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Sand, Cement, Glue

Fallen 2 & 3 Letter Words

  • The Afrikaans language, once called CAPE DUTCH is the West Germanic language of South Africa. It was developed from 17th-century Netherlandic (Dutch) by the descendants of the Dutch, German, and French colonists (my forebears) who settled in southern Africa before the British occupation in 1806. Although Afrikaans is very similar to Netherlandic, it is clearly a separate language, differing from Standard Netherlands in its sound system and its loss of case and gender distinctions.


    My mother taught me Afrikaans - I love it and I am proud of it. I believe that if I were allowed to speak to others whose mother-tongue is also Afrikaans, I can be as spellbinding, coherent, authoratitive, as poetic and as charming as speakers in the world's largest languages. At school I was taught that Afrikaaans is the world's youngest modern language and that it had 'overcome' many of the grammatical 'problems' of established European languages. Black languages were considered 'backward' and I wasn't taught any and didn't learn any.


    I lived through the bad years of apartheid and I saw my Afrikaans language, the world's youngest, beaten into a pulp many times. Everyone I know from my youth - and I only really knew Afrikaners - believed Afrikaans would burgeon as one of the great languages with its own literature, grammar and place. But, Afrikaans became the language of the opressor - of the Afrikaner apartheid opportunist - and as such it became punch-drunk before it even made its mark on the world scene. The mark it made is that of an undesirable cutthroat, the world's youngest linguistic bully. I am really dismayed at this distinction and as a result I am gradually drawn to speak and write in the language of my former enemy - English. I am also desperately trying to learn a black language - Zulu.


    In the two artworks FALLEN 2-LETTER WORDS and FALLEN 3-LETTER WORDS I bring paradoxical homage to a language that is wrecked. The simplest Afrikaans words, consisting of two and three letters, have had their wings melted and, like Icarus, are plumetting from the sky to become part of the seepage and slippage of the oceans - fallen, broken and washed-up.


    I am an artist and I know the value of things discarded, of arte povera and of abject hopelessness. I believe against belief that Afrikaans in its present state as the flotsum and jetsum of a politico-cultural disaster, stand a better chance to be 'liberated' as one of the world's great languages - better than when is was self-assertive and mean.

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