Unlaagering Afrikaans: UP colloquium discusses evolving place of Afrikaans literature

Posted on November 13, 2018

The diverging perspectives of speakers at a recent University of Pretoria colloquium titled “Unlaagering Afrikaans” made for a productive, stimulating discussion on the place of Afrikaans literature and its teaching in South Africa. “Literature, including Afrikaans literature, does not belong only to university departments, but to society as a whole,” said Dr Bibi Burger of UP’s Department of Afrikaans, which hosted the seminar.

It focused on the study and teaching of Afrikaans literature, and its relationship with literature in other languages and fields of study. “The colloquium aimed to create a productive platform for dialogue on the way Afrikaans is currently taught at tertiary level, and how this can be reconceptualised in even more productive, creative and inclusive ways,” explained event co-organiser Wemar Strydom of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at North-West University. Subjects discussed included the challenges that high school teachers of Afrikaans literature face, the sometimes fraught relationship between Afrikaans variants, and the decisions lecturers have to make when prescribing specific texts and deciding how to teach them.   

Various prominent scholars from the public, literary and academic spheres were in attendance, including sociologist, poet, musician and visual artist Andries Bezuidenhout; award-winning Dutch poet Alfred Schaffer, a columnist, reviewer and lecturer in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Afrikaans and Dutch; Louise Viljoen, lecturer, reviewer and author of a biography on Ingrid Jonker; and LitNet columnist and crime writer Bettina Wyngaard, who created the first black lesbian detective in Afrikaans crime fiction.

Strydom believes the colloquium is part of a timely debate: “In increasingly interrelated times, and with a changing classroom demography, Afrikaans departments may benefit from taking stock, resituating our politics of pedagogy, and looking across disciplines to pedagogical approaches employed and embraced in other fields, such as sociology. How, for example, has the productive tension between ‘Afrikaans’ and ‘South African’ changed since 1994?”

Questions such as these formed part of the lively discussions, as the way in which Afrikaans literature is taught at tertiary level impacts on students, the careers they pursue, the publication industry, the media, and Afrikaans-speakers’ ideas about citizenship itself.

Dr Bibi Burger wrote about the project for LitNet: https://www.litnet.co.za/ontlaering-n-herverbeel-van-die-pedagogiek-van-afrikaanse-letterkunde/

- Author Bibi Burger

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