Modern Day Afrikaans Culture in South Africa

What is an Afrikaner? 

The founder of the jean-pant? A khaki-clad farm boy whose staple diet consists of boerewors and biltong? A man who regards rugby as a religion and not just merely a Saturday afternoon distraction? A woman who tends to over-accentuate her ‘r’s when speaking English? A girl who swoons over the ‘deep, thoughtful’ lyrics of Kurt Darren’s new hit?  

Stereotypes! Sure. But then, still, the question remains. What is an Afrikaner, more specifically, what is a modern day Afrikaner? The tragic years of Apartheid undeniably cast a dark shadow over the Afrikaans culture, greatly marring notions of the population’s self-identity, both then and in decades that followed.

Yet, since the initiation of a democratic South Africa in 1994, Afrikaners and South Africa as a whole have come a long way in attempting to reconcile the past. Now, nearly twenty years later, it seems that there has been a resurgence of the Afrikaans culture. The youth are once more accepting and rejoicing in their identity, adamant about putting past skeletons to rest for once and for all. Most notably, in an effort to embrace this renewed pride, Afrikaners have been using art, music and film, to name just a few, as platforms for self-expression.

In line with this idea, we decided to ask Roelof van Wyk, photographer and creator of the “Young Afrikaner”, about his journey delving into the identity of a modern day Afrikaner. His project aimed to re-educate individuals about the Afrikaans culture, and to encourage questions about the existence of a population of progressive, young, alternative Afrikaners. 

CapeTownMagazine: You have been involved with the creative industry (photography, advertising) for years now. In your view, why do you think there has been such a dramatic movement to embrace the Afrikaans culture in recent years, especially where music, art and other creative industries are concerned?

Roelof: I believe there are two main reasons. One: there has been a cultural flowering among Afrikaans speakers who have accepted their identity and who are expressing themselves in the language. Two: these expressions are commercially viable, especially in the arena of music!

CapeTownmagazine: Do you think that the "new generation" of Afrikaners have challenged the stereotypes and stigmas that are usually connected to the Afrikaans culture?

Roelof: Yes. They are redefining themselves in an African context, and that often means challenging the stereotypes of sexuality, family, authority and religion too.

CapeTownMagazine: How would you go about describing a modern Afrikaner?

Roelof: A modern Afrikaner is someone who is in touch with the present place and time; who is engaged with living in Africa, and open to experiencing other cultures without fear of losing their own.

CapeTownMagazine:You have recently completed a published series of portraits of urbanised, creative Afrikaners. What has been the motivation behind this project?

Roelof: It’s a way to visualise and make tangible a shift in Afrikaner thinking, and it’s a method to call those to action who call themselves Afrikaners.

CapeTownMagazine: How did you go about choosing your subjects? Did they all conform to a certain set of characteristics?

Roelof: They are all Afrikaners in some way, whether it is through their language, through genetics or through history.

CapeTownMagazine: What has the public’s reaction been towards your work?

Roelof: The responses to date has been very positive, as well as being broadly read and published. 

CapeTownMagazine: Has the project raised any debates/conflicts?

Roelof: Yes. It has caused people to once more question, ‘What is an Afrikaner’? Is a coloured person also an Afrikaner? Where does Afrikaner start and where does it stop?
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By Adri de Kock

For insight into another South African cultural element, read our guide to Cape Town Slang and local lingo.

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