Digging up the roots of Afrikaans and links to black history

Hein Willemse is a Professor in Afrikaans literature at the University of Pretoria has gone to great lengths to unpack the history of Afrikaans.

In a recently published article, Willemse writes that there is a lot to be said about Afrikaans and it's links to black South Africans versus how it is presented in present day South Africa.

What has happened around the issue of Afrikaans is that it has been constructed in a particular manner as the Afrikaners language and in particular the Afrikaner nationalist's language.

Hein Willemse, Professor, Afrikaans literature at the University of Pretoria

Objectively, the history itself shows that Afrikaans developed in the mouths of slaves and of the San and indigenous people of the 17th century.

Hein Willemse, Professor Afrikaans literature at the University of Pretoria

Willemse says today 6 in 10 of the almost 7 million Afrikaans speakers in South Africa are estimated to be black. He adds that one of the undoubted successes of Afrikaner nationalist hegemony was the creation of the myth that they, and only they, spoke for those identified as “Afrikaners”.

He also says that their worldview was the only significant expression of being Afrikaans speaking. These nationalist culture brokers suppressed oppositional and alternative thought within the Afrikaner community. They also minimised the role and place of black Afrikaans speakers in the broader speech community.

Willemse explains that Arabic-Afrikaans was an important phase in the development of Afrikaans but is often neglected in teachings. Arabic-Afrikaans was also used in daily communication, the making of shopping lists and political pamphlets. For the Cape Muslims, a literate community, this language was the bearer of their most intimate thoughts and their religion says Willemse.

Listen to the audio below for the full interview:

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