Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
RABE, Lizette. Freedom of (Afrikaans) speech: Rich, richer, Rykie. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2009, vol.49, n.1, pp.131-141. ISSN 2224-7912.
The Afrikaans journalist Rykie van Reenen (1923-2003) contributed in many respects to the development of Afrikaans journalism. It can, for instance, also be said that she "liberated" the Afrikaans language from a very formalised style. This article focuses on this aspect of Van Reenen's contribution to Afrikaans journalism and the Afrikaans language. As a first exploration of this "freethinker" in Afrikaans media the article attempts to describe her "free" interaction with this young language that was first recognised as official language in 1925, only two decades before Van Reenen was appointed as the second professional Afrikaans journalist on the Cape daily Die Burger in 1945. Her "infallible style", according to her female colleague and contemporary and later editor of Die Burger and chair of Naspers, Piet Cillié, can be regarded as a liberation of the Afrikaans language. Van Reenen has been described as "undoubtedly the most outstanding Afrikaans journalist of the [twentieth] century" by historian Hermann Giliomee in his seminal book The Afrikaners, although he qualified this in the later (translated and re-edited) Afrikaans edition with a more sober "probably". Van Reenen's characteristic style was possibly the sum-total of a unique linguistic talent coupled with the application and discipline of writing which was polished - burnished - on a daily basis. This descriptive article focuses briefly on the background to the development of the Afrikaans language from the diverse Afrikaans language communities that settled at the Cape during the seventeenth century, leading to a "formalised" language in the first decades of the twentieth century. What follows next is the development of Van Reenen as young journalist, and especially the influence that the Afrikaans author MER (Miem Rothmann) had on her. Van Reenen was one of MER's so-called "Cape children" ("Kaapse kinders"), and in many respects MER was her mentor. An appreciation by Van Reenen's contemporaries with regard to her unique style and contribution to the "liberation" of Afrikaans and the language's stylised and formal use during the middle of the previous century follows. Van Reenen's influence on a new generation of Afrikaans, especially female, journalists, is also briefly referred to. The article concludes with a few examples from the oeuvre of the "unparalleled stylist" that has led to the expression "ryk, ryker, Rykie" (as degree of comparison: rich, richer, Rykie) among her peers.
Keywords : Afrikaans; Afrikaans journalism; development of Afrikaans journalism; influence; "Kaapse kinders"; MER; style; Van Reenen.