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Monday, April 9, 2012

Vir Volk en Vaderland

Tonteldoos....'Where the @#$&+ is Tonteldoos.

Tonteldoos is a little village off a bumpy, sandy road, 18km north/north-east of Dullstroom. The home of cheese, cattle farmers and peach mampoer or 'vuurwater' (firewater), a very potent, home-brewed alcoholic drink.....a bit like palatable paint-stripper.

But, look at that name!! 'Tonteldoos' actually means 'tinderbox' a name gained from someone who long ago, dropped his in the river. The second part of the name has a rather dodgy connotation. The word 'doos' is a less than flattering Afrikaans name for the female genitalia...a word that is well used in this country during angry exchanges. Someone not well versed in the language may very easily get the wrong idea!

So it is with this wonderful, colorful language, Afrikaans. No Shakespearean novel ever had such a gripping, expressive and interesting way of communicating. One only has to travel to Cape Town to hear our wonderful colored community, conversing with each other. Its fascinating and entertaining and enlightening. Each sentence has humor and truth (and often, copious profanities). Words are used to draw mental pictures. Their language, like true Afrikaans, is an art form in itself.

Anyone who has ever read the works of the rogue and murderer....and SA literary genus, Herman Charles Bosman, born in 1905, will know what I'm talking about.

Afrikaans is a wonderful language ...but let me give you one or two examples, to quote:

velskoen (skin shoe...a shoe still worn today ) or velskoenblaar (a leaf which feels like soft animal skin)

Some names for plants:

Kurkbokdrol ( a plant that has the appearance of chalk-like buck poo)
Drolpeer (a pear that looks like poo...???yet to see this :o) )
Katpissbossie ( cat pee bush...self explanatory)

We arrived at the Tonteldoos festival a tad early......10 am is obviously still early in these parts.

We popped into a little restaurant (and hotel apparently)across the road from the festival grounds. The cheese business must be booming....there was a shiny new Porsche parked around the back...very out of place amongst the Ford and Toyota bakkies, racing up and down the sandy roads.

Went exploring.......The back of the old stable the toilet......the 'outhouse'. No en-suites here.

This reminded me so much of our old family farm.

A novel wind-chime

"For folk and fatherland" English translation belies the color of this Afrikaans culture....but I'm happy to try.

The world seems to have a dim view of the Afrikaner nation of South Africa... the 'boer'... and indeed, as a little girl, growing up in a very racially divided country, so did I. I was often on the receiving end of some kind of verbal attack from passing neighbors when seeing me with my little black friend.
English-speaking whites were seen as weak 'colonialists', 'uit-landers' (out-siders), 'rooi-nekke', (red-necks) ....a derogatory name for the ultra-white skinned Brit who's exposed necks got fried by the unforgiving African sun.
Ironically, we (English..... and Afrikaans speaking people) are still given that label, 'colonialist', but now, by our fellow black country-men!

My grandfathers...a Scotsman and an Afrikaner, fought each other in the Anglo-Boer war, so, happily, and proudly, I represent both cultures. (the REAL bonus would be to have a little Zulu or Sotho or Xhosa or Pedi or San blood in me too).

My home language is English, but a very big part of my soul is Afrikaans. I can feel it more and more as I grow older, in the appreciation that I have for the Afrikaans culture and music, in the pride and pleasure of hearing well spoken Afrikaans language. I don't have many Afrikaans-speaking friends although there are few very Afrikaans people in my family.
It almost seem to me now, that Afrikaners are ashamed of their past...of their heritage, sadly, mixing English slang with their mother-language. This may be because the history books of our country have mostly been re-written over the last 20 years. Our youth, black and white, now know nothing of the stories that we, in our generation, grew up with; of brave Wolraad Woltemade and young Dirke Uys. 'Colonialist' statues and buildings, which had little or nothing to do with 'apartheid' have been neglected,torn down, re-located or removed altogether. Street names have been changed.

The winds of change continue to blow and as with everything in life, there is good and bad in it. Just as in all cultures, in all peoples, in all races and religions, there is good and bad,...things we can uphold and things we must let go of...for the sake of humanity, of goodness and of kindness.....but there are some things that are so deeply ingrained, that even if you try, it will always be part of you. That can be a very good thing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shaz, Firstly I must say that I wholeheartedly agree that we should start looking for the common good in our nation and we will surprise ourselves at how good we really are.
    Then, as a resident of Tonteldoos and the owner of the farm where that Festival took place that year, I thank you from the bottom of Tonteldoos (wherever that may be) for such a delightful, humorous and inspiring review on our little Hamlet.
    I came across it because I was checking to see if any info had come to light on "The Cat & The Cow", the newest addition to the metropolis. Sadly I need to do some more work on that but my vain attempt led me to your work. Please look us up again sometime - and call in for a coffee on me. Regards Liz Lane 0791996534