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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


ROSSOUW, Jannie. The Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument in Paarl: 80 years of controversy. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.3, pp.588-605. ISSN 2224-7912.

This paper considers the controversies about the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl that arose during the period of 80 years since the first call for its erection. The research shows that the Monument was contentious not only in the time leading up to its construction, but at the time of its inauguration as well, a state of affairs that remains to this day, 80 years later. Thefirst initiative to erect a language monument in Paarl dates back 80 years, to 14 August 1942, on the occasion of a commemoration of the founding of the Fellowship of True Afrikaners (Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners, or GRA) on 14 August 1875. On that occasion, an appeal was made for the erection of an Afrikaans language monument in Paarl. This culminated in the establishment of the Afrikaans language monument committee (ATMK, or Afrikaanse Taalmonumentkomitee), also in 1942. Although the Monument on Paarl Mountain is a well-known structure, it is not generally known that the Monument functions in conjunction with the Afrikaans Language Museum, also in Paarl. Since the public focus is not on the Museum, it has been spared much of the controversy surrounding the Monument. The Museum, situated in the centre of Paarl, was inaugurated on 14 August 1975, commemorating the founding of the GRA in the same building a century earlier. The Monument and Museum form part of the same entity: the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en -monument (ATM) in Afrikaans (in English the Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument). The use of the name of the town where the Afrikaans Language Monument is situated in the title of this paper is deliberate, as it is necessary to distinguish the Monument concerned from other Afrikaans language monuments. More than 20 other structures on public record commemorate the Afrikaans language in South Africa, although they are not on the scale of the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl. Before, during and since the construction of the Monument, the most important controversies concerned matters such as its location, function and symbolism. A political controversy developed in the period before its inauguration on 10 October 1975. These historic controversies were called to mind by new political controversies about the Monument's name and its operational structure. Three different schools of thought about the location of the Monument prevailed at the time, one of which was closely associated with its function. The first group lobbied for a monument located in the centre of Paarl. Another lobby group (driven by one person) favoured the establishment, at Kleinbosch near Paarl, of a "living" monument aimed at Afrikaans linguistics research rather than a physical or symbolic monument. The third group, which had its way, preferred the erection of the monument on the foothills of Paarl Mountain. Debates about the function of the Monument were linked to the debate about its location. The basis of the debate was the choice between a symbolic structure and a functional Afrikaans research centre. The final outcome was that the Monument was to be a symbolic structure, while the Museum functions as an Afrikaans research centre. Although the general symbolism embodied in the Monument reflects the origin and growth of Afrikaans as a language, the inclusion of the influence of indigenous languages on the development of Afrikaans in the design evoked limited but strong opposition. This criticism was misplaced, as the influence of indigenous languages on Afrikaans is clear from words such as dagga, dagha, boegoe, kwagga, aikona, donga, tambotie, konka, kierie, makietie, indaba, pasella, kaia, lobola, njala, tokkelossie, mamparra and tollie. Political issues from the time of the inauguration of the Monument in 1975 are still present today. In 1975, South Africa had an apartheid government, and many critics maintained that the government "hijacked" the Monument as a symbol of Afrikaner-Nationalism. Another political factor at the time was the initial intention to exclude certain racial and language groups from the inauguration ceremony. This political dilemma was defused by inviting to the inauguration people from race and language groups other than white Afrikaans speakers. The Monument still has to deal with controversial political issues. In March 2022, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture questioned the use of Afrikaans in the name of the Monument, suggesting that it should be changed to be more "inclusive". Following widespread public opposition to this suggestion, the Minister denied that he ever raised the matter. The response of the Minister is in itself problematic. The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture embarked on an initiative to merge museums and monuments into "flagship institutions". Once this plan is implemented, the ATM will be merged with the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), the South African Library for the Blind (SALB) and the Amazwi South African Museum of Literature. The name of this flagship institution is still to be determined, but such a merger will give the Minister an opportunity to bring about the name change of the Afrikaans Language Monument through a back door, for example by naming the Monument after the flagship institution. An alternative would be to move control of the ATM away from the central government, although the central government would have to agree to any such step. There is more than one option for a new control structure, but, at the same time, there are serious financial implications, because currently the ATM receives financial support from the central government. The Afrikaans Language Monument has proved to be controversial for more than 80 years. Its name is now the biggest issue that makes previous controversies seem like light skirmishes only.

Palavras-chave : Afrikaans; Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument; criticism of the Afrikaans Language Monument; Paarl; flagship institutions; language monuments; language museum; merger; name change; political pressure; South African heritage.

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