A More Complex View Of Afrikaans
The Christian Science Monitor Weekly|April 16, 2018

Supporters argue the language was born of a blend of cultures

Ryan Lenora Brown

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – When a wave of student protests began crashing over South Africa’s universities in mid-2015, it didn’t take long to reach the doors of Stellenbosch University. A stately campus nestled in the mountains near Cape Town, with a student body that was 60 percent white in a country where 9 in 10 people are not, “Stellies” was an obvious target for students angry with the educational status quo.

And its protesters had one grievance in particular: language.

“Being taught in Afrikaans, going to class and not understanding – these have all been part of how Stellenbosch has excluded me as a black student,” a Ph.D. student named Mwabisa Makaluza explained to a South African paper at the time, referring to the local language that was heavily used by the apartheid government.

The implication was clear: Afrikaans was for white people. But Willa Boezak didn’t see it that way. It’s crazy what apartheid did to us, Dr. Boezak, a minister and activist for South Africa’s Khoikhoi indigenous community, says he remembers thinking. It made us believe that white people invented Afrikaans and that it’s their language. The Dutch-based creole, he knew, wasn’t simply made up by white people. It emerged in the collision between Europeans, slaves, and indigenous people in Southern Africa beginning in the 17th century.

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