Personal recollections of the end of apartheid in South Africa


Colour, confusion and concessions (654:27.b.95.16)

As a South African immigrant from China at a young age, I do not recall the huge political impact on my life during the negotiations to end apartheid between 1990 and 1993. Many people in South Africa did not know what was happening in their own backyard and did not even know there was a man called Nelson Mandela fighting for freedom, because the news and politics were suppressed by the government. But the vague memories of some daily lives stay with me no matter how far I have come away from the apartheid time in South Africa. I remember the excitement among many of the South Africans and probably the rest of the world, but also some concerns among some of the Afrikaners. Afrikaner Afrikaan : anekdotes en analise by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert (2001.8.9441) could be a good read in order to understand the worries and uncertainties among the Afrikaners at the time. On April 26-29 1994 South Africa held two days of peaceful elections for the first time in history that allowed an all-race vote. There are more than a thousand books at the UL about 1994 in South Africa in different languages, such as Die Bedeutung der Presse im Transitionsprozess Südafrikas by Petra Märlender (C200.d.2422), and L’Afrique du Sud dix ans après : transition accomplie? (654:36.c.200.27).

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Tracking down items in Afrikaans

The languages handled by European Collections and Cataloguing fall into three categories – languages taught in the University and very actively collected, languages formerly taught, in which we sometimes have a considerable number of items but in which few new imprints are acquired (a post on our Icelandic holdings has been written), and items in languages which have never been taught and studied, where virtually all additions are as a result of donation. Afrikaans material is a good example. Afrikaans is a West Germanic language that is widely spoken in South Africa, Namibia and to a lesser extent in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Most of the Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin but it adopted words from Portuguese, the Bantu languages, Malay and the Khoisan languages too. The First Afrikaans Language Movement, established in 1875, made a concerted attempt to establish Afrikaans as a separate language from Dutch. The first Afrikaans newspaper was started in 1876, and publishing houses specialising in Afrikaans language material began publication in 1914 and 1915. But even the Afrikaner (Boer) Republics at the time of the South African War in 1899-1902 used Dutch in their publications and official documents.

Given that publications in Afrikaans are of relatively recent date, and have never been actively collected, it is slightly surprising to realise that some 1,500 titles in Afrikaans are scattered through the Library’s collections. Approximately 10 to 15 titles are added each year. Afrikaans was never thought important enough to merit a separate number in our classification scheme for language and literature. Literary texts in and about Afrikaans are clustered with Dutch literature in class 751.

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