Language, the code behind which we rally to forge out an identity. Language, the code, against which we rally,its derision of that identity. No more so than in the multi-cultural, multilingual hodgepodge that South Africa is language a more a sensitive issue. June 16th, a national holiday in South Africa, Youth Day. We commemorate the heroism of the Soweto youth in 1976, who protested against the compulsion of an Afrikaans-medium curriculum. To a generation not born at the time, not quite fully understanding the impact of what has become an Apocalypse of history, we are haunted by the spectre of Hecter Peterson and indeed, others like him.
I found myself in the curious position of having to tutor Afrikaans today, Youth day, to the daughter of Paskistani immigrants. The irony has afforded a somewhat less affable understanding of the present. June 16, 2008, South Africa is now the unwitting home of an ever-growing immigrant population, a population who we have denied the very freedoms Hecter Peterson died for.
In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said writes,
Appeals to the past are among the commonest of strategies in interpretations of the present. What animates such appeals is not only disagreement about what happened in the past and whether the past really is past, over and concluded, or whether it continues, albeit in different forms, perhaps. This problem animates all sorts of discussions-about influence, about blame and judgement, about present actualities and future priorities.
(Said, 1994: 1)
Ek het ‘n huisie by die see
Ek het ‘n huisie by die see. Dis nag.
Ek hoor aaneen, aaneen die golwe slaan
teenaan die rots waarop my huisie staan
met al die oseaan se woeste krag.
Ek hoor die winde huil-‘n kreun, ‘n klag,
soos van verlore siele in hul nood
al dwalend, klagend, wat in graf en dood
geen rus kan vind nie, maar nog soek en smag.
My vuurtjie brand, my kersie gee sy lig.
Ek hoor dan meer hoe loei die storm daar buite,
ek hoor hoe ruk die winde aan my ruite.
Hier binne is dit veilig, warm en dig.
Kom nag, kom weer en wind, kom oseaan–
Dit is ‘n rots waarop my huisie staan.