Category Archives: FILM
“Instead of the stigma of ‘the language of the oppressor’, the speakers of Afrikaans, like those of every other South African language, can aspire to and attain for their mother tongue the halo of a language of liberation and of unification.” – Neville Alexander
Afrikaaps – The Film is more than a documentary about the history of Afrikaans in Cape Town. It’s a theatre piece within a film. But then, it’s more than that. It’s a journey of a few creative individuals whose task it is to reclaim a language; while at the same time discovering their heritage and putting together a theatre production that is as yet unprecedented in South Africa.
There is a side to the Afrikaans language, the creole birth of the language that has been overlooked in our collective South African consciousness. If Afrikaans is ever to be a language of liberation – it has to be disentangled from its perceived identification with white Afrikaner nationalism.
The Theatre Production
Afrikaaps, a Glasshouse theatre production, directed by Catherine Henegan, is a cutting-edge contemporary hip-hopera about the story of Afrikaans, tracing its origins back to 1600’s and its evolution into the 21st century. Featuring an all-star cast (dubbed Die Argitekbekke) including Jitsvinger, Kyle Shepherd, Blaq Pearl, Emile Jansen and Shane Cooper – this musical theatre piece employs glitches, scratches, beats and rhymes to traverse time, whilst also referencing the rich musical landscape of traditional Cape styles like Ghoema and Kaapse Klopse.
Die Argitekbekke set out on a mission of redefinition combining storytelling, poetry, music, video and dance to tell their story. Set in an ever transforming digital landscape, Afrikaaps is an international co-production between the Amsterdam based theatre collective The Glasshouse and The Baxter Theatre in association with ABSA KKNK 2010.
The film will use the theatre production as a thread running throughout, while profiling the main performers and how they came to participate in the project. It will also explore each performer’s personal narrative within the story of the Afrikaans language.
To get to know each of the characters, we will profile them in personal character vignettes similar in style to the Cuban documentary, Buena Vista Social Club. The interviews will be intimate and informal, and will take place during a walk with each character through their neighbourhood, or in their homes. The camera style will be flowing and smooth, and ideally operated with a steadicam rig to achieve fluid and steady movement, while at the same time allowing the viewer to feel as if they are immersed in the environment on screen.
Through these different character vignettes, we will also uncover the various areas in Cape Town where our performers are from, and in so doing, get a sense of how and where Afrikaans is spoken in Cape Town today.
The film will alternate between these vignettes and crucial interviews and conversations with experts on history and language such as Patrick Tariq Mellet (a passionate “heritage activist”) and Dr Neville Alexander (The Director of the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa), amongst others. The film will also incorporate the play’s workshop process, as well as the “behind the scenes” material filmed during the creation of the theatre project. We will also film the performances at The Baxter and the KKNK with a minimum of two cameras; one roving camera, and one steady one in theatre, in order to cover all the angles needed to fully capture the performances visually and intimately.
In the film we will also delve into the history of Afrikaans, or rather the version that was never taught to us; from the first Dutch ships in the Cape, carrying slaves of varying descent, where it was birthed as a “mongrel language”; to the first book in Afrikaans which was the Q’uran, and the nationalism of the language in 1875 by the Genootskap van die Regte Afrikaners (The Organisation of True Afrikaners). We will also look at the famous Soweto uprising in 1976, where Afrikaans was labeled the language of apartheid, the great prime evil of our time.
I will also employ my own voice in the film, as a young “coloured” Capetonian whose parents are both Afrikaans speaking and yet I was raised as an English first language speaker. As a result my Afrikaans is very poor today. This is an occurrence which is not unique to my family, and I will interrogate notions of ownership, prosperity and shame in the use of spoken Afrikaans, especially the version of Afrikaans spoken by ‘coloured’ people in the Cape (referred to as Kaaps or Gamtaal), considered by Afrikaner nationalists as “impure”.
Reach and scope
With the film we aim to get this inclusive message to as wide an audience as possible, as it is highly important that the message of the play goes further than the people who will attend the theatre. We are aiming for local and possibly international TV broadcast, DVDs on sale at the theatre performances as well as distribution to libraries and schools. The educational (and transformational) potential of the material should also be utilized fully.
I see this film and this theatre project not as autonomous works, but as part of a bigger movement of efforts to reclaim the Afrikaans language for all who speak it, and in Neville Alexander’s words, to give tramakassie the same value and acknowledgement as dankie (“thank you”).
I believe that if we can all acknowledge the creole histories, and the black/ “coloured” contribution to the language, it would be a great step forward for equality in our country. We need to recognize Afrikaans as part of the heritage of all South Africans, and not only of one particular racial group. Together we can make Afrikaans a language of liberation!
Research trip for a film: ‘uncle louis & the copperbelt cowboys’