I confess when I first moved to South Africa I thought Afrikaners were the bad guys
Because I was never required to study African history in school, I knew only what the American media had taught me, which was that Afrikaners (Boer Nation) were responsible for Apartheid and therefore the bad guys. Six months after moving here, I realised how incorrect my initial assumptions were. Everyone in South Africa is both a “bad guy” and a “good guy”, and so it is with the rest of the world (for such is human nature).
The following two years were spent reading every book I could get my hands on regarding South Africa. If one wants to understand a culture, I reasoned, then one must study their art, music, literature, cuisine, and history. And so I did just that – not only for the Boer culture, but for other South African cultures as well.
At the end of those two years, I felt a keen remorse for having been so arrogant in the beginning. I now knew enough to understand that I knew very little, if anything. I enrolled in university (again) to study pastoral counselling, with the intent of learning how to listen and ask better questions. After I finished my studies, I enrolled in another three-year programme to study spiritual accompaniment, which teaches one how to journey with people on a spiritual level as they wrestle with issues of faith. I have two years left of this course, which brings me to the present moment.
Having lived in South Africa for seven years now, my desire is to walk humbly and respectfully with the people here, to forever be a student of the land, languages and cultures, and to serve where I can to help build this nation. This nation, however, will never reach its potential so long as any one people group is being marginalised or oppressed. The point of this letter is to share with you what I have observed among the Boers, as well as my hopes and dreams for them.
A famous American that loved Boer culture was non other than Jim Reeves. During the early 1960s, Reeves was more popular in South Africa than Elvis Presley and recorded several albums in the Afrikaans language. In 1963, he toured and was featured in a South African film, Kimberley Jim. The film was released with a special prologue and epilogue in South African cinemas after Reeves’ death, praising him as a true friend of the country. The film was produced, directed, and written by Emil Nofal.Jim Reeves was himself a Christian and had huge admiration for the Boer people who are a Christian nation similar to Americans. Jim Reeves died July 31, 1964 flying in a small aircraft with his manager Dean Manuel.
I see a people group who are being slowly squeezed out. I see a people group with no political representation. I see a people group whose younger generations are forced to carry the weight of the mistakes of their forefathers (which begs the question: how long does one punish a people group for the sins of the past?), whose older generations are frustrated, disillusioned and often angry with current situations, and whose middle generations struggle to find work and bridge the gap between the old and new South Africa, though they are desperately trying. I see a people group who are surviving at best, barely coping at worst, yet rarely thriving as they should be. I see a people group emigrating in large numbers. In short, I see a cultural crisis among the Afrikaners, as well as a great struggle to belong and be accepted in their own country. And this grieves me.
In the seven years I have had the privilege to live in South Africa, I have come to love the Boers. I love all of the cultures here – truly I do – but there is a soft spot in my heart for the Boers. Not because I am also white, certainly not because I am racist, but because I see the strengths of their culture, and I believe those strengths should be celebrated. Boers have an amazing ability to persevere despite the odds. Boers have a strong work ethic. They also have a unique ability to improvise, make do, and find a way around their obstacles (‘n Boer maak ‘n plan!).
I have learned much from the Boer culture. One thing that especially touches me is the way Boers pray. In the seven years that I have been here, nearly every prayer I have heard begins with “Dankie, Here”. To begin a prayer with heartfelt thanks despite present challenges is something that moves me deeply. In my own culture people nearly always being prayers with, “Dear God, would You please do such and such…?” I no longer pray that way, and I have the Boers to thank for that.
Another thing that I admire is the concept of a “lekker kuier”. It is more than a visit, more than a quick cup of tea, and can often interrupt schedules or to-do lists. In a kuier I am welcomed, heard, given priority over time’s looming deadlines, and valued. It doesn’t matter if my house is messy, my hair is not perfect, or what my plan for the day was. I thought I knew what hospitality was before I moved to South Africa, but I was wrong. I learned about hospitality from many a kuier, and I have the Boers to thank for that.
One of my favourite things about Boers is the Afrikaans language itself. I studied German and American Sign Language in school, but I confess that learning another language as a middle-aged woman was a bit daunting. Even so, as an immigrant I believe it is respectful to learn the language of one’s host country. I chose Afrikaans to begin with because my children have to learn it in school, and I wanted to be able to help them with their homework. And what a delightfully descriptive language! With words like “spookasem”, “stofsuier” and “trapsuutjies”, how can one not love Afrikaans? It is a young language, it does not have a large vocabulary, but it is marvellously expressive and inventive. I came to appreciate the Bible all over again after I began to read it in Afrikaans, and I have the Boers to thank for that.
I long for the day when Boers can hold their heads high and be proud of their culture and their heritage. I long for future generations to be in awe of their ancestors who fought bravely in the Anglo-Boer war or contributed toward the many inventions that are uniquely South African. I long for the Afrikaans language to persevere and continue to be relevant. I also long for the day when they no longer have to apologise for being Afrikaans but can celebrate their contribution to this great nation. No one should have to be ashamed of their culture or ethnicity, no matter what happened in the past.
I would like to end this letter by saying the following to the Boer people: I see you. I value you. And I would like to respectfully journey with you in helping this nation to reach its great potential.
WHISNews21: Annie has done us proud in her letter above. However she is also not aware that the Afrikaners the world refers to was created by the British after the Anglo Boer War and the majority of whites who believe they are Afrikaners in South Africa are really and truly Boers. No one can blame them for thinking that way as almost 100 years of propaganda has made them lose their identity and to believe they are Afrikaners when in fact they are part of the proud Boer Nation. One day the truth will be believed by all, Until then we are brothers with a common oppressor. In defence of my comment I will say only this, it was “the Anglo Boer War and not the Anglo Afrikaner War” that should explain it for those who have an open mind.