ik ben een Afrikaander (I am an Afrikaner)

June 11, 2008

It’s been another great day. The best days of my life is when I meet with people who truly stretch my thought, and today has been one of them. But I blog my thoughts with some discomfort, it remain a difficult topic…

I was born in 1984. I think I got my Afrikaner blood from my mothers side, although my father is also an Afrikaner. My mother maiden name was Odendaal, it is told that during the Anglo-Boer war the English wanted to take the horses of a number of Odendaal brothers. The one chased his horses into the hills, climb up the mountain, sat behind a rock and shot the British soldiers who came looking for him. Later, he found out that his brothers gave their horses to the English, so he changed his surname to Odendal. But we are part of the double-“a” Odendaal’s.

The first known use of the word Afrikaner is that of Hendrik Biebouw, ik ben een Afrikaander, al slaat die landdrost mijn dood, of al setten hij mijn in the tronk, ik sal, nog wil niet swygen (I shall not leave, I am an Afrikaander, even it the landdrost beats me to death, or puts me in jail. I shall not, nor will be silent – Gilliomee 2003:22).

Afrikaner identity: Where do we find it?

I’m an Afrikaner. Yes, it was us who took part in the Great Trek, who fought the local people of the Transvaal and Natal, who slaughterer many, and many of us were killed. Yes, it was we Afrikaners who fought in the Anglo-Boer war, and yes, if you wondered, we still think we would have won if it weren’t for the Scorched Earth idea, and the English taking our woman and children and putting them in concentration camps. Yes, I for one still get mad from time to time. Yes, we became nationalistic after that, and we made some terrible mistakes. The whole world hated us for Apartheid (may I add that racism in other parts of the world wasn’t always so much better in these times!). This is the Afrikaners.

Where in this can we find identity? We’re not European anymore. Although we’d sometimes like to be Africans, we still struggle to become Africans again. It’s not politically correct to talk about the Anglo-Boer war, and fin identity in that, since we screwed up worse, and since that caused nationalism. Never should you find identity in Apartheid. So we end up with Braaivleis, Boerewors and Rugby… is this our identity?

Actually, I don’t find the word Afrikaner used that much, it seems to go with the word “Boer”, a term used by the conservatives and neo-nationalists, not something we nice politically correct and liberal white Afrikaans speaking people should do.

It was Mary’s questions today who got me thinking, our conversation also made it a worthwhile day. Thanks Mary! Mary from Scotland and doing a masters on us Afrikaners and the Dutch Reformed Church, I’ll be sure to link to her work when she is done. So, what do we call ourselves? Where do we find identity?

The post is getting long, so let me make my point. Klopjag sang the song nie langer, which talked about the fact that we young Afrikaans people had nothing to do with Apartheid, so we won’t say sorry, and won’t accept responsibility. The well-known De La Rey searched for Afrikaner identity by linking back to the Anglo-Boer war. The one broke with our history, the other chose to link us with that which preceded nationalism and Apartheid.

“Ik ben een Afrikaander”, Biebouw said. And with that he stated that he has broken from his European roots, and his now a child of this continent. But Afrikaner also distinguished me from an African, calling myself an Afrikaner links me to a long tradition, which is also a Western tradition. I choose to remain an Afrikaner. Both Beyers Naudé and PW Botha is part of my history, and as in every tradition, there is those you are proud, and those you’re are not proud of. I am from this continent, but I must admit that I’m also Western.

But by acknowledging this, I hope to come to the table of South Africa, because I’m fully South African, and totally committed. And maybe some would then call me an African, as Mary’s friend Wayne, himself an African, has, or Sibetiwe once saying: “You have a black heart”, but this is a label which I will not take liberty to assign to myself…

2 Responses to “ik ben een Afrikaander (I am an Afrikaner)”

  1. Steve Says:

    Cobus,

    Roger Saner asked a similar question in relation to English-speaking South African identity. My response to him then was Notes from underground: Beyond the Boerewors Curtain: Identity and white English South Africans, and I’d make a similar response, mutatis mutandis, to your post.

  2. Spicegirl Says:

    On a lighter note – not even braai is our onw heritage – it is something all South Africans do (african or afrikaner) That is why we celebrate Heritage Day with a braai – the one thing that feels like my own but also links me to the rest here.Braai Spice


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