The ingredients which I regard as being the most crucial to the existence of any ethnic group would probably be lineage, history, geography, beliefs, language, sense of humor, customs, and folklore. Folklore, however, is one of the aspects most neglected by people in these modern times, and this is certainly true of the Afrikaners. Folklore involves those things we love to hear, sing, say, and do with our God-given senses and talents when we are at home with our own people. It is those things in which we find commonality, truly giving us the joyous feeling of being at home among our own people.
Language is, of course, both a carrier of folklore as well as a cardinal element of nationhood in itself, without which it cannot exist. In this article, I won’t be discussing in detail the element of Afrikaans, my own people’s language, but I will tell you that with the post-1994 Afrikaner diaspora, one million Afrikaners left the country.1 Many of them, when they come to visit, often tell of the wonderful delight they experience when they bump into fellow Afrikaners on foreign soil, identifying them by their speaking Afrikaans, or by their Afrikaner accent. Language is indeed one of the most beautiful assets of any nation and also (in many cases) one of its most distinctive characteristics. In the Afrikaners’ case, it certainly is one of the few things we graciously can cling to in a country where our culture and identity are steadily being marginalized.
There are many beautiful folk-tales from our Boer history which can and should inspire young Afrikaner-Boer children with pride. They instill a love of their culture and heritage within them, despite the harmful tendencies of the liberal propaganda machines. Afrikaners are in a unique position of having both European and African heritage, which is especially significant when it comes to folklore. Our rich culture of tales from both our more ancient European ancestors and our more recent Boer ancestors can contribute greatly to our children’s education. Some of our most famous tales are that of Racheltjie de Beer, a twelve-year-old Boer girl during the Great Trek, who was part of a group of Voortrekkers journeying from the Orange Free State to the southern Transvaal in 1843. When the Trekkers realized that Frikkie, a calf much beloved by the children, went missing, they formed a search party. However, Rachel and her younger brother went missing from the search party and found shelter in an anthill hollowed out by an aardvark. She took off her clothes and put it on her brother to keep him warm. Consequently, when they were found the following day, Rachel had frozen to death, but saved her brother’s life in the process.2 A second famous story is that of Wolraad Woltemade, a man who lived at the Cape of Good Hope in the 18th century. On June 1, 1773, he rescued fourteen people from a sinking Dutch East India Company ship.. Woltemade was working for the Dutch East India Company at the time, as the head of the zoo at the Cape. When Woltemade, at sixty-five years of age, approached the beach on his horse, he saw what was happening. He rode into the sea up to the wreckage with his horse seven times, and each time the horse swam out with two sailors holding on to her saddle. The eighth time Woltemade’s horse swam to the ship, the sailors realized that this was probably his last trip. Six jumped onto the horse, but the horse with the six sailors and Woltemade drowned.3 Another story is that of the Boer war hero, Jopie Fourie. During the Rebellion of 1914 (a very small-scale civil war), he refused to fight with the British against Southwest Africa and Germany in the first world war, and he was therefore sentenced to death before a firing platoon by a military court. He refused to give in to the pressure from the British imperialists, standing fast to what he believed in until his execution. Shortly before he was sentenced, Jopie famously said: “I can’t be false. Never in my life could I have been that! And may God guide me never to become a false man. My deeds have always revealed my heart. I am not planning to ask this court for mercy. The mercy of my Creator who has led me, is enough for me.” 4
For any young Afrikaner child, the most inspirational story from our people’s history would probably be The Day of the Vow at Blood river on December 16, 1838. The magnificent victory God miraculously achieved for the heavily outnumbered Voortrekkers on that historic day is truly of Biblical proportion.
Song and dance accompany tales as the other most vital aspects of folklore. In Boer culture, we have the most beautiful songs that can be used to teach our children our values, beliefs, traditions, and history. The most important of our folk-songs might be the Afrikaans-versification of the 150 Psalms by Afrikaner Reformed minister, JD Du Toit (Totius) in the 1930′s. Many of the more modern-minded churches neglect the singing of Psalms these days, even though it is a clear Biblical command (Eph. 5:19), and even though the Afrikaners are in the privileged position of having accurate, theologically solid versifications of the Psalms in their own language and with their own style of music. Furthermore, we have many classical Boer songs which would warm the heart of anyone who has a love for Boer culture and history, with probably the most famous song being Sarie Marais, a song about a young Boer lad who fought in the Second Anglo-Boer War but was taken captive by the British army and deported as a prisoner to Sri Lanka. He sings of how he misses his girlfriend whom he wants to marry, but lives in the “Old Transvaal,” implying that he longs also for his free, independent Boer republic.
Volkspele (folk dance) is another proud Afrikaner tradition, though I must admit I was not fond of it when growing up, possibly because I have never really been an exceptionally talented dancer. Recently, however, my girlfriend has instilled in me a love for Sokkie dancing, which is a much more recent development, but still thoroughly rooted in contemporary Afrikaner culture. This form of dance can probably best be described as rhythmical dancing to the beat of contemporary Afrikaans pop music. This Afrikaner dance is different from Volkspele in the sense that while Sokkie is between one man and one woman, Volkspele is practiced by ten or more people dancing together in a circle, ideally equally divided between men and women. After every move is completed, everyone simultaneously changes partners. Also, Sokkie is generally danced not to contemporary pop music, but to traditional Boer folk-songs and with traditional Voortrekker dress. This dance very closely resembles traditional European folk-dances, most especially those of Belgium and Sweden – where the tradition originated from.5 My girlfriend also suggested that we should start doing some Volkspele, so I am considering to start practicing this beautiful part of our traditional culture as well.
C.J. Langenhoven has often been called the “Shakespeare of Afrikaans literature,” as he wrote the most beautiful fictional short stories. His most famous work, however, is the song “The Call of South Africa,” which was the national anthem of the old South Africa for the greater part of the National Party government (1957-1994). Much like the National Party’s government itself, The Call has both good and bad elements. For instance, the first verse is (in my opinion) too anthropocentric or geocentric to be truly acceptable to the born-again heart who desires to keep God’s commandments. However, verse four is a prayer in which the glory of God, the love for one’s kin and for freedom, and man’s complete dependence upon God are beautifully proclaimed.6
I think South African and American whites can and should do a lot more to learn and preserve the folklore of our European heritage, as well as those unique traditions which we have established in our current native lands. We truly have a rich heritage, and it is our responsibility as the first generation of the twenty-first century to keep our folklore alive for future generations. May we gladly take on this responsibility and bring glory to God by embracing this rich heritage with which He has graciously endued us.
- http://ditsem.net/diaspora.php ↩
- http://www.mieliestronk.com/rrr_racheltjie.html ↩
- http://www.mieliestronk.com/woltemade.html ↩
- http://af.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jopie_Fourie. This is my own translation from Afrikaans. ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkspele ↩
- http://www.salanguages.com/anthem/diestem.htm ↩