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versão On-line ISSN 0023-270X

Koers (Online) vol.76 no.4 Pretoria  2011


The radicalisation of a Swedish ecclesiastical critic of apartheid - Gunnar Helander


Die radikalisering van 'n Sweedse kerklike kritikus van apartheid - Gunnar Helander



Frederick Hale

School of Ecclesiastical Sciences, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom. also: Beijing International Studies, University Beijing. E-mail:




From the 1950s through the 1980s, both the government of Sweden and various non-governmental agencies in that country stood at the forefront of the international campaign against apartheid. To a considerable extent, representatives of the Church of Sweden Mission were involved in this struggle. Among them was Gunnar Helander (1915-2006), a missionary in Natal and on the Witwatersrand from 1938 until 1956. After he returned permanently to Sweden, his role escalated and became known internationally, especially due to his prominence in the leadership of the International Defence and Aid Fund. Between 1949 and 1986 Helander wrote seven novels set in South Africa. In these works one can trace the unfolding of his position on apartheid, which evolved from mild criticism of race relations in South Africa to advocacy of international subversion of the P.W. Botha regime.

Key concepts: apartheid, Church of Sweden Mission, Helander, Gunnar, International Defence and Aid Fund, racial stereotypes


Vanaf die vyftiger- tot die tagtigerjare van die vorige eeu het die Sweedse regering, asook talle nie-regeringsorganisasies in hierdie land, aan die voorpunt gestaan van die internasionale stryd teen apartheid. Verskillende verteenwoordigers van die Church of Sweden Mission was in 'n groot mate aktief in hierdie stryd betrokke. Onder hulle was Gunnar Helander (1915-2006) wat as 'n sendeling tussen 1938 en 1956 in Natal en aan die Witwatersrand gewerk het. Na sy permanente terugkeer na Swede in 1956 het die rol wat hy gespeel het egter vergroot en hy het ook internasionaal bekend geword, veral vanweë sy betrokkenheid in die leierskap van die International Defence and Aid Fund. Tussen 1949 en 1986 het Helander ook sewe romans geskryf wat in Suid-Afrika afspeel. In hierdie werke kan 'n mens die ontwikkeling van sy denke oor apartheid volg, wat gegroei het van aanvanklike matige kritiek op rasseverhoudings in Suid-Afrika tot die bepleiting vir internasionale omverwerping van die P. W. Botha-regering.

Kernbegrippe: apartheid, Church of Sweden Sendinggenootskap, Helander, Gunnar, International Defence and Aid Fund, rassestereotipes



Full text available only in PDF format.



List of references

CHURCH OF SWEDEN MISSION. 1937. Archives, A 2:69, Bilagor till Svenska Kyrkans Missionsstyrelses Protokoll 1937, file no. 286, "Ansöken från Gunnar Helander", Gunnar Helander, "Levnadsförteckning för Teol. Kand. Gunnar Helander", Lund, 5 Dec. 1937.         [ Links ]


HALE, F. 1994. Urban apartheid and racial stereotypes in Gunnar Helander's Storstadsneger. Scandinavian studies, 66(1):68-91        [ Links ]

HALE, F. 1996a. Ethnic characterisation, missiological issues, and the evolution of social ethics in the South African novels of Gunnar Helander. Durban: University of Natal. (Ph.D. thesis.         [ Links ])

HALE, F. 1996b. In defence of polygamy: the case of Gunnar Helander. South African journal of cultural history, 20(2):201 -219.         [ Links ]

HALE, F. 1996c. The development of social ethical consciousness in the Swedish Lutheran Mission on the Witwatersrand. Studia historiae ecclesiasticae, 22(2):48-67.         [ Links ]

HALE, F. 2001. The Church of Sweden Mission and apartheid: 1948-1960. Missionalia, 29(1):21-42.         [ Links ]

HALE, F. 2008. Adapting to apartheid: the Church of Sweden Mission on the Witwatersrand in the 1950s. Journal of church and state, 50(3):451-474.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1942. Correspondence in Emtulwa to unspecified recipient, 29 Dec. 1942. Svenska Kyrkans Missionstidning, 68(9):189-190, 3 May 1943.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1948. Missionen som folkförsonare i Sydafrika". Den evangeliska missionen, 50(8-9):113-118.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1949. Zulu möter vit man. Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1951. Endast för vita. Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1952. Svart symfoni. Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1955a. Skisser vid vulkanen. Stockholm: Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1955b. Storstadsneger. Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1956. Black rhapsody. New York: Harper.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1957a. Big city Zulu. Rock Island: Augustana Press.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1957b. Författare i fängelse. Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning: 3, 27 Sept.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1957c. Rasförföljelsen allt värre i Sydafrika. Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning, 3, 23 Dec.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1957d. Rasförtryckets bakgrund. Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning: 3, 31 May.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1958. Must we introduce monogamy? Pietermaritzburg: Shuter & Shooter.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1959. Det nya kom från negern. Stockholm: Svenska Kyrkans Diakonistyrelses Bokförlag.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1980. Den vite mannens stövel. Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1986. Uppdrag Zulu. Örebro: Libris.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1990. Interview with Gunnar Helander, Uppsala, 29 Nov. 1990.         [ Links ]

HELANDER, G. 1993. Gunnar Helander correspondence to Frederick Hale, Uddevalla, 28 Jul. 1993. (Frederick Hale private archives.         [ Links ])

LARSSON, P. 2006. Gunnar Helander. Svenska Dagbladet: 39, 2 Apr.         [ Links ]

NÜRNBERGER, K. & TOOKE, J., eds. 1988. The cost of reconciliation in South Africa. Cape Town: Methodist Publishing House.         [ Links ]

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