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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


ROSSOUW, Jannie. The last geographically inclusive cultural celebration of Afrikaans: The torch run of the Language Year 1975. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2023, vol.63, n.2, pp.307-326. ISSN 2224-7912.

This paper views the torch run (fakkelloop) in 1975 that ended with the inauguration of the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl on 10 October 1975. While the Afrikaans Language Monument and the Afrikaans Language Museum receive considerable attention in the literature, scant information about the torch run is recorded in a structured manner, even though it was of wide cultural and geographical significance. The torch run was organised as part of the Afrikaans language festivities of 1975, the year having been declared Language Year (Taaljaar) by the South African government. The Language Year commemorated, inter alia, the founding a century earlier, on 14 August 1875, of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (GRA, or Fellowship for True Afrikaners) in Paarl, the elevation of Afrikaans to the status of official language 50 years later in 1925, and the opening of the museum and inauguration of the Monument in Paarl in 1975. The torch run comprised people carrying torches, in commemoration of the Language Year, over long distances in South Africa and the then South-West Africa (today Namibia) and Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe). Eight language torches were lit at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria on 14 August 1975. Each torch was carried on a different route through South Africa, South-West Africa and Rhodesia. The torches arrived at the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl on 10 October 1975 for the opening ceremony of the Monument on that day. While the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl is well-known, very little is known about other structures celebrating the Afrikaans language all over South Africa (and one in Namibia). These commemorative structures take the form of monuments, memorial plaques and even a primary school, but they (other than the primary school, which obviously is not in the form of a monument) are not comparable in scale with the Monument in Paarl. The oldest language monument in South Africa is in Burgersdorp and was erected in 1893 in commemoration of the acceptance of the Dutch language as a parliamentary language in the former Cape Colony. Two Afrikaans language monuments (in Kroonstad and Welkom) were erected as part of the celebrations in 1959 known as Die Wonder van Afrikaans (The Wonder of Afrikaans). Taaljaar Primary School (Laerskool Taaljaar) in Witbank (today eMalahleni) was opened in that year as well. The aim of Die Wonder van Afrikaans was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (SA Academy for Science and Arts), founded in 1909, and the 30th anniversary of the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings (FAK, or Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Societies), founded in 1929. As part of the Taaljaar 1975, a number of structures commemorating the Afrikaans language were erected throughout South Africa. The unveilings took place at language and cultural festivals when a Taaljaar torch was carried through the cities and towns concerned. These commemorative structures are scattered randomly throughout the country and take the form of monuments and memorial plaques. One monument celebrating Afrikaans was unveiled in 2014 in Namibia as well. There are records of commemorative structures in the form of plaques or monuments erected during the Taaljaar in Aberdeen, Belfast, Burgersfort, Delareyville, East London, Ermelo, Johannesburg, Lichtenburg, Makhado (Louis Trichardt), Montagu, Ohrigstad, Petrus Steyn, Reddersburg, Reitz, Riebeek-Kasteel, Springbok, Trompsburg, Touws River, Ventersdorp and Worcester. Some records are incomplete, but they do suggest that such structures may have been erected (or may have existed) in Ladismith (Western Cape), Meyerton, Milnerton, and Trompsburg. Many years after the Taaljaar, on 8 November 2014, an Afrikaans language monument was erected in Windhoek in Namibia. The FAK was instrumental in erecting this monument. The torch run was the last geographically comprehensive cultural commemoration of Afrikaans. In scope it is comparable with national festivals such as the 1938 Symbolic Great Trek, the laying of the cornerstone of the Voortrekker Monument (also in 1938) and the inauguration of the Voortrekker Monument in 1949. The history of the torches and the torch run is the focus of this research paper. The torch run is inextricably linked to the language memorials unveiled during the Taaljaar and the cultural language festivals arranged in many cities and towns. This was the last time that Afrikaans was celebrated on a national scale. The torch run itself was a major success, but after 1975 the domestic environment in the country changed considerably. The Soweto uprising of 1976 against the compulsory use of Afrikaans in schools in black communities drastically changed sentiments towards the language. Afrikaans became politicised, and, in addition, the introduction of television in South Africa in 1976 changed the appetite of Afrikaans speakers for language and cultural activities.

Palavras-chave : Afrikaans; Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument; language memorials; language monument for the Dutch language; language monuments; language museum; Language Year; Namibia; Rhodesia; South West-Africa; torch run; Zimbabwe.

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