Sunday, May 09, 2004

My post last week about the South African literary canon caused a minor controversy in the comments section. This centred around my claim that Afrikaners have failed to produce a literature to match those of their counterparts who write in English.

I stand by the claim and would add that anybody who seriously doubts it would do well to remember that much of the Afrikaans intellectual establishment was intimately, and uncomfortably, associated with the ruling social and political elite. Indeed the interwar period is most notable for the push to get Afrikaans recognised and established as a language in its own right. One of the primary vehicles for the achievement of this goal was the secretive Broederbond organisation, a body who numbered most of the Afrikaans world's leading intellectuals and artists amongst its members. Even after the war it was rare for Afrikaans artists to openly criticise the establishment and those that did often chose to write in English instead or emerged comparatively recently. I should also point out that the Apartheid state was remarkably efficient at preventing the establishment of an open and non-political space in which serious art could develop. The banning of books, music and film and the funding of state sanctioned art all played a role in shaping and directing the development of Afrikaans art and writing. Is it any wonder, for instance, that the only discernable architectural vernacular to emerge was a sort of modernist apartheid brutalism. Think of all those imposing (and bland) N G Kerk buildings or the ultimate in apartheid art, the Voortrekker monument (and yes I know it was designed before 1948).

There is more to be said on this issue and for that point you to Abiola Lapite.


Post a Comment

<< Home