet during my short World Cup trip to South Africa, was filmmaker Dylan Valley (rapper Lee Ursus introduced us). I was hoping to talk more to Dylan about his work, but football took precedence. Anyway Dylan has a new film out, “Afrikaaps,” on the neglected roots of the Afrikaans language (to the mainstream at least). Though the majority of Afrikaans speakers are not white, for most observers the language is synonymous with colonialism, Apartheid and white racism. And you can’t blame them. Afrikaner Nationalists and its allied media, cultural organizations, publishing industry, universities, school systems, etc., downplayed and degraded the fact that Afrikaans is a creole language since it was odds with their political project of racial purity and white domination. Postapartheid, some Afrikaners still hold on this exclusive vision. Valley’s film, which breaks with this history (btw, he is not the first), documents the similarly named stage production, “Afrikaaps,” which played festivals and earlier this year had a run at a leading Cape Town theater (here‘s a link to a review of the stage production and some rehearsal video). The stage production revolved around the a group of Cape Town-based artists, amongst them Jitsvinger, Bliksemstraal, Blaq Pearl, Emile YX, and Kyle Shepherd.

The result–a feature-length documentary–will premiere at this year’s Encounters International Documentary Film Festival in Cape Town and Johannesburg later this month (see the link for the schedule).

* My plan is to eventually interview director Dylan Valley once I have seen the film. I’ll keep AIAC readers updated.

Sean Jacobs

6 thoughts on “The Liberation of Afrikaans

  1. Sweet. I’m gonna quote you on a paper I’m writing for Social Dynamics – about teaching SA lit (Shukri, Coovadia) in America – Coetzee isn’t all there is. And other contexts – besides some Andre Brink’s “rights of desire” – have to be clarified. Thanks!

  2. @Sean: Great post. Lots of food for thought. I look forward to your interview with Valley.
    A couple of random questions and thoughts:

    -Does the hostility both covert and overt to Afrikaans by the black majority and the aggressive push to make English the de facto official language add to defensive resentment and a feeling of marginalization by Coloureds who may view this as an attack on their language and culture?

    – Do you forsee a future when Afrikaans is regarded as an ethnic (Coloured)
    and regional(largely Western Cape) language in the same way that Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, etc are seen as the stigma of identification with apartheid fades? Or will it retain a kind of second national language status given its penetration in scholarly, literary, scientific and other fields in South Africa?

  3. @neelika: Agree on the limited imagination of SA lit teaching, not just here, but in South Africa itself.

    For some background, I’d suggest checking out Vernon February’s _Mind Your Colour : The ‘Coloured’ Stereotype in South African Literature_; the blog of Aryan Kaganof, the poetry of Ronel Kamfer (featured previously on this blog), Marlene van Niekerk’s _Agaat_ and the graphic novels of the Trantaal Brothers, to name a few.

    @ekapa: Thanks for these. I’ll definitely put these to Dylan.

  4. Coming Tuesday, there will be a screening of Afrikaaps at the Stellenbosch University Student Center. I am looking forward to that.

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