Address to the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) – 1999/08/27

27 August 1999, Buffelspoort 

Chairman of the ATKV, Mr.Bertie Heckroodt
Managing Director of the ATKV, Dr. Fritz Kok
Members of the ATKV Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen:

Ek wil u graag bedank vir die gellentheid om hier te wees en om u as lede van die Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging toe te spreek.

I am informed that this organisation has played a crucial role since 1930 in protecting and promoting the Afrikaans language and culture and that it has a rich history of being involved in general upliftment efforts so as to see to the interests of and to raise the social conditions of its impoverished members.

I do not know of may other cultural organisations in South Africa today that have been able to sustain themselves and grow even bigger in the same way as your organisation.

Today we are faced with a unique opportunity to address the damage done to all our languages and cultures in the past years. The fact that we have 11 official languages and have even recognised the need to encourage others, notably the Khoi, Nama and San languages, through the Pan South African Language Board, means that we are serious about taking practical measures to advance the use of all our languages.

Structures like the National Arts Council, the envisaged National Heritage Council and provincial arts and culture councils will ensure that the development of arts and culture occurs at all levels.

We are also moving forward in the establishment of the Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Language, Cultural and Religious Rights as enshrined in our constitution.

For the first time, the speakers of all our languages can be free to express themselves in the languages of their choice. For the first time, an Afrikaans speaker can speak in a language which is not the language of domination and a Tsonga speaker can speak in a language which is not the language of the dominated. Indeed, in South Africa today, we are actively doing all we can to promote the free and creative expression of all our languages and cultures.

In the smallest village of our country and in the biggest cities, our people can reflect on the reality of their lives in their mother tongues and engage in an authentic introspection of what must still be done in terms of transformation. It is true that the immediate social situation may determine our lives, but it is also true that in order to change this situation for the better, the people in these immediate communities must be confident about addressing their problems in the languages of their choice and celebrating their identities through the cultural expressions they call their own.

For the first time, I believe that all of you in the ATKV, together with similar structures, can ensure that Afrikaans culture should take its rightful place as part and parcel of South African culture.

Tesame moet ons verseker deur die Afrikaanse taal, soos met al ons ander Suid Afrikaanse tale, die droom verwesenlik van ‘n verenigde Suid Afrikaanse nasie.

(Together, we must ensure that, through the Afrikaans language, as through all our other South African languages, we can and must begin to articulate the dream of a common South African nation.)

For the building blocks of this nation are all our languages working together, our unique idiomatic expressions that reveal the inner meanings of our experiences. These are the foundations on which our common dream of nationhood should be built.

The construction of this reality, so that it ceases to be a dream, so that it takes a concrete shape, depends first and foremost on our recognition of the equal importance of our languages and heritage’s.

The nurturing of this reality depends on our willingness to learn the languages of others, so that we in practice accord all our languages the same respect.

In sharing one’s language with another, one does not lose possession of one’s words, but agrees to share these words so as to enrich the lives of others.

For it is when the borderline between one language and another is erased, when the social barriers between the speaker of one language and another are broken, that a bridge is built, connecting what were previously two separate sites to one big space for human interaction, and, out of this, a new world emerges and a new nation is born.

In this way, from this one bridge, we move together forward as one common South African people towards cultural dialogue and coalescence.

I believe therefore, it is your task as creative participants to shape our South African reality to ensure that we arrive at this common dream and actively seek to build this common nation.

As creative participants who are aware of the importance of language and culture, it is your task to reawaken all our people’s national pride in their languages and themselves, and, in this way, nurturing a new national identity.

The present age in the growth of our new nation demands that each and every man and woman become a fire towards our complete freedom from the despotism and divisions of the past.

Our full comprehension of our power as one people able to compete on an equal footing with the rest of the world is dependent on our consciousness of who we are as a people and a nation. This is the consciousness derived not only from the present moment in our history, but emerging out of the totality of the South African experience, out of the myriad of diverse heritage’s and cultures.

As creative participants, your task should also be to see how your cultural values contribute to the values of our nation, so that, in the process of nation-building, we arrive at a set of national values owned by all.

I believe that your role must also be as agents of change and your task must be to identify the practical ways in which you can transform our society, in which you, who were once privileged, can now uplift others, so that we can collectively reach even higher levels of development that every before.

U rol moet nie net gestel wees daarop om die Afrikaanse taal en kultuur aan te moedig nie, maar ook om maniere te vind om al die ander tale en kulture van ons land gesamentelik te ondersteun.

(Your role should not simply entail how to promote the Afrikaans language and culture, but to come up with ways in which we can all embrace all the languages and cultures of this land.)

The time must come when the members of the ATKV must themselves learn other African languages that are spoken in the regions in which they live.

The time must come when the members of the ATKV must allow their premises and spaces to be used for the promotion of all South African cultures.

In our country today, it is clear that matters of culture and language are also related to economic development, and that the poorest of our country are forced to live from hand to mouth and are preoccupied with the time-consuming tasks of collecting firewood and water, rather than spending time on developing themselves and nurturing our national culture.

In the ATKV, with your vast experiences and skills in this regard, you must together with government and local communities, practically assist in local economic development, not only with Afrikaans-speaking communities, but with all who are impoverished and in need.

In so doing, I believe you will arrive at a point where everyone will also wish to communicate with you in your language, for the sharing of resources and economic wealth is the pre-requisite for cultural understanding and mutual trust.

The journey to our complete reconciliation as a South African people is one that depends on our national empathy for those less privileged than ourselves and the ongoing sharing of skills that will develop our human resource base. Our cultures and our languages are what should unite us as we strive towards humane and sustained development, as we embark on a path that ensures that all South Africans live their lives to the full.

We have come a long way from the division of the past and are evolving a truly South African culture. We as South Africans should do all that is necessary to create a better country and build a better world.

Ek dank u.

(I thank you)


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