ALTERNATE NAMES: Boers
LOCATION: Republic of South Africa
POPULATION: About 3,500,000
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 5: Netherlanders
During the 17th century, Dutch colonists (to become known as Boers) settled at the southern point of the African continent. Over the next 200 years, British, French, and German settlers joined indigenous Africans and imported Malays to produce a unique genetic blend. In time settlers moved inland, developing their own language, Afrikaans (first as a spoken dialect and later in written form), cultural identity, and worldview. Thus, emerged the Afrikaners.
Over the next 300 years, the Afrikaners battled indigenous African peoples, established independent republics in the interior, and fought the British in two wars known as the Anglo-Boer Wars (the second is now known as the South African War). All territories were finally united on 31 May 1910 in the Union of South Africa. At this time there was a clear division between the Afrikaners (who belonged to Afrikaner political parties, spoke Afrikaans, supported Afrikaner cultural and linguistic endeavors, and belonged to one of the Dutch Reformed Churches) and British-oriented, English-speaking South Africans. In 1948 the Afrikaner-based National Party came to power and, under a strong Calvinistic religious philosophy and racist social policy, started to implement the system of apartheid, which separated the peoples of South Africa along color lines. To their credit, there were many Afrikaner academics, church spokespersons, and business leaders among those who finally pressured the politicians to do away with apartheid and to introduce a new South Africa. As a result, political prisoners (including Nelson Mandela) were released and majority rule was established.
The Afrikaners are a numerical, ethnic, and political minority living in South Africa. Increasingly “Afrikaner” is being defined along linguistic-cultural lines, resulting in the inclusion of persons other than whites only. This discussion aims at representing traditional Afrikaner culture and thus assumes a historical setting prior to the transition to a new democracy represented by majority rule.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
The Afrikaners are concentrated in the Republic of South Africa, located at the southern tip of the African continent. Geographically this includes the region between 22° to 35°s, and 15° to 33°e. This means that a large part of the country experiences summer rains. The southern tip, however, falls in the winter rainfall zone. The country is divided into a narrow coastal zone below 450 m (1,500 ft) in altitude, while the largest part is on a plateau with an altitude of more than 900 m (3,000 ft). The country actually consists of four plateaus: the coastal zone, averaging 150 m (500 ft) above sea level; the Little Karoo, averaging 450 m (1,500 ft); the Great Karoo, averaging 760 m (2,500 ft); and the High Veld, which averages 1,200 m (4,000 ft) and rises to 1,800 m (6,000 ft) in the northeast. Temperatures are remarkably uniform due to the increased altitude as one moves north. Johannesburg, the largest city, has an annual mean temperature of 15.6°C (60°F), and this varies only slightly by altitude and latitude (e.g., coastal Durban is about 6°C or 10°F warmer but is also marked by coastal winds). Rainfall (which is so critical for farming and ranching) decreases as one moves from east to west, and while South Africa enjoys a sparse average rainfall of 44.5 cm (17.5 in), this represents a relatively well-watered eastern coastal zone and a western veld tapering into the Kalahari desert (75% of the country receives less than 63.5 cm or 25 in of rain per year). The highest rainfall is in the mountain region of the southern winter rainfall zone, which receives up to 508 cm (200 in) per year.
For more than four decades the white Afrikaners (as a numerical minority) governed the country. Originally concentrated in rural areas, they have since been involved in a major process of urbanization and have become distributed over most of the country. Population figures show Afrikaans as the home language of approximately 3.5 million whites, 400,000 Coloreds, and 15,000 persons of Asian extraction. The country's total population is 47.4 million (2006 estimates).
Afrikaans, the language spoken by Afrikaners, evolved as a dialect spoken by pioneers on the frontier during the 18th and 19th centuries. The root stock was 17th-century Dutch, but as various linguistic groups settled in the new colonies of those days, they contributed to the emerging language. These included French, German, and English speakers. The Dutch colonial authorities brought slaves from their holdings in southeast Asia, especially Malays, and in time these people contributed to the linguistic (also the cultural, religious, and genetic) mix that was emerging. Early contact had also occurred between settlers and the indigenous Khoekhoen (herders) and San or Bushmen (hunter-gatherers), from whom vocabulary (and cultural) elements were incorporated. On the frontiers more intimate contact developed with the Bantu-speaking peoples, and once again linguistic and cultural transfers took place. The new spoken language, Afrikaans, first appeared in print during the early 19th century and since then has produced material in a wealth of literary and scientific forms. Among the unique features of the language is the double negative: Hy wil nie speel nie (literally, “He does not want to play not”).
Personal names derive, in most cases, from a European tradition, usually given a Germanic (Afrikaans) form. It is the custom for married couples to name their first son after the husband's father and their first daughter after the wife's mother.
Early Afrikaner beliefs and traditions come from two major sources: those derived from their European ancestry, and those acquired locally due to intimate contact with indigenous peoples (Khoekhoen, San, and Bantu-speaking) and eastern immigrants (Malay and Indian). This includes childhood beliefs in mythical figures like tikoloshe, a diminutive urchin. As is true among many peoples, heroes and myths became intertwined as oral traditions were recounted or selected aspects recorded. As is also quite common, heroes frequently are from the political or religious realm.
Much of Afrikaner tradition recounts the exploits of pioneer leaders who with faith and fortitude “tamed” the interior of South Africa, wrestling the land from wild animals and warring native tribes. Th us, school children grew up with the names of Charl Celliers, Andries Potgieter, Piet Retief, and Gert Maritz. Much of the national folklore revolved around Oom (Uncle) Paul Kruger (the erstwhile president of the Afrikaner republic), for instance, recounting his experiences when he visited Queen Victoria. In the immediate past, sports heroes have emerged, particularly in the field of rugby where great physical prowess, fleetness of foot, and an accurate kicking boot have created modern heroes—often of mythical proportions.
The religion of the Afrikaner derives from Protestantism as practiced by the 17th-century Reformed Church of Holland. However, in 1685 when the French government repealed the Edict of Nantes (which guaranteed religious freedom in a heavily Roman Catholic-dominated France), Protestants fled, some going to Switzerland and others to Holland. These French Huguenots then emigrated from Holland to the Cape in 1688 to assure their religious freedom, and they added a special anti-Papist strain of Protestantism to the Afrikaner religion. They also brought a rich tradition of viniculture. After the British took over administration of the Cape in 1806, they brought English-speaking (especially Scottish Presbyterian) ministers to South Africa. Under the influence of the Swiss reformer John Calvin (and others) regarding church and state, the status of women, purity of the race, and related doctrines, a rather unique blend of Protestantism emerged in South Africa expressed by the three varieties of the Dutch Reformed Church.
Days and dates of special significance to Afrikaners are those that are associated with their religion and their national history. Many of these are no longer recognized in the new constitutional dispensation, while new holidays have been added to recognize the cultures of other ethnic groups.
Historically, religious holidays in South Africa have been tied to the Christian calendar. Christmas and Good Friday are still recognized as public holidays. Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) was once recognized as a public holiday, but was removed from the list by the Public Holidays Act of 1994. In the same act, the secular holiday of Family Day was created to replace Easter Monday and the Day of Goodwill, on December 26, replaced Boxing Day. December 16 was once celebrated as the Day of the Covenant, commemorating the day when Afrikaner pioneers beat back an attack of Zulu warriors in 1838. Since 1994, December 16 has been celebrated as the Day of Reconciliation. Other public holidays in contemporary South Africa include New Year's Day (January 1), Human Rights Day (March 21), Freedom Day (April 27), Worker's Day (1 May), Youth Day (June 16), National Women's Day (August 9), and Heritage Day (September 24).
Partly due to the Calvinistic overtones in Afrikaner society, Sundays were days of rest. Stores were closed, movie theaters were locked, organized sports were not permitted, and very little activity took place. People were expected to attend church services. None of this applies any longer.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Birthdays are almost universally celebrated, usually with a party accompanied by the giving of gifts. It is expected that all infants should be baptized. Afrikaner children grow up attending Sunday school, where Biblical texts have to be memorized and simple religious instruction occurs. When young people are about 16 years old, they study catechism, learning the tenets of the Reformation and the Biblical basis of Calvinistic Protestantism. This allows for confirmation as a church member and First Communion. In many families this age also permits individual dating. To this day, the twenty-first birthday is a major celebration in which a son or daughter might ceremonially receive a key.
Adults celebrate birthdays, frequently with a braai—the equivalent of the American barbecue, where meat is roasted on hot coals and other dishes are prepared. Death is marked at the family level by mourning and the wearing of black dresses by women, and black ties or a black arm band by men. However, these latter practices are becoming less common. The Dutch Reformed Churches celebrate the passing of the old year and the coming of the New Year with a midnight service on 31 December. The front pew is draped in black or purple to remember those who have passed away during that year, and their names are read aloud.
When meeting people it is customary to greet each person, including children, with a handshake. Friends and relatives of both genders greet each other with a kiss on the lips (this practice does not generally apply to males greeting males), accompanied by a standard question, “How are you?” Taking leave involves the same actions and the standard “ Totsiens” (“Till we see [each other] again”). Afrikaners used to practice informal gender separation in that men would visit with men, would move aside after a meal to smoke and talk together, or would discuss national affairs with each other. Women were supposed to stay with women and talk about “womanly” affairs, such as homemaking, the servants, and the children. More recently, as women have become better educated and moved into the professions, and as men have lost some of the macho image, a more equitable relationship has developed.
South Africa, under Afrikaner administration, was an anomaly as had been true in many colonial and neocolonial situations. Whites lived in First World luxury, represented by housing, swimming pools, schools, hospitals, and clinics, while the same was only incidentally true for individual members of politically unrepresented groups. Afrikaners therefore were almost universally in a favored situation with civil service and other jobs, dependable salaries, automobiles, and electricity in their homes. Thus, they joined the consumer race to acquire the accoutrements of comfort and luxury, including televisions, videos, and computers. Because of a well-developed infrastructure, airplanes, trains and buses could deliver passengers to their destinations, while telephones served as a link for friends and people in business. There are a significant number of indigent Afrikaners.
The traditional Afrikaner family involved a young man courting his girlfriend and then formally requesting permission from her parents (especially her father) to become engaged. For three Sundays prior to the wedding, the couples' names were read in church and, if there were no objections (e.g., that one was already married or for some other legal or moral reason), the marriage was performed in church, followed by a reception. Historically, on the frontier and among farming families, Afrikaner families were large because children represented wealth and support. There also was a literal interpretation of the Biblical injunction to “go forth and be fruitful.” Some Afrikaner politicians advocated a policy of large families to counter the number of non-whites and to assure the position of whites in South Africa. Today, Afrikaner families average two or three children per family. Essentially the Afrikaner family is an example of the Germanic patriarchal extended family, but under conditions of urbanization and modernization they have moved toward the individual nuclear family unit occupying a single family home or apartment. Dogs and cats are favored as pets, while the former are also bred to protect home and property. The status of women has improved over the years and today is approaching equity as regards opportunity and salary.
The everyday clothing of Afrikaners is no different from that of any modern Western urbanite. Reaching back to frontier days when women wore long dresses and bonnets, this dress has been retained for formal folk dancing called volkspele. It is a pleasing sight, though becoming less common, to see the women in their multicolored long dresses and colored bonnets swirling around, accompanied by their male partners, who are also uniformly dressed in shirts, vests, and pants.
The everyday meal of the Afrikaner is characterized by an emphasis on meat, starch, and cooked vegetables, and the near absence of green or fresh salads. This is particularly true of the Sunday midday meal, where it is customary to have more than one kind of meat, rice, and potatoes, at least two cooked vegetables, and dessert. The breakfast staple is some kind of porridge. In the interior, Afrikaners learned from the native peoples to make a gruel called stywe pap or putu pap (“stiff porridge” or “putu orridge”). It is common to have this porridge for breakfast with milk and sugar and also to eat it with meat or boerewors (“boer sausage,” made of beef and pork) at a barbecue. Braaivleis (“roasted meat”) is traditional and very common, like the barbecue. Some years ago one would only find mutton, usually ribs and chops, at a braai, but today all kinds of meat are cooked, and a prawn braai is particularly enjoyed.
Traditional foods frequently have Eastern origins, emphasizing the mixed cultural traditions. One of these is sosaties (marinated meat much like shish kebab), frequently included in a braai. Another is bobotie, which contains ground meat with a curry spice flavor. Deriving from the same southeast Asian origins is a twisted doughnut that is fried in hot oil and then submerged in cold sweet syrup. This koeksister (“cruller”) is a popular delicacy. Venison has always formed part of Afrikaner dishes, as grazing animals could be hunted or culled from national parks. Fish has become very popular for those living close to the ocean, and dishes containing snoek (a type of fish native to the South African Cape region) are famous. Two food items that trace back to pioneer days are very common among Afrikaners: beskuit and biltong. The first is translated as “rusks” in English and comes in different varieties but essentially is a biscuit that has been oven-dried. It is usually dunked and enjoyed with coffee. Biltong consists of strips of dried meat, from beef or venison (and also from ostrich), which are treated with salt, pepper, and spices prior to drying. Dried fruits, either in individual pieces or in the form of a ground paste, are delicacies.
Children go to school at age 6 and are obliged to stay in school through age 16. Most of the Afrikaans medium schools require a school uniform: girls wear the same color dress or skirt and blouse, while boys wear the same color shirt and pants. During most of the year boys wear shorts with long stockings. Each school has its own colors, and girls and boys wear blazers that display the crest of the school. Among whites (thus including Afrikaners), school attendance and literacy are nearly universal. It is common for Afrikaans students who have completed high school by successfully passing the national matriculation examination to go to one of the four primarily Afrikaans medium universities, or to a “technicon,” which is more technically oriented. Since the Constitution of the Union of South Africa (1910) recognized Afrikaans and English as official languages, students have been bilingual, and many have attended one of the four English medium universities. In contemporary democratic South Africa there are now 11 official languages, recognizing each of the major ethnic groups. English, however, has established itself as the common language of commerce and of politics.
A great deal of the Afrikaners' heritage is derived from and reinforced by European cultural traditions. Thus, the great number and diversity of the performing arts, musical compositions, literary creations, and expressions in ballet and dance all follow the Western European model. Obviously, South African themes have been included in many of these, as is true of the visual arts.
Most Afrikaners are formally employed. Coming from a rural tradition, they moved haltingly into urban forms of employment, first into civil service and education, and then into mining, industry, and business. Today they are firmly established in the urban industrial world. Among whites in the rural areas, Afrikaners predominate. Afrikaners are characterized by a Calvinistic work ethic that requires hard, industrious work. Children are raised with statements like, “Idleness is Satan's pillow,” implying that idleness is the parent of vice.
Afrikaners are active sports participants. TV was not permitted in South Africa until the 1960s, then for a number of years it was only shown at night. The emphasis was on playing sports. Afrikaner children play a variety of games in an informal manner. Organized sports start early as boys go out for rugby, cricket, or “athletics” (which means track-and-field). Girls play netball (similar to basketball), field hockey, and participate in athletics. Sports like golf, swimming, soccer and tennis also feature. It is common to see a group of boys on an open field with a tennis or rubber ball playing single wicket cricket, or tossing a ball in a variation of touch football. Girls are more likely to be at home and to participate only in school or club sports. Intramural and league competitions are well developed in many sports, allowing students to battle for the honor of their class or their school. A dwindling number of people, particularly the older generation, engage in a competition called jukskei, which traces back to pioneer days. In the game, carved pieces of wood, resembling the yoke pin used on draft animals, are tossed in an attempt to knock over a stake. The game is similar to the American game of horseshoes.
Spectators flock to venues where high school, college, club, provincial, or national teams compete in all of these sports. Traditionally Afrikaners excelled more in rugby and athletics but increasingly they have made their mark in other sports, producing world and Olympic champions.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Popular culture used to be alien and was frowned on by the elders. Thus, young people entertained themselves in folk dances, church-sponsored youth activities, and the bioscope (movies). It is now common for a group of young people to rent videos, gather at a bar or a dance, or go to a disco. Increasingly too, it has become acceptable to mix socially, and even intimately, with English-speaking persons and even members of other communities. There is a variety of theaters, lectures, and other expressions of the performing arts that are widely attended.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
In the days of frontier living, and later on farms and ranches, there existed a clear sexual division of labor. Certain things were in the man's realm, while the woman dominated domestic activities. These divisions are still sometimes carried over to the present. Women are known for quilting, crocheting, and knitting; and a beautiful doily with a circle of shells or beads covers every jug of milk. In rural areas it is common for women to make soap, bottled jellies, jams, and preserves, and do all the baking of breads, beskuit, and cakes. Men used to be adept at woodworking, delicate leatherworking, and the making of chairs with seats of interwoven strips of leather.
Modern Afrikaners bear a heavy, and in some cases unfair, cultural burden. That burden was created by their ancestors who accepted and reinterpreted a Calvinist Protestantism, developed a racist-based philosophy that led to the policy of apartheid, and in the process became the pariahs of the world. Not all Afrikaners agreed with the policy of their government, not all Afrikaners were racists, and not all Afrikaners accepted the social or political conditions. Yet, being Afrikaners, they are uniformly labeled. Afrikaners had been in a very favorable situation, and for some this created concern and guilt. In contemporary South Africa, also referred to as the “Rainbow Nation,” a great number of legal and other actions are being implemented to correct earlier wrongs in the fields of civil rights, economic conditions, housing, etc. Today, Afrikaners are effectively facing the challenge to create a niche for themselves and to become a vital part of South African society.
South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994 brought equal rights and new opportunities to the disadvantaged sectors of the population. Unfortunately, it also sparked a dramatic increase in the rate of crime and violence—an inevitable by-product of poverty and high unemployment in the context of a new political system where social expectations are unrealistically high. Burglaries, muggings, car-jackings, rapes, and murders have all increased since the late 1990s. Afrikaners are as much the victims of this crime rate as any other sector of the population. High levels of crime have led to demands for tough action by the government as well as a return to capital punishment, which is banned in South Africa. One result has been a growing rate of emigration. Another has been the growth of private security-related services and the development of gated communities.
HIV/AIDS is a major problem in South Africa, with the adult prevalence rate at 21.5% (2003 est). The number of people living with HIV/AIDS stood at about 5.3 million in 2003, with 370 000 related deaths that year. The Afrikaners however, comprise one of the communities least affected by the pandemic.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) guarantees many individual rights. Chapter 2[9(3)] specifically indicates that “The State may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender... etc.” In 2003, the Department of Education launched the Girls Education Movement (GEM) as one of the government's key gender focus programs, implemented in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund. This program aims to ensure that girls will have access education and that their retention and achievement rates will increase. It is founded on three pillars, namely career mentorship, skills development, and advocacy.
As opposed to many communities in South Africa, particularly in the rural, patriarchal communities, Afrikaners in the country are much further along the road of gender parity. Much like other industrialized nations, Afrikaner women in South Africa are increasingly career-oriented and fill prominent positions in virtually every sector of society.
De Klerk, W. A. The Puritans in Africa: A Story of Afrikaner-dom. London: R. Collins, 1975.
Drury, Allen. A Very Strange Society: A Journey to the Heart of South Africa. New York: Trident, 1967.
Giliomee, H. The Afrikaner: Biography of a People. Cape Town, Tafelberg, 2003.
Giliomee, H. & Mbenga, B. New History of South Africa. Cape Town, Tafelberg, 2007.
Harrison, D. The White Tribe of Africa: South Africa in Perspective. Johannesburg, Macmillan, 1981.
Wilkins, I. & Strydom, H. The Super-Afrikaners. Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond. Johannesburg, Jonathan Ball, 1978.
—by M. de Jongh
ALTERNATE NAMES: Boers
LOCATION: Republic of South Africa
POPULATION: About 3.3 million
1 • INTRODUCTION
South Africa is located at the southern point of Africa. During the seventeenth century, Dutch colonists from the Netherlands (known as Boers) settled there. Over the next 200 years, British, French, and German settlers joined them. At first, they settled along the coast, but eventually settlers moved inland. These settlers developed a unique cultural identity and language and became known as Afrikaners. Their language, Afrikaans, began as a spoken dialect, but developed into a written language, too.
Over the next 300 years, the Afrikaners battled indigenous (native) African peoples. established independent republics in the interior, and fought the British in two wars known as the Anglo-Boer Wars. All territories were finally united on May 31, 1910, to become the Union of South Africa. (The Republic of South Africa was established fifty years later on May 31, 1960.) In 1910, there was a clear division between the Afrikaners (who belonged to Afrikaner political parties, spoke Afrikaans, supported Afrikaner cultural and linguistic endeavors, and belonged to one of the Dutch Reformed Churches) and British-oriented, English-speaking South Africans. In 1948 the Afrikaner-based National Party came to power. Under a strong religious philosophy and racist social policy, the National Party started to implement the system of apartheid. Apartheid separated the people of South Africa by law along color lines. By the 1980s, there were many Afrikaners who joined the effort to do away with apartheid.
2 • LOCATION
The Afrikaners are concentrated in the Republic of South Africa, located at the southern tip of the African continent. The country consists of four plateaus: the coastal zone, averaging 500 feet (150 meters) above sea level; the Little Karoo, averaging 1,500 feet (450 meters) above sea level; the Great Karoo, averaging 2,500 feet (760 meters) above sea level; and the High Veld, which averages 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level and rises to 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level in the northeast. South Aftrica's capital, Johannesburg, has an annual mean temperature of 60° F (15.6° C). This temperature range is typical for the entire country. Rainfall (which is so critical for farming and ranching) decreases as one moves from east to west. South Africa's eastern coastal zone has relatively high rainfall, but the western veld (open grassland) tapers into the Kalahari desert. About 75 percent of the country receives less than 25 inches (63.5 centimeters) of rain per year. The country's average rainfall is only 17.5 inches (44.5 centimeters) because so much of the country is extremely dry. The highest rainfall is in the mountain region of the southern region—about 200 inches (508 centimeters) per year.
Of South Africa's 42 million people, about 3.3 million are Afrikaners.
3 • LANGUAGE
Afrikaans, the language spoken by Afrikaners, evolved as a dialect of Dutch spoken by settlers on the frontier during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As various groups—French, German, and English speakers—settled in South Africa, they contributed to the emerging language. Also contributing to the language and culture were slaves brought by the Dutch from their holdings in southeast Asia (especially Malaysians). Settlers also took vocabulary and cultural practices from the native Africa people. Afrikaans first appeared in print during the early nineteenth century. Among the unique features of the language is the double negative: Hy wil nie speel nie (literally, "He does not want to play not").
In 1910, the Constitution of the Union of South Africa recognized Afrikaans and English as official languages. Since then, most Afrikaners have been bilingual. In 1991, when apartheid was eliminated, eleven official languages were recognized.
There are also some 13,000 persons of Asian descent in South Africa who speak Afrikaans as their native language.
4 • FOLKLORE
Early Afrikaner beliefs and traditions come from three major sources: European colonists, native people, and immigrants from Malaysia and India. Heroes and myths from these groups became intertwined as stories were passed down orally.
Much folklore revolved around Oom (Uncle) Paul Kruger (1925–1904, the former president of the Afrikaner republic).
5 • RELIGION
Afrikaner religion comes from Protestant practices of the seventeenth-century Reformed Church of Holland. The British brought English-speaking ministers to South Africa in the early 1800s. Next, French settlers brought the ideas of Swiss reformer John Calvin (1509–1564) to South Africa. Calvin believed the church should influence government policy, and that races should remain pure and separate. This led to the development of a unique brand of Protestantism in South Africa. Government policies on apartheid (separation of the races) were supported by Afrikaners' religious doctrines.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
Religious holidays include Christmas (December 25), Good Friday (and the secular Easter Monday, in March or April), and Ascension Day (in April or May). Secular (nonreligious) holidays include New Year's Day and Boxing Day (also known as Goodwill Day, December 26). Political holidays include Founder's Day commemorating the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck (the first governor of the Cape) on April 6, 1652; Republic Day commemorating the establishment of the Union of South Africa on May 31, 1910 (and later the Republic of South Africa on May 31, 1960); Kruger Day, commemorating the birthday of Paul Kruger (1825–1904, former president) on October 10; and the Day of the Vow, commemorating the day when Afrikaners resisted an attack by Zulu warriors on December 16, 1838.
Traditionally, Afrikaners observed Sunday as a day of rest. Stores and movie theaters were closed, organized sports were not permitted, and very little activity took place. People were expected to attend church services. By the late 1990s, this had changed somewhat, although there is still less activity on Sunday than on other days of the week.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
It is the custom for Afrikaner married couples to name their first son after the husband's father and their first daughter after the wife's mother.
Birthdays are celebrated with a party accompanied by the giving of gifts. Almost all infants are baptized. Afrikaner children attend Sunday school where they are required to memorize verses from the Bible. At about age sixteen, young people must take catechism, where they learn the basis of Calvinistic Protestantism. Upon completion of catechism, the young person is confirmed as a church member and takes his or her first communion. In many families, sixteen is also the age when the young person is allowed to begin dating. The twenty-first birthday is a major celebration. The family often presents the son or daughter at age twenty-one with a key that symbolizes adulthood.
Adults celebrate birthdays, frequently with a braai— the equivalent of the American barbecue. Death is marked at the family level by mourning and the wearing of black dresses by women, and black ties or a black arm band by men. At church services on New Year's Eve, the front pew is draped in black or purple to remember those who have died during the year, and their names are read aloud.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
It is customary to greet each person, including children, with a handshake. Friends and relatives of both genders greet each other with a kiss on the lips. (This practice does not generally apply to males greeting males.) Taking leave involves the same actions and the expression, Totsiens (Till we see [each other] again). In the past, Afrikaners practiced informal gender separation. After a meal, men would visit with each other, smoking and discussing such topics as national affairs or sports. Women talked about homemaking and the children. By the late 1990s, opportunities for women in education and employment had improved, and this practice of separate social conversation had declined.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
When Afrikaners controlled the government, most white people lived in luxury, with the best housing (many with swimming pools), schools, and hospitals available to them. Afrikaners controlled the best civil service and other jobs, earned dependable salaries, owned automobiles, and had electricity and telephones in their homes. After apartheid (separation of the races) ended in 1991, this lifestyle was legally available to everyone, regardless of race.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
In rural communities, Afrikaner families were large because children represented wealth. Some Afrikaner politicians advocated a policy of large families to assure the position of whites in South Africa. Today Afrikaner families average two or three children. Dogs and cats are favored as pets. Dogs are also bred to protect home and property.
Traditional Afrikaner dating and marriage practices involved a young man courting his girlfriend, and then formally requesting permission from her parents (especially her father) to become engaged. For three Sundays prior to the wedding, the couples' names were read in church. If there were no objections raised (for example, that one was already married to someone else), the marriage was performed in church, with a reception afterward. This practice had become less formal by the 1990s.
11 • CLOTHING
Afrikaners dress in modern Western clothing. On holidays and special occasions, traditional clothing may be seen. Boys and men wear shorts with knee socks. Women wear long dresses and bonnets for formal folk dancing called volkspele. Male folk dancing partners wear shirts with vests and long pants.
12 • FOOD
The everyday meal of the Afrikaner is characterized by an emphasis on meat, starch, and cooked vegetables. Green or fresh salads are rare. Breakfast features some kind of porridge. Away from the coast, Afrikaners learned from the native peoples to make a gruel called stywe pap or putu pap (stiff porridge or putu porridge). It is common to have this porridge for breakfast with milk and sugar, and also to eat it with meat or boerewors (boer sausage, made of beef and pork) at a braai (barbecue). Venison has always formed part of Afrikaner dishes, as grazing animals could be hunted or culled from national parks.
Sosaties (skewered marinated meat similar to shish kebab) is frequently included in a braai. A recipe for bobotie, another favorite dish accompanies this article. Fish has become popular for those living near the ocean. Two foods from pioneer days are still popular among Afrikaners: beskuit and biltong. Beskuit (rusks) are biscuits that have been oven-dried. They are served with coffee. Biltong are strips of dried meat (traditionally, beef or venison; more recently, elephant and ostrich). The biltong are treated with salt, pepper, and spices prior to drying.
13 • EDUCATION
Children are required to attend school from age six through age sixteen. Each school has its own colors, and girls and boys wear blazers that display the crest of the school. For girls, the uniform is dress or skirt in the color with a white or matching blouse. Boys wear the same color shirt and pants. During most of the year, boys wear shorts with knee socks. Among Afrikaners, almost everyone attends school and is literate (can read and write). Most Afrikaner students who have completed high school (by passing the national examination) continue their education. They go to a university or to a "technicon," an institute that offers technical training.
- 2 slices of white bread, torn into pieces
- 1¼ cups milk
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 1 tart apple, peeled and chopped
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons golden raisins
- 3 Tablespoons slivered, blanched almonds
- 2 Tablespoons curry powder
- 1½ pounds ground lamb
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 egg yolks
- Place ground lamb in a frying pan. Cook over medium heat until browned, stirring frequently.
- Combine bread and milk; set aside.
- Add onions to the lamb and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add apples and cook for 1 minute.
- Remove bread pieces from milk and add to frying pan. (Save the milk for use in step 7.) Add lemon juice, raisins, almonds, and curry powder.
- Preheat oven to 325°f. Transfer lamb mixture to a baking dish.
- Insert bay leaves into mixture, and pat the mixture down in the center. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven but do not turn oven off.
- Beat eggs yolks and milk (from step 4) together. Pour milk mixture slowly over meat mixture in casserole. Return to oven and bake 25 minutes more.
Adapted from Hillman, Howard. Great Peasant Dishes of the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
Much of Afrikaners' heritage is derived from European cultural traditions. The performing arts all follow the western European model. Some South African themes have been depicted, especially in visual arts.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
Most Afrikaners are employed in fields ranging from civil service and education to mining, industry, and business. Afrikaners are the majority of whites in rural areas. Afrikaners believe in hard, industrious work, and their religion reinforces that value. Children are raised with statements such as "Idleness is Satan's pillow," implying that idleness is where temptation to get into trouble can be found.
16 • SPORTS
Television was not permitted in South Africa until the 1960s, so the emphasis was on participating in, rather than watching, sports. Afrikaner children play organized sports starting at an young age. Boys play rugby, cricket, or athletics (track and field). Girls play netball (basketball), field hockey, and also participate in athletics. It is common to see a group of boys on an open field with a tennis or rubber ball playing informal cricket or tossing a ball in a variation of touch football. Girls are more likely to participate only in school or club sports.
Older adults engage in jukskei, a competition from pioneer days. Carved pieces of wood, resembling the yoke pin used on draft animals, are tossed in an attempt to knock over a stake. This resembles the American game of horseshoes.
17 • RECREATION
In the past, Afrikaner young people entertained themselves in folk dances, church-sponsored youth activities, and the bioscope (movies). By the 1990s, it was common for a group of young people to rent videos, gather at a bar or a dance, or go to a disco. It had also become acceptable to socialize with English-speaking persons and members of other ethnic groups.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
There has been a clear division of labor based on gender among Afrikaners that carries over to the present. Women are known for quilting, crocheting, and knitting. A beautiful doily with a circle of shells or beads covers every jug of milk. Men are known for woodworking, delicate leather-working, and the making of chairs with seats of interwoven strips of leather.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
After the end of apartheid in 1991, Afrikaners still bore a heavy burden for the actions of their ancestors who developed the philosophy that led to apartheid. Not all Afrikaners agreed with the apartheid policy of their government and not all Afrikaners were racist. Yet, Afrikaners bear the stereotype or label. Their challenge in the late 1990s is to find a role for themselves in the new South Africa, known as the Rainbow Nation.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
De Klerk, W. A. The Puritans in Africa: A Story of Afrikanerdom. London, England: R. Collins, 1975.
Drury, Allen. A Very Strange Society: A Journey to the Heart of South Africa. New York: Trident, 1967.
Hillman, Howard. Great Peasant Dishes of the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
Embassy of South Africa, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.southafrica.net/, 1998.
Government of South Africa. [Online] http://www.polity.org.za/gnu.html, 1998.
Interknowledge Corp. South Africa. [Online] Available http://www.geographia.com/south-africa/, 1998.
Southern African Development Community. South Africa. [Online] Available http://www.sadcusa.net/members/safrica/, 1998.
The Afrikaners are descendants, to a great extent, of Dutch, German, and French Huguenot settlers, and, to a lesser extent, of English, Scottish, Irish, and other settlers of South Africa. The Dutch that was the language of the first White settlers, who arrived in 1652, evolved into Afrikaans, which retained much of the structure and grammar of the original Dutch. In 1986 there were 5,800,000 speakers of Afrikaans in South Africa, of which 3,000,000 were classified as "Whites" and 2,800,000 were classified as "Coloureds" (Grimes 1988). Afrikaners are members of an ethnic group who are predominantly White, speakers of Afrikaans, of Western European descent, politically aligned with the National party, belong to the Dutch Reformed church (NGK), and share a distinctive history with other Afrikaners. The extent to which members share all of these characteristics is variable, but it is widely believed, because of the central importance of language, that speaking Afrikaans is probably the most salient indicator of group membership. Furthermore, because loyalty has been a highly regarded value, political-party affiliation is another category that is frequently used to define the in-group and to challenge potential dissidents.
History and Cultural Relations
Besides language, one of the defining characteristics of Afrikaners is their history. Many of the earlier settlers moved away from Cape Town, in part because of their resistance to Dutch and British rule, but also because of their attraction to their new environment. Their relations with the indigenous populations were mixed. They had generally good relations with the Khoi-khoi (Hottentots) and the San, but there was a mutual distrust and fear between the "trekkers," as the inland settlers came to be called, and the Xhosa. Based on these experiences, as well as a strong Christian (Calvinist) faith, Afrikaners came to believe that the only possible relationship between Blacks and Whites was master to slave or enemy to enemy.
A pivotal event, or series of events, in Afrikaner history was the northeasterly migration of the trekkers, or Voortrekkers (the pioneers). Precipitated by a number of conditions, including the annexation of Cape Town by the British, unpopular British regulations, and the emancipation of slaves, this "Great Trek" began in 1835. The Voortrekkers founded the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, establishing constitutions that disallowed racial equality in church or state. Along the way, the Voortrekkers defeated the powerful Zulu nation, after its leader, Dingane, killed Pieter Retief and his party while they were his guests. Their deaths were avenged on 16 December 1838 at the Battle of Blood River; the date is now celebrated as a national holiday.
Another important event in Afrikaner history was the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), which was precipitated by conflicts between British gold seekers and Afrikaner farmers. Although the British won this war, it had the effect of creating an Afrikaner nation by providing a reason for Afrikaners of the Cape Colony to unite with Afrikaners who lived inland. The British soon restored self-rule to the two republics and convened a convention to plan the Union of South Africa. There were no Black representatives at the convention, and only White voters were allowed to vote on the ratification of the new constitution of South Africa. The Commonwealth country that was created established a color bar that literally prohibited Blacks or Coloureds from participating as equal members in the society. Britain sanctioned this policy by approving the formation of the Union of South Africa in the British Parliament.
The founding of the National party in 1914 is an important event in Afrikaner history, because that party played a major role in the policy that became known as "apartheid." When General Hertzog, the founder of the party (although later rejected by it), was elected prime minister in 1924, a number of policies were initiated that divided the Afrikaans-speaking people from the English-speaking people, as well as from all other people in the country. Afrikaans superseded Dutch as one of the two official languages. The separation of children by color in the schools became more absolute, and Afrikaners began to predominate in many official organizations, such as the South African Police and the civil service. The most powerful of all Afrikaner bodies at this time was the secret Broederbond (League of Brothers), consisting of the elite, the thinkers, and the philosophers of Afrikanerdom. They planned and worked for radical changes in South African society, which they were able to accomplish when, for the first time, they were able to bring to power one of their own, in 1948. In that year the first candidate, Dr. Daniel François Malan, who had the overwhelming support of the National party, was elected prime minister. His government was dedicated to achieving sovereign independence and the preservation of Afrikanerdom and the White race through apartheid. He began what many believe was a total restructuring of South African society, including the political, social, educational, and cultural separation of races. He carried out this transformation through a series of acts, including the Mixed Marriages Act, which prohibited marriages between the races, the Immorality Act, which prohibited sexual relations between the races, the Group Areas Act, which defined where people of different races could live, and the Population Registration Act, which determined the racial category of every person in the country.
The first settlers of South Africa brought with them a fundamentalist form of Calvinism, which, in the frontier, remained unrefined. Events in African history have acquired a religious significance when the leaders of Afrikaner nationalism used them as evidence of a divine calling for the Afrikaner people. When neo-Calvinists suggested that God reveals himself in nature and in history, Afrikaner revisionists jumped to the conclusions that God must be recognized in all things, and that the will of God was apparent in all things. The existence and development of the Afrikaner people, therefore, is an act of God, and, because God created the nation, the nation must continue. A similar argument often heard in the past was that God had willed that there should be separate nations and races.
Many early Afrikaners identified with the Israelites of the Old Testament and saw a parallel between their history and that of the Jews. Like the Jews, they believed and fought for their right to nationhood and, perhaps to a large extent, believed that they were, like God's chosen people, forbidden to mix with others not of their blood.
The Dutch Reformed church, clearly the dominant one among Afrikaners, is distinct from other Protestant churches in that its theology is Calvinist in principle; more important, it supports political policies of the National party. By the time the Afrikaner government came to power in 1948, the NGK had lost contact with the original teachings of Calvin and, in so doing, conveniently provided the theological foundation for apartheid. The National party's policies led to the elevation of apartheid to a civil religion in which the secular notions of volk, culture, and politics became prominent features, and the NGK became a virtual puppet of the National party government, often providing scriptural support for apartheid.
The events that occurred in the late 1980s and in the 1990s, which were primarily of a political nature—the freeing of Nelson Mandela from prison, his election as president, and the dismantling of apartheid—will provide a challenge to the survival of the Afrikaners as an ethnic group in the years to come. Because Afrikaners are fiercely loyal and they have expressed their loyalty to the National party, which supported apartheid policies, how they will respond as a group to the dismantling of apartheid will perhaps be a key factor in their survival as an ethnic group. If they cling to a minority view and make that view a necessary part of their identity, as they have in the past, Afrikaners may dissolve into nothing more than a political party. If, on the other hand, they can remain an endogamous group while accepting antiapartheid or non-National party views, their survival as an ethnic group will be more likely.
Adam, Heribert, ed. ( 1983). South Africa: The Limits of Reform Politics. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
February, Vernon (1991). The Afrikaners of South Africa. London: Kegan Paul International.
Grimes, Barbara E (1988). Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Harrison, David (1982). The White Tribe of Africa: South Africa in Perspective. London: British Broadcasting Corporation.
Kaplan, Irving, and Harold D. Nelson (1980). "Religious Life." In South Africa: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army.
Leach, Graham (1989). The Afrikaners: Their Last Great Trek. London: Macmillan.
Louw-Potgieter, Joha (1988). Afrikaner Dissidents: A Social Psychological Study of Identity and Dissent. Clevedon, Eng.: Multilingual Matters.
Munger, Edwin S., ed. (1979). The Afrikaners. Cape Town: Tafelberg.
Perry, John, and Cassandra Perry ( 1985). "Tinkering with Tradition: Apartheid and Change in South Africa." Canberra Anthropology 8(1-2): 4-31.
The first Afrikaner(s) were settlers, mainly of Dutch origin, who established themselves in the Cape of Good Hope region. Their descendants controlled South Africa for a long time and were the architects of the racist system that prevailed there until the 1990s. Initially, the Afrikaner were known as Boers, a word that means "farmer," "peasant." The Afrikaner speak Afrikaans, a language derived from Dutch with some contributions from German and French, the latter a legacy of the Huguenots who sailed to Africa in the seventeenth century to escape Europe's religious wars. Traditionally, the great majority of Afrikaner have been members of the Dutch Reformed Church, one of the pillars of Afrikanerdom. Afrikaner identity was formed through a gradual indigenization that dissolved connections with the former motherland: hence the choice to use terms for themselves and their language that signaled that their destiny as individuals and a nation was rooted in Africa.
The first Dutch community in the Cape was set up by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 under the command of Jan van Riebeeck, who was instructed to build a fort and a resupply station for ships traveling to and from Batavia (present-day Indonesia), the headquarters of Dutch possessions in Asia. In principle there was no intention to establish a colony, but increasing food needs and the favorable climate pushed settlers to farm and occupy more land. While extending settlements and spreading farther afield, the Boers encountered the communities of Bantu-speaking farmers. Much more developed and intimidating than the Khoikhoi and San—cattle-breeders and hunter-gatherers living in the region around the Cape, whom the Afrikaner had easily outnumbered—the Bantu formed a barrier to further Afrikaner expansion. The eighteenth century saw warfare on the border of Afrikaner-controlled territory that precariously divided whites and blacks. The Afrikaner expanded their possessions across the Fish River at the expense of the southern Nguni (Xhosa). Because the metropolitan power was far away and its representatives almost absent, the Boers developed a unique culture centered on independence, patriarchal authority, and firm hierarchization (the agricultural economy was based on slave labor and most of the servants, artisans, and laborers were slaves). They believed themselves to have been charged with a semi-divine duty to civilize Africa. The turning point in the history of the Afrikaner was the occupation of the Cape by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1806 Britain replaced Holland as the colonial power and nine years later the occupation of the Cape was ratified at the Congress of Vienna.
THE GREAT TREK
Despite their common European background, rural Dutch and urban English settlers were separated by a cultural divide. This was bound to have great political significance. The British were not willing to let the Afrikaner manage their affairs autonomously and shaped the institutions of the country in a way that the Afrikaner found odious and untenable. The abolition of slavery was the final affront to Afrikaner habits. In order to escape obtrusive British administration, the Boers decided to resettle outside the colonial boundaries. The massive emigration northeastward that resulted, carried out in organized groups with ox-driven wagons, is known in Boer mythology as the Great Trek. It is conventionally dated to 1838. The Boers' aim was to establish a new motherland. After battling and expropriating resources from the black tribes they encountered, the Voortrekkers founded two republics: the Transvaal or South African Republic (with Pretoria as the capital city) and the Orange Free State (with its capital in Bloemfontein). In the iconology of the civil religion constructed by Afrikaner, the Great Trek was the revolution: the liberation from British imperialism and the advent of a new nation.
However, Cape authorities and arch-colonial lobbies both in Britain and in Africa were determined to wipe out the Boer republics, daringly founded in a region under the paramount influence of the British. The conventions British emissaries signed with the Transvaal Voortrekkers in 1852 and with the representatives of the Free State in 1854—the latter a formal recognition of Afrikaner independence—were just a postponement of the unavoidable collision, ultimately precipitated by the discovery of the diamonds of Kimberley and of the immense gold fields in the Witwatersrand (Transvaal). In 1870 the European population of the territories occupied by the Voortrekkers numbered about 45,000. The republics' autocratic regime was soon seriously challenged by an industrial and urban boom and by the flood of cosmopolitan Europeans in search of fortune. The British backed the claims of foreigners (Uitlanders) over the franchise and other rights of Afrikaners and thus caused a dispute with President Paul Kruger of Transvaal, champion of Afrikaner nationalism and inflexible warden of an anachronistic regime reserved for a pure elite of "founders." The outcome was full-fledged war.
Hostilities erupted in 1899 after Kruger, wanting to act before the arrival of fresh troops from India and Europe, delivered an ultimatum to the British government. In spite of the resolute heroism of the Boer army and the Boer people in general (women and children were amassed in camps by the British in order to separate fighters from their family and social environment), British military forces succeeded in defeating the Boers. The Boer republics ceased to exist with the Treaty of Vereeniging, signed in 1902; Transvaal and Orange merged with the Cape Colony and Natal was absorbed into the South African Union under British control. The Anglo-Boer (or South African) War marked the end of the petty Boer nationalism personified by Kruger. It signaled the birth of a new Boer consciousness, one better suited to coping with development and modernity. The blacks, not the British, were now the enemy of the Afrikaner; for their part, the British accepted the revision or abrogation of the few rights enjoyed by black Africans as the price of ending the devastating war.
FROM APARTHEID TO DEMOCRATIC SOUTH AFRICA
The volk (the Afrikaner nation) survived the military catastrophe: in their self-conception, if the British were the colonial officials and owners of the mines, the Afrikaner were the authentic representatives of the soul of unified South Africa. The sophisticated and multifaceted apartheid regime—the system of racial segregation and discrimination imposed by the Afrikaner's Nationalist Party after its victory in the 1948 elections—was a sort of apotheosis in the story of a people supposedly elected by God to carry out a very special mission in Africa. D. F. Malan was the first of a series of Afrikaner leaders (including H. F. Verwoerd, B. J. Vorster, P. W. Botha, and others) committed to creating Afrikanerdom by crushing or subduing black African aspirations to liberty, equality, and power. The British segment of South Africa's white population never fully endorsed the rationale for this extreme form of racism (though racism as a system was significant to the growth of South African capitalism), but they were unable to or did not really want to combat apartheid. All the heads of government and state in South Africa were Afrikaner from 1910, when independence was proclaimed, up to Nelson Mandela in 1994, when apartheid was formally abolished. The year 1994 also saw the country's first universal elections and the triumph of the African National Congress (ANC), the party that had built the antiracist movement by mobilizing black Africans and people of any race who rejected racism. After 350 years of colonialism, the ANC's victory established majority rule for the first time in South Africa's history.
Troup, Freda. South Africa: An Historical Introduction. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1972.
Van Jaarsveld, F. A. From Van Riebeeck to Vorster, 1652–1974. Pretoria, South Africa: Perskor, 1975.
Af·ri·ka·ner / ˌafriˈkänər/ • n. an Afrikaans-speaking person in South Africa, esp. one descended from the Dutch and Huguenot settlers of the 17th century. DERIVATIVES: Af·ri·ka·ner·dom / -dəm/ n.
So Afrikaans XX. var. of Afrikaansch.