Trots (Suid) Afrikaner

One of the fundamental things that you must understand is that I am, by birth and upbringing, Afrikaans. Yes, the last remnants of this British accent I have been accused of having is quite the camouflage, but my birth certificate irrefutably lists ‘place of birth’ as Springbok, Namaqualand and if that isn’t enough to convince you, I’m not sure what is!

By the grace and common sense of my loving parents, of whom my mother is Afrikaans and my dad is English, I was brought up in a bilingual home. As I was quite keen to start school (GEEK, I know) I went to pre-school for two years, one year in my home language and one in English. My parents further enrolled me for speech classes at a young age to edge out any luck Afrikaans had at being an impediment on my English grammar and pronunciation, and therefore thankfully saving me from a lifetime of embarrassing statements like ‘I are wearing a jean pant‘(Just in case you did not know that jeans are, in fact, pants…Though pants are in fact underwear, not trousers, but more on that another time).

I spent my high school career hopping around between English and Afrikaans schools, going to a record-breaking four high schools in my rather small hometown of George in the Western Cape. Moving on to university, I studied at the University of the Freestate in Bloemfontein, arguably the Afrikaans capital of South Africa. I may have studied in English, but I partied in Afrikaans with the best of them. After graduating, in a very wise move, I moved to England in order to clear the cobwebs of years of character damage…and ended up living with an Afrikaans boy. Now, I find myself living and working in Johannesburg, which would certainly be classified as an English city, but I am assigned to all the Afrikaans clients in my firm.

I want to pause here to mention the influence of my amazing maternal grandparents, which was central to my upbringing. This is not to the exclusion of my paternal heritage, but sadly both my paternal grandparents passed away when I was still very young. My beloved grandfather, who left this world a much lesser place, and my super-cool grandmother (really – the woman actually says cool, and she knows more about PC’s than most people half her age!) taught me that it doesn’t matter in the slightest what language you speak, as long as you do it properly.

It is also from my dear grandmother that I inherited the philosophy that your home language, if you were brought up in a Christian family as I was, is the language of your Bible. Mine is Afrikaans.

So regardless of the fact that I find myself mostly speaking, reading and writing English, I widely regard myself as an Afrikaans woman. I do not dispute that I am certainly liberated from the bonds of a Voortrekker-mentality, and I am certainly no white extremist pro-apartheid Afrikaner, but I AM Afrikaans, and therefore, an Afrikaner. In the post-1994 democracy, it is a label I hope time can redefine to only be the best of my culture, not the worst.

Sure, there are certain connotations to being Afrikaans that will never be abolished and of which I cannot help but be utterly ashamed. I may be part of a culture that include the oppressors that riddled our country with strife and segregation. But, to play devil’s Advocate, Germany has Hitler, and that’s got to be worse by anyone’s standards. I’m not making excuses for apartheid, in fact, I guess I have to count my blessings that I did not live and work in that time, as I most certainly would have found myself in the precarious position of being tossed in jail for enabling the enforcement of true justice and equality. (But, we’ll still get to my theories on the law at a later stage)

Yet, I am also part of a culture that has Racheltjie De Beer, WEG Louw, Breyten Breytenbach, Antjie Krog, Daleen Mathee, Beyers Naudè, Dr Christiaan Barnard, Riaan Cruywagen, Charlize Theron, Koos Kombuis, Chris Chameleon, Fokofpolisiekar and so many more that have made an unique and positive contribution to South Africa (I’m not even starting with a list of sports personas… we’d be here all week). I am part of a culture that gave the world words like braai, lekker, kuier, braai broodjies, pap en wors, Ouma biskuit and biltong, concepts which are indefinable in any other language.

I am part of a culture that is God fearing, has the utmost of respect for our elders and each other, places value on friends, family, modesty and morality, a culture that knows hard work is the foundation of success. I am part of a culture which has been outcast as a minority, yet refuse to be silenced, who stands proud in the face of adversity.

I am aware of the oxymoron of writing this blog in English when what I am saying is that I’m am proudly Afrikaans, but I have done so in an effort to accommodate those who would not even attempt to read this if it were in Afrikaans (it’s the Afrikaans way – we will all muddle through speaking English for the sake of one guest who is not Afrikaans).

In parting, I started writing to clear my screwed up thoughts when I was 13 years old and it is only in Afrikaans that I have found someone who expressed in words I could never summon my feelings about writing…

Angie Kleijn – Skryf

Ek het myself uit die dood uitgeskryf,

Stukke siel aan die papier afgevryf

Met ‘n pen; riffels gemaak met ‘n grou griffel

Om my eie hart weer op te wen;

Krummels gesaai met lettergrepe

As roetewyser om terug te kan draai soos Hansel & Gretel.

Ek’t ‘n pad gebou met my graadeen-juffrou se abc

Om my aan myself terug te gee.

Bladsy na bladsy probeer ek myself raakskryf

En versigtig terugdruk in my eie lyf.