the creation of the Afrikaner myth
July 20, 2010
Going on to three years ago I wrote a post titles “my Afrikaner myth of meaning“. It was births from an experience in explaining the wall images from the Voortrekker monument to a visiting lecturer. This paragraph says something of what happened:
But something happened while I was explaining this to this international theologian. I got to see the story anew. Everything I ever learned about myth suddenly seemed to fit my own history, even though it only happened 150 years ago. This was the Afrikaner myth of origin. This was how we became the Afrikaner volk, how we differentiated ourselves from the Netherlands, also from France, Germany, and especially from Britian. It was by moving.
In the above mentioned post I tried to find positive implications from the Afrikaner myth which I could use in my own self-understanding. In the months and years after this post, my talk about the Afrikaner myth and the vow focused more on how the vow was part of the myth which explained why Apartheid was to be accepted, since God chose the white people over-and-above the black people of South Africa. I became less positive about this Afrikaner myth of meaning. Although I have continued my talk of being Afrikaner, maybe bet summarized in a recent post titled “I’ll just be that other white African, an Afrikaner“.
My reason for writing this post, however, is simply to point you to words by Christi van der Westhuizen concerning Afrikaner Mythology. In White Power she writes:
Malan, the first NP leader to become prime minister under apartheid, leaned strongly on his background as a dominee (clergyman) to alchemise Afrikaner nationalism into a civil religion. This was encapsulated in his slogan ‘Believe in your God, Believe in your Country, Believe in Yourself’, compelling enough for Afrikaner nationalists for it to remain the NP’s motto until the 1960s. Malan was a consummate ideologue who conjured up heady visions of the future in his rhetorical mix of religion, history and nationalism. Afrikaner nationalist mythology reinterpreted the motley groups of families that had left the Cape colony as a coherent nationalist action, the Great Trek, by ethnically similar people. Figures such as Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius and Sarel Cilliers were exhumed from the depths of history and paraded as leaders inspired by Afrikaner nationalism. To them, the Great Trek was more than a conquest of territory, proselytised Malan – it was ‘an act of faith, and the acceptance of a God-given task’. The Voortrekker victory over Zulu forces at the Battle of Blood River was immortalised in the Day of the Vow on 16 December, when Afrikaners were called upon to remember their promise to God to remain Afrikaner nationalists. The Afrikaner were ‘a volk with a calling … behind our South African volk existence and history sits a purpose. We as volk should be aware of it, and live it to the best of our ability.