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Sage and screen: Jamie Uys as filmmaker part 2: The Mimosa Films phase, 1966-1996

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Jan-Ad Stemmet, Department of History (University of the Free State, RSA). stemmetj@ufs.ac.za

This article was written with the gracious co-operation of Dr Boet Troskie (founder: Mimosa Films) and mrs. Mireschen Troskie-Marx (board member: Mimosa Films).

Abstract

In his career of nearly 50 years, Jamie Uys made more than 40 pictures — feature films, short films, and documentaries. Most of his work appeared before he joined Mimosa Films, and between 1950 and 1966 he launched about a film a year. During his Mimosa Films period (1966-1996), he made only seven films, and these took longer to complete and were more expensive than anything he had done before. All his films of this period were very successful commercially and critically: of his seven full-length movies, five were sensational international successes on a scale that had not previously been seen in the history of film in South Africa. The Gods must be Crazy (1980) remains the single most successful film ever from Africa. This article gives an overview of the period 1966-1996. During the last 30 years of his life, the filmmaker reached his creative and professional peak. This article is not intended to be a thorough critique of Uys’s works: It examines the filmmaker’s creative and professional challenges and processes in making his remarkable contribution to South Africa’s (cinematic) cultural history.

Introduction

In his career of almost 50 years, Jamie Uys made more than 40 pictures – feature films, short films and documentaries. Most of his works appeared before he joined Mimosa Films, and between 1950 and 1966, he released approximately a film a year. Although this productivity developed his film-making abilities tremendously, Uys detested making films just for financial reasons. He longed for the financial security to make movies meticulously. During his Mimosa Films phase (1966-1996), he made only seven feature films. His Mimosa pictures took longer and cost more to make than anything he had done before, and all these films were critical and commercial successes. Of his six features, five achieved international success on a scale unprecedented in the film history of South Africa. His The Gods must be Crazy (Uys 1980) remains the single most successful film ever to come from Africa. This article will chronicle the period 1966-1996 (Uys passed away in 1996), during which time he reached his creative and professional apex. In a time when South African television was booming, and, as a result, the local film industry was waning, he made South African cinematic history.

This article does not intend an in-depth critique of Uys’s works, but explores the film-maker’s creative and professional challenges and processes in making his landmark contributions to South Africa’s (cinematic) cultural history. Jamie Uys was an intensely private individual, and therefore no (auto)biographies, history books, or academic theses dealing specifically with Uys have ever been published. The article therefore relies on newspaper and magazine clippings, and Mimosa Films allowed access to its private archive.

An ace called Uys and the men from Mimosa

In 1965, the small production team, with only a miniscule budget, filmed seven days a week, night and day, winter and summer (without the luxury of sets and studios) to make Die wonderwêreld van Kammie Kamfer (The Wonderful World of Kammie Kamfer) (1965). Al Debbo, Afrikaans all-round entertainer, was in charge of filming. It was one of Debbo’s many movies and the first film from the Free State’s Mimosa Films. Boet Troskie, a young Bloemfontein businessman who dealt in vehicles, had seen Debbo’s Donker Afrika (Dark Africa) (1957) and at a variety show starring Debbo asked Debbo why he stopped making movies. It turned out that financing was Debbo’s problem. In fact Debbo had a script (by seasoned actor Gert van den Bergh), but no financial backing (Mimosa Films 1985). “When Al told me that it cost almost R60 000 to make a film, I nearly fell on my back. Nonetheless, the next day we put our heads together and formed Mimosa Films,” recalled Boet Troskie of the day in 1964 when, together with his brother, Bill, they founded their film company (Stemmet 2011:96). While the Troskie brothers from Bloemfontein were developing their first production, the country’s foremost filmmaker, Jamie Uys, had left his own production house. The Troskies knew Gilbert Gibson, an actor who had played a role in Uys’s Rip van Wyk (1960) and Doodkry is min (1961) (Gibson had also done the translation for Donker Afrika).

Boet Troskie asked and later pleaded with an uncertain Gibson to arrange a meeting. “They [Boet and Bill Troskie] just pitched up at my house,” Uys recollected. “They said they’d made one movie with Al Debbo and wouldn’t I like to join them. It so happened that at that time I was a bit fed up with my distributors [Jamie Uys Films] because they took over my name and put some funny things under its banner. So a week later I phoned them [Boet and Bill Troskie] and said OK” (Mimosa Films 2007a). The country’s youngest production house (Mimosa Films) and the country’s most prominent filmmaker (Jamie Uys) had teamed up. In 1966, Uys became a director of Mimosa Films. Their collaboration spanned 30 years, during which time they would create the most successful films in South African history — and there was never anything resembling a written agreement between Troskie and Jamie Uys. It was all based on trust and camaraderie. The unwritten agreement was staggeringly simple: The filmmaker must make films; the businessman will take care of business. Uys was given the creative safety and financial security to focus on his storytelling. Arguably, he was one of only a few filmmakers ever to work without a narrow budget or timescale. “I’ll never forget those years when I had to make films and agonize over the business side, raising money, paying wages,” said Uys, “[Now] I make the films, they [Mimosa Films] look after the money” (see Mimosa Films 2007a, Sutton 1983, and De Bruin 1983b). The Uys-Mimosa Films alliance kicked off with a double dose: A feature film and a documentary.

Three wise men (1967) centred on how three different blind South Africans viewed their respective worlds. This was shown in bioscopes in America’s major cities (1968) to critical and popular acclaim, and was then re-edited by Uys to a 14-minute TV-insert, which was screened across the USA — within a single year, it was broadcast by various American TV-stations more than 4 000 times (Stemmet 2011:99). Uys was suddenly regarded by America as master of the short. Only in 1980 was the film withdrawn from circulation (see Anonymous 1968k, Anonymous 1968l, and Mimosa Films n.d.).

Die Professor en die Prikkelpop

In 1966 Uys wanted three months off to do anything that had nothing to do with films. After three weeks he was bored and abruptly started scriptwriting. Uys had been a judge at a beauty pageant in Springs once and the experience had stayed with him (see Anonymous 1966a, and Anonymous 1966b). Die Professor en die Prikkelpop (also released as The professor and the beauty queen), released in 1967, revolved around a beauty pageant. In this film, his first full-length feature with Mimosa Films, a contestant’s gangster-boyfriend tries to make sure his lady will win — regardless of the cost. One of the judges (Uys), a rather disoriented professor and single father to a little boy (Uys’s son Wynand Uys), gets mixed up in the pageant’s dangerous (and funny) intrigues (Uys 1967).

To create a publicity buzz Mimosa Films arranged with newspapers throughout South Africa to hold beauty pageants to select twelve actors who would star as the contestants in the film. The papers loved this idea and hundreds of hopeful starlets entered. Uys crisscrossed the country several times screen-testing the contesters (see Gibson 1966, Anonymous 1966a, 1966b, 1966c, and De Cock 1967) (in the process he discovered Tiny de Lange whose onscreen beauty would mesmerize South Africans). For the theme song Uys had to choose from eight possibilities but ultimately could only select one: Kobus “Dopper” Erasmus wrote “Timothy”, performed by Four Jacks and a Jill, and sung, in the picture, by Carike Keuzenkamp; launching her career. Uys’s only picture focusing specifically on women was a financial success and earned R250 000 in three months, (Mimosa Films 1980).

Dirkie

In some way or another, each one of Uys’s Mimosa pictures provided the spark for the next one. The filmmaker was flying to Namibia, in 1967, to promote Die Professor en die Prikkelpop when he became completely hypnotised by the sprawling red dunes of the desert. As a seasoned cinematic storyteller, he realised that, in spite of its majesty, images of dunes will only mesmerise audiences for a few moments. He had read of a plane crash in which only a small child survived (Mimosa Films 1988). Uys’s script told of a sickly boy (Wynand Uys 1) that is sent by his pianist father (Jamie Uys) to a drier climate for health reasons. The plane carrying the boy crashes, and he is lost in the Namib Desert together with his dog, while the father frantically searches for him (Uys 1969). Initially entitled The Fallen Sparrow, Uys later decided on Dirkie (the English version was released as Lost in the Desert) (Anonymous 1968h). Dirkie’s story might have been a simple premise, but the production was a gruelling epic. 2 Most directors that have filmed in the Namib usually did not venture away from more civilised parts of the country, but Uys said, “We are going to film at even the most inaccessible places” (Stemmet 2011:76). Uys and Mimosa negotiated permission to film at places that are legally off-limits to the public; including parts of Namibia’s confined diamond zone. Uys travelled thousands of miles across Namibia, first by car and then plane, location-scouting (see Anonymous 1968f, and 1968g).

Actual filming stretched from the Kalahari Gemsbok Park (currently the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) to Etosha to Windhoek to Walvis Bay, Rhehoboth and the restricted diamond zone. The Uys team would drive 11 000 kilometres through the wilderness to make the picture. Challenges abounded: The R250 000 budget did not allow for luxury accommodation, and they would camp far away from civilization (and sometimes water), which made planning for the production an intricate operation. Once a week a plane brought provisions from Windhoek; otherwise the filmmakers were on their own. The small crew of 11 had to obey food and water rations. Temperatures were extreme: The nights icy; the days hot. Tents, equipment, notes, and supplies were constantly blown away by desert winds. The crew tented in the Namib wilderness amidst wild animals. 3 Animals used in the film, ranging from a leopard to a hyena to a baboon to snakes and scorpions, an Alsatian and Dirkie’s pet Cairn terrier, had to be tended to as well (see Pienaar 1968, Anonymous 1968j, Mimosa Films n.d.). Apart from the snakes and scorpions, the other animals were tamed, but not trained, which complicated the filmmaking. 4 Furthermore, Jamie Uys suffered from a unique medical condition: The intense heat made his lips burst into a (painful) bloody mush. When Uys (lead actor / scriptwriter / director / principal cameraman) became incapacitated, the production stopped, sending costs soaring (Mimosa Films 2007a). Uys needed an indigenous child to play a part in the movie, and remembering an old legend, the secluded local tribes were convinced “the white one” wanted to buy their kids as slaves. After gentle negotiations (as well as a change of filming location), the director acquired his, anonymous, actress (Mimosa Films 1988). Dawid, a local Toppenaar, played a Khoi San without ever having seen a movie, which complicated the production even further (Anonymous 1969).
However, the two most treacherous challenges facing Uys were dunes and sand. “At night he has nightmares about those footprints,” Hettie Uys mentioned (Anonymous 1968b). The red dunes (the film’s muse) were nightmarish: Dirkie was supposedly alone in the desert, and when a dune shot demanded a retake, a different virgin dune without footprints had to be found (see Breytenbach 1968 and 1968b). Secondly, the fine desert sand got into the cameras, and it took only a few sand particles to obliterate the delicate film. Uys could not evaluate the filmed material in the desert, and it had to be flown from Namibia to London, where it was developed by Eastman / Technicolor. Only back in Johannesburg could he see the material (making editing a nightmare). If it was damaged or Uys was unhappy with a scene, the whole production team had to trek back and reshoot, prolonging production and wrecking the budget (Mimosa Films 1988). At last — and after a lot of public anticipation and speculation — Dirkie (Lost in the Desert) was released in 1969. It was more than just successful: It set South African box office records. The 13 prints Mimosa Films had made were not nearly enough, which meant Mimosa officials had to travel across the country to deliver copies. Boet Troskie and Mimosa Films brokered a deal for Dirkie’s international distribution with the Columbia Pictures Corporation, which screened it almost worldwide with tremendous success 5, putting Uys squarely on the international studios’ radar.
In between the production process of Dirkie, Uys created two short films, commissioned by the Department of Information, for international showing. Marching to Pretoria (1969) looked at the country’s administrative capital (Uys 1969), while The Great Adjustment (1969) showed how man and animal co-existed (Uys 1969). Animals were his next feature’s theme.

Beautiful People

After the overseas breakthrough with Dirkie, Hollywood wanted another Uys picture. While filming Dirkie in Namibia, Uys was mesmerised by the desert’s fauna and flora. He was to make a full-length feature film about it: with no humans. 6 Although styled like a nature documentary, Beautiful People (1974) was an epic feature, and Uys revealed Southern Africa’s fauna and flora as a lush-dried paradise. He was to capture a rainbow of trees, plants, flowers and seeds, to birds, fish, insects and reptiles as well as herbivores and carnivores, plus his beloved desert, in an imaginative way. Beautiful People showed how the wild kingdom and the human world mirrored each other. Part comedy, part drama, part adventure, part tragedy, part romance, part action, part educational — the picture, essentially, was a combination of all genres (see Uys 1974 and Mimosa Films 2007a).

The most gruelling production of his career of almost 50 years, Beautiful People was beset with practical difficulties. 7 The regions Uys wanted to explore cinematically morphed with the slightest change in the weather — never mind seasons. Nature cannot be hurried; the filmmaker simply had to wait, film, and wait again. The wild is wild: a missed shot was lost forever. Furthermore, he wanted to capture Southern Africa’s natural world almost in its entirety, a rather far-fetched ambition for a man who preferred to work alone. As chief cinematographer, he travelled about 200 000km through the Kalahari, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe in over three years (see Anonymous 1973, 1974b, 1974c, and 1974d). “In spite of the heat, rain, tsetse flies and humidity it was fun for the most of the time,” said Uys (Stemmet 2011:79). “Each change in the weather brought out different animals for me to look at, study and film” (Keil 1974:10). Katinka Heyns (1996:35) remarks,

Iemand wat dink hy was in sy dierefilms verplig om baie aan die toeval oor te laat, of aan dié of daardie bobbejaan se wispelturigheid, neem nie Jamie se legendariese hardnekkigheid in ag nie. Met sy soort geduld kon hy mettertyd selfs die toeval manipuleer.

[Someone who thinks he was obliged in his animal movies to leave much to chance, or to this or that baboon’s fickleness, does not take Jamie’s legendary stubbornness into account. With his kind of patience he could eventually even manipulate chance.]

In the end he had an astounding 804 672 metres of film — he was personally going to edit it to 3 000m. Working non-stop for 18 months, Uys — jetting between his Johannesburg studios and California — edited the labyrinth of film; his overzealousness resulting in cardiac arrest. Rina Venter, from Mimosa Films, said: “He’s overextended and moreover he’s doing everything himself” (see Anonymous 1972a, 1972b, and Mimosa Films 2007a).

Boet Troskie, backed by Hollywood, managed a million-dollar production (South Africa’s first), which was quickly depleted by a drawn-out production of Beautiful People. The Americans demanded a film or the money. With the one-man filmmaker in intensive care, the picture had the potential to kill Uys and Mimosa Films. Dr. Troskie persevered and Uys made a quick recovery. Uys again started working on Beautiful People. The film was presented to experts to explain the animals’ behaviour and if “they could not tell me I would work it out for myself” (Keil 1974:10). Uys had to write an absorbing commentary with which to tie-up some 40 sequences 8 (see Anonymous 1973, 1974b, and 1974d).

By 1975, more than 3 000 000 had seen Beautiful People — more than the country’s entire white population. Locally the picture made more than R3 000 000. At just one South African bioscope the film sold more tickets than an average Afrikaans movie grosses nationally. In November 1974, Variety stated: “Beautiful People is an extraordinary African nature documentary, one of the finest examples of its kind and told with a singleness of purpose…” (Anonymous 1974a). When released in the USA, the film’s popularity was fantastic: Within three weeks it made $525 000 in Los Angeles and $450 000 in Dallas. In Hong Kong the film (permanently sold out) caused havoc (Stemmet 2011: 101). Large crowds waited for hours to get tickets. In Bangkok — in 48 hours — it had set an attendance record. It made more than (US) $965 000 at three Tokyo theatres within 84 days; within 33 days Hong Kong’s seven bioscopes sold tickets worth (US) $618 905 — eventually making twice as much as the legendary Star Wars (stemmet 2011: 101). Across South America the movie was thrashing records (see Anonymous 1975a, 1975b, and Breytenbach 1974). By 1980, Beautiful People had earned some (US) $15 000 000. In the same year, Boet Troskie sold the television rights to the American network NBC: 20 000 000 Americans watched it in one broadcast (Anonymous 1980e). 9 By 2009, Beautiful People, bought by Warner Bros., was still shown on television worldwide. Awards proliferated, including America’s coveted Golden Globe for best documentary (Mimosa Films 2007b).

Funny People

“Actually I had my crew just film a couple of comical shots to keep them busy after we had completed Beautiful People,” explained Uys. “When I saw the result, we just left everything and started to work on what would later become Funny People” (Anonymous 1976d). Uys first saw hidden camera-comedies — showing ordinary citizens’ reactions to extraordinary situations — as a schoolboy, and loved the idea (Anonymous 1976g). “It’s fascinating to see how people reveal their personalities in moments of stress,” said Uys (Ferreira 1976). Uys experimented with the concept, of hidden-camera pranks, while making the 1969 short film Marching to Pretoria. Troskie flew to New York to meet with Allan Funt, legendary creator of Candid Camera, to negotiate permission to use the premise (Mimosa Films n.d.). The Uys team compiled a list of almost a hundred sequences from which they chose about 50 to stage. The scenarios had to be planned with precision — catching humorous reactions meant precise timing; camouflaging the cameras and microphones were also tricky. Filming across the country took 18 months. They snared hundreds of South Africans of all ages and races. Uys then sat with five hours of usable material, which had to be edited into a 90 minute picture, taking him six months (see Van Rensburg 1976:35 and Anonymous 1976c, 1976b, and 1976h). Funny People (Uys 1976) was to better the record-breaking success of Beautiful People.

In March 1976, Uys personally took Funny People for its first screening to thousands of South African troops stationed at Grootfontein in what was then South West Africa. Shortly afterwards, he showed it to (almost) all South Africa’s parliamentarians, including State President Nico Diederichs, Prime Minister John Vorster, and a full cabinet — the stern politicians cried with laughter (Anonymous 1976f and 1976j). Public anticipation for South Africa’s first hidden-camera film was ablaze. Nationwide, theatres were sold out for days — even before its release. In some cities, all sessions were sold out weeks in advance. In its first week alone, grossing about R250 000, one in every 19 white South Africans had bought a ticket (see Javis 1976, Greig 1976, and Anonymous 1976e and 1976a). No other film had ever achieved that many sales (Anonymous 1976i). The spur-of-the-moment comedy provoked such a national circus of popularity that Troskie decided to take it to the Cannes Film Festival (the global cinema industry’s most important trade fair). He successfully sold the film for distribution in most countries worldwide 10. International distributors bought the movie without having seen it — the name Jamie Uys clinched the deal (Mimosa Films 1986a). After engulfing South Africa, once more depleting the State’s film subsidy scheme, Uys’s People annexed box offices across the world raking in millions for years 11. While selling Funny People at Cannes, Dr. Troskie was besieged by interest in Uys. Some of the world’s largest film financiers demanded the right to bankroll his next three productions (Slabbert 1976). Uys knew exactly what his first one was to be. In 1975 he already hinted “my next big picture – it takes place in the desert – will be considerably more expensive and more ambitious than Beautiful People” (Van Zyl 1975).

Meanwhile, in 1976, South Africa finally started a television service. This had a devastating effect on the local film industry: Movie attendances naturally and immediately dropped. In 1976, some 32 local movies were released, the next year there were only 18, and in 1979 only 12 – and it would continue dropping (Garden 1983 and Mimosa Films n.d.). By 1980, Uys was one of a handful full-time filmmakers in South Africa.

Whilst making Dirkie and Beautiful People, Uys had become intrigued by the Bushmen. “A name I haven’t got yet. It’s about a white and a Bushman and will take place in Botswana…” and “It’s a bit of everything — comedy, pathos, tension…” a secretive Uys divulged (Mimosa Films n.d.).

The Gods must be Crazy

Uys first spoke about his Bushman-Coke movie idea and his fascination with these enigmatic desert people in 1976 (Anonymous 1976k). A pure documentary about the Bushmen, as was the case with Beautiful People’s red dunes, was too bland: he needed to intertwine documentary with entertainment. Uys would use the essence of his first picture, 1951’s Daar doer in die Bosveld (Deep in the Bushveld), and from there other themes originated (Mimosa Films 2007a). “There are only 13 000 Bushmen left in the country and I saw as many as I could find,” Uys said, who went on the hunt for his ideal desert hunter (Thomas 1985). Uys drove and flew tens of thousands of kilometres searching for his leading man. “[T]hey live over a vast area…and they don’t have addresses,” the filmmaker described. “I took 50-60 photos of prospects, marking the longitude and latitude where they were located” (Anonymous 1985e) 12. Back in Johannesburg, Uys had to pick one from hundreds of Bushmen. A lot (including a budget of millions) relied on his choice. “When I looked at the photos, one of them stood out” (Anonymous 1985d). Uys said about his star’s X-factor: “There is a word adeldom in Afrikaans that describes him exactly. It’s sort of aristocracy … though that sounds too pompous” (Mimosa Films 1986b). Having found his star and his core storylines, Uys needed something to tie it all together; something so ordinary that everyone will recognize it. “I simply used a Coke bottle because it is such a recognizable form,” Uys spoke of his cinematic eureka moment (Stemmet 2011:103).

“When I make a film, I first work out the dance steps. The dialogue comes later” (Mimosa Films 2007a). Uys found scriptwriting gruelling, but always wrote his own: “Scripts — good scripts — are rare. I would like to once film another guy’s script, but I am too full of nonsense to be pleased. Even with my own scripts the end result is never what I had imagined when I wrote it and then I am really unhappy” (Gous 1983:68). He would write a few lines for ten or so minutes and then play Scrabble or cards. He pondered every word; when finished he rarely changed anything. “There is only one way in which Jamie writes scripts,” Sue Antelme, Uys’s assistant, revealed. “When he works in the garden and spades for all he’s worth, I stand at his side with pen and notepad at the ready” (Anonymous 1979d). The result was The Gods must be Crazy: A Coke bottle falls on a Bushman’s (N!Xau) 13 head. The tribe believes it has been sent from heaven, and soon it disrupts their lives. The gods must be crazy for having given them this thing, and Xi subsequently walks to the end of the earth to throw it away. En route he gets mixed up with a bumbling macho man (Marius Weyers) and his love interest, a school teacher (Sandra Prinsloo). They get involved with the intrigues of a guerrilla group (Louw Verwey played its leader). N!Xau’s character saves the day (Uys 1979).

For The Gods Must Be Crazy Uys, with his six 4x4s, drove 50 000km while location-scouting throughout Angola, Botswana, the Kalahari, Namibia, and across South Africa (Stemmet 2011:102). The filmmaker (as usual doing almost everything himself) and his permanent technical crew of roughly six young men, now embarked on creating the multi-million dollar production. Uys used young apprentices because “it does not help if the people are too smart for their own good and do not do as I say” (Rossouw 1983). Legends abound of Uys’s tenacious perseverance while making this movie. 14 He filmed on a scale of more than twenty to one (more than twenty takes of a single scene). He — unlike his cast and crew — apparently never got tired; whatever it took to realize his vision, he would do it. Any premise of a deadline and budget 15 quickly vanished: nobody knew when the picture would be finished or how many millions it would actually cost. Uys calmly persisted, and Mimosa Films never lost faith. “I am the world’s worst to pin down to a budget and a schedule,” Uys declared. “I need complete freedom to go out and shoot” (Stemmet 2011:77). His executive producer, Dr. Troskie, said, “It is Jamie’s best yet, but he has given me some headaches” (Stemmet 2011:103). Apart from a smorgasbord of production challenges, Mimosa Films could not pre-sell the The gods must be crazy to overseas interests as a delivery date was impossible to set (Hay 1980). In May 1979, Troskie took a specially edited 20-minute segment from the picture to show at the Cannes Film Festival. Irrespective of delivery date, the international movie men went wild for it — 26 countries, from Germany to Israel to Indonesia to Venezuela, offered millions for distribution rights (of the yet unfinished movie) (Anonymous 1979c, 1979a, and 1979b).

By the end of December 1979, Uys had been editing The Gods must be Crazy for months, for 14 to 18 hours a day, without a single day’s rest — in between jetting to America to finish the soundtrack. During this time he suffered a heart attack, his second heart attack. Uys recuperated while a concerned Mimosa Films contracted a top editor from Hollywood to assist the workaholic (Steyl 1980, Anonymous 1980f). In the end, Jamie Uys had slaved over his picture for 4½ years (Mimosa Films 1986b). Following one postponement after another regarding the première, The Gods must be Crazy was locally released on 8 September 1980 (Mimosa Films 1986b).

The commercial success, locally and internationally, of The Gods must be Crazy, is almost impossible to summarize within a single article. The picture took only 96 hours to break all South African box-office records (Christie 1980, Anonymous 1980a). Shortly after release, theatres squeezed in extra screenings and still could not accommodate the demand. At one Potchefstroom theatre, police stood guard as people who could not buy tickets became violent (Anonymous 1980b). Percy Tucker, famed chief of the booking agency Computicket, was amazed, “I have never seen such business… In Pretoria one of my switchboard operators lost her voice” (Christie 1980 and Anonymous 1980c). By the second Saturday that it was on circuit, 99% of all seats of all sessions — nationally — were still sold out in advance (Christie 1980 and Anonymous 1980c). Not only bioscopes were sold-out: drive-in theatres were a spectacle: at outside drive-ins it was common to see crowds (who could not get tickets) standing along the fence to try and catch a glimpse. Frustrated, because they were unable to obtain tickets in cities, groups clubbed together, hired busses and travelled to neighbouring towns’ drive-ins (Anonymous 1980d). Throughout the country, the film’s initial run was repeatedly extended. Even Nelson Mandela, still in jail, saw it (Mimosa Films 1998). The gods must be crazy became the first film to make $5 000 000 in South Africa (Mimosa Films 2007a).
Instead of selling Funny People to American majors for distribution, Mimosa Films sold it from country to country, and The Gods must be Crazy was to be circulated in the same way. Dr. Troskie and a small team of representatives criss-crossed the globe, more than once, with their Coke movie (Mimosa Films n.d.).

The Gods must be Crazy was one of 1981’s Top Twenty most successful pictures in Spain (the King Mother saw it three times). In Japan it grossed $3 000 000 in 12 days (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). By February 1982, some 450 000 Japanese had seen it (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). In the Tokyo bioscope, where it was screened, even standing room was sold out. The film amassed such gigantic amounts in Japan that the economic controllers refused that the Troskie organisation withdrew all its profits from the country. In 1983, 1 000 000 Frenchmen bought tickets — beating Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and becoming that year’s top grossing film in France (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). Even in the Soviet Union — where it showed illegally – it was a smash hit. In Portugal it showed non-stop for a year. In Montreal it beat all Hollywood pictures’ box office business in the course of ten days. Within 7 days, 1 000 000 Swedes saw it (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). In Malaysia it ran for 100 weeks and became the most successful film to show there — ever. In Australia it ran for more than a year (in one Sydney bioscope, paramedics were reportedly called in to help moviegoers who suffered fits from laughing hysterically. In Brisbane, a psychiatrist was said to prescribe tickets to the film for his depression sufferers). When it hit New York City, in 1984, it set new records — becoming the foreign film with the longest uninterrupted run in the history of the Big Apple (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.).
In 1985, The gods must be crazy became the single most successful picture to be screened in Los Angeles; it showed for years in Beverly Hills. In Miami the film ran for five months. By 1984 the film was one of the most popular pictures to show in the USA — nationally. By May 1986 the picture entered its 93rd week on the list of the top fifty grossing pictures in the USA (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.). In the United States, The Gods must be Crazy would become the film with the longest uninterrupted run of all time. From West Germany to India to New Zealand to South America, the South African picture set records. When N!Xau and Uys were invited to visit Japan and France respectively they were received in a way reserved for statesmen and superstars. By 1985, The Gods must be Crazy had already earned $90 000 000. By 2001 it had grossed about R950 000 000. From 1980 to 1989, The Gods must be Crazy was screened uninterruptedly somewhere on earth (Mimosa Films 1986b, 2007a, and n.d.).
Apart from millions of dollars, accolades from across the globe streamed in. This included Switzerland’s Festival International du Film de Comedie Pour: Grand Prix award (1981) as well as the Norwegian Film Festival’s Grand Prix, as well as the London Film Festival’s Outstanding Film of the Year award, both in 1981. Others include the 1982 French Chamrousse Grand Prix award, the 1984 Southern California’s Motion Picture Council’s Golden Halo Award of Special Merit, and the 1985 American Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films: Golden Scroll (Mimosa Films 2007b).

The gods must be crazy was internationally released as South Africa experienced unprecedented violent political conflict waging over apartheid. Internationally the country was treated as a pariah state. Anti-apartheid groups throughout the world desperately tried to brand the film as fascist propaganda 16, but to little effect — even in countries most vehemently opposed to apartheid, people flocked to see it in record numbers (Nigeria even boasted a Jamie Uys film club). The film spoke for itself: N!Xau was the wise hero of the film while the so-called civilized characters were the ridiculous ones. Uys was (repeatedly) asked why he did not make a film denouncing apartheid or at least addressing the issue. The filmmaker (repeatedly) retorted that he was in the business of humour and there was nothing funny about the system (see Rufus-Ellis 1983, Bright 1985, Anonymous 1985b, 1985a, and 1985c).

While the world roared with laughter at The gods must be crazy, Uys released Funny People 2 (Uys 1983). The Uys team compiled a comical picture from roughly 4 000 ordinary people they filmed in some 80 extraordinary situations (see Du Plessis 1985 and Anonymous 1983b). Repeating his candid-camera recipe, the picture was a fantastically funny hit. After its première on 26 October 1983, it quickly grossed staggering amounts: countrywide never-ending rows at the box-office characterised its release (Eales 1983, Anonymous 1983a). In the film’s initial run it earned a R100 000 per day — breaking The Gods must be Crazy’s local record (and as such, all box office records of all pictures ever showed in South Africa up until then) (see De Bruin 1985 and Anonymous 1983c). Troskie sold Funny People II at the 1983 Milan Film Festival with tremendous success to almost twenty countries and became an overseas hit (see De Bruin 1985 and Anonymous 1983c).

The Gods Must Be Crazy 2

By now Hollywood offered Uys budgets, production teams, cutting-edge technology and super stars — anything the South African wanted the Americans (competing for his creative/professional affections) would deliver. Never without an abundance of ideas, he contemplated some cherished earlier concepts. Already in 1981, Uys wanted to reshoot his Rip Van Wyk (1959) as Rip McDonald in Las Vegas. Or possibly make a picture about a hensopper in the Anglo-Boer War (De Bruin 1981 and 1983a:9). However, the world’s movie moguls demanded a sequel to the Bushman feature. In September 1984, Dr. Troskie announced that Mimosa Films was developing a sequel to The Gods must be Crazy 17 (Anonymous 1984). The follow-up was Uys’s most expensive movie by far. With a budget of between $15-20 million, Uys could afford a huge production team but as always stuck with a tiny team (15) and took charge of almost all aspects (Anonymous 1985f).

“In the sequel I am the equivalent of the Coke bottle which dropped from the sky…” said actress Lena Farugia (Christie 1986). Xi (N!Xau) searches for his lost children. A slick New Yorker (Farugia) and a macho nature expert (Hans Strydom) are in a plane crash and — like the Coke bottle — drop into the wild. Meanwhile, inept poachers get lost as well as two soldiers (of opposing sides). All the aforementioned four stories are knit together — with hysterical results (Uys 1989). As Dr. Troskie sold The Gods must be Crazy 2 amidst tremendous worldwide interest at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, Uys started filming the actual picture (Botha 1986 and Steenkamp 1986). The expensive sequel, from concept to release, took five years to create; filming on a scale of 60:1. On average, the production team drove roughly 650 km between locations throughout Southern Africa. Uys also did post-production work and optical illusions at England’s legendary Pinewood Studios (Mimosa Films n.d.).

Two days after its release in October 1989, the picture, as was the tradition, had broken all South African movie records. Locally, The Gods must be Crazy 2 was earning +/- R1 000 000 per week by October 1989 (Mimosa Films 2000 and 2007a).

Once more South Africa and the world could not get enough of Uys’s fun fanfare. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, The Gods must be Crazy 1 and 2 had earned more than $500 million (more than R5 000 000 000) collectively (Mimosa Films 2000 and 2007a).
Both the The Gods must be Crazy films were so successful that it spawned three illegal Chinese films: Crazy Safari (1991), Crazy in Hong Kong (1993) and The Gods must be Funny in China (1994) (McLennan-Dodd and Tomaselli 2005). The success of the original films, The Gods Must Be Crazy and The Gods Must Be Crazy II, however, also came with vehement criticism, and claims that the films were racist (see Nicholls 2008 and Tomaselli 2006).

Still, Uys’s imagination was a kaleidoscope and soon he was exploring various ideas. By 1996, Jamie Uys (75) was the country’s undisputed sage of the silver screen: he was unsurpassed in acclaim, in commercial success and technical knowledge. In South Africa only one filmmaker could break Uys’s records — Uys. By January 1996 he was busy scriptwriting when he suffered his third and fatal heart attack (Mimosa Films 2007a).

When the laughter died

“I can’t write poetry — so I make movies.” Jamie Uys (1921 -1996)

Jamie Uys’s Mimosa Films phase represents his creative and professional apex. In his three decades with Mimosa Films, Jamie Uys’s immeasurable creative mind and vast professional experience climaxed. Boet Troskie supplied the financial security, and boundless time, for Uys to tell his stories the way that he had dreamt of. Their unique professional understanding and genuine friendship resulted in the collaboration creating the most popular pictures to come from the continent to date. In the process, Uys’s creative genius and Troskie’s corporate know-how spawned a business entity spanning the globe. Tellingly, Deon Meyer, in an article on filmmaking software (2005:77) claims,

Vandag se PC’s [persoonlike rekenaars of “personal computers”], toegerus met ʼn bekostigbare grafiese versnellerkaart en minstens 256 megagrepe vrye toegangsgeheue (RAM) [“Random Access Memory”], draf redigering ook lag-lag kaf. Veral danksy ʼn nuwe generasie programme wat jou in ʼn oogwink kan laat ontpop as die nuwe Jamie Uys.

[Today’s PCs [personal computers], equipped with an affordable graphic accelerator and at least 256 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM), makes editing much easier. Especially thanks to a new generation of programs that in an instant can make you emerge as the new Jamie Uys].

In other words, anyone can now supposedly become a world-renowned filmmaker, unlike Uys, who painstakingly edited his rolls of film. Note also that Meyer suggests someone can become a Jamie Uys, not a Steven Spielberg or Riddley Scott. Katinka Heyns (1996:35) said the following of Uys,

Almal wat selfs maar net op ʼn afstand met hom saamgewerk het, weet hy was veeleisend, moeilik, perfeksionisties tot by ʼn punt waar almal om hom begin selfmoord oorweeg, verbaal gestremd, verstrooid, geniaal, met niks tevrede nie, en — so absurd as wat dit ook mag klink — lief vir alles om hom en maklik om lief te hê. Hy was ʼn bietjie soos daardie Switserse mes met die baie goeters: skêr, blikoopmaker, els, naelvyl, saag, skroewedraaier, noem maar op.

[Everyone who even just at a distance worked with him, knows he was demanding, difficult, perfectionist to a point where everyone around him started contemplating suicide, verbally disabled, a scattered genius, satisfied with nothing, and — as absurd as it may sound — loved everything around him and easy to love. He was a bit like that Swiss knife with many things: scissors, can opener, awl, nail file, saw, screwdriver, you name it.]

When Uys joined Mimosa Films, new voices within the Afrikaans artistic community painted a wholly different picture of South African society than that which Uys was famous for. Breyten Breytenbach (poetry), André P. Brink (prose), Jans Rautenbach (films), P.G. du Plessis (dramas) showed a South Africa that was worlds apart from the somewhat pleasantly quaint depictions of Uys. Uys, totally aware of these shifts, did not adapt his style or approach. While with Mimosa Films, he excelled at creating unique cinematic moments void of messages that could (and would) become dated.

Uys’s captivating imagery left lasting impressions on millions spread across the globe. Furthermore, he introduced Southern Africa’s overwhelming natural beauty to global audiences in a way that has never before been done (the impact, directly or indirectly, it assuredly had on international tourism to the south of Africa is of course not quantifiable). During a time when South Africa’s film industry was crumbling, Uys’s pictures proved there was hope. In the Mimosa Films phase he succeeded in establishing the local film industry within the global arena. Time and again, he proved that a tiny picture could compete with Hollywood’s star-studded majors, albeit not in terms of budget but in imagination and ingenuity, and that that was in fact all that counted. Heyns (1996:35) notes that Uys accomplished this success “sonder Hollywoodsterre, sonder Amerikaanse geld, sonder seks of bloed of geweld of peperduur spesiale effekte” [without Hollywood stars, without American money, without sex or blood or violence or expensive special effects].
Jamie Uys reached his international grandiose success at a time when South Africa was globally a pariah. His films succeeded in transcending age, race and ideologies. Arguably his greatest achievement was being the embodiment of Walt Disney’s famous saying: “If you can dream it — you can do it.” Jamie Uys never stopped dreaming and never stopped doing: spectacularly so; “Hy het sy intuïsie gevolg en sy intuïsie was onfeilbaar” [He followed his intuition and his intuition was infallible] (Heyns 1996:35).

Bibliography

Anonymous. 1966a. “Jamie Uys soek S.A. se twaalf mooistes.” Die Vaderland, September 3.
Anonymous. 1966b. “Rus? Jamie Uys soek al weer mooi meisies.” Die Beeld, September 18.
Anonymous. 1966c. “Uys is on look-out for stars.” Natal Daily News, December 9.
Anonymous. 1968a. “Bit off a bit too much.” Cape Argus, October 30.
Anonymous. 1968b. “Dirkie se mense kry swaar in Namib.” Die Oosterlig, October 18.
Anonymous. 1968c. “Dog and hyena in real fight – Jamie Uys film.” Namib Times, October 25.
Anonymous. 1968d. “Doggone! – Almost.” Windhoek Advertiser, October 28.
Anonymous. 1968e. “Gaan eentalige rolprente maak.” Rustenburg Herald, August 2.
Anonymous. 1968f. “Jamie Uys begin werk aan nuwe film.” Victoria West Messenger, August 2.
Anonymous. 1968g. “Jamie Uys begin werk aan nuwe film.” Richmond Era, August 2.
Anonymous. 1968h. “Jamie Uys kom maak rolprent in Namib.” Namib Times, April 19.
Anonymous. 1968i. “New film part for schoolboy.” The Star, May 9.
Anonymous. 1968j. “’Nuwe’ Uys-trek van 7000 myl deur wildernis.” Die Vaderland, September 11.
Anonymous. 1968k. “Uys film turns up trumps in America.” The Friend, July 25.
Anonymous. 1968l. “Wise men a U.S. hit.” The Star, July 23.
Anonymous. 1969. “Filmster Dawid weet nie wat ‘n rolprent is nie.” Caledon Venster, January 10.
Anonymous. 1972a. “Jamie se hart lol.” Die Oosterlig, March.
Anonymous. 1972b. “Jamie Uys ongesteld.” Suidwes Afrikaner.
Anonymous. 1973. “Jamie finds the beautiful people.” Showbiz 1(7):45.
Anonymous. 1974a. “Beautiful people.” Variety, November 27.
Anonymous. 1974b. “Prestasie vir S.A. film-maker.” Die Volksblad, February 19.
Anonymous. 1974c. “They are such beautiful people.” The Friend, February 15.
Anonymous. 1974d. “Uys fell in love with these Beautiful People.” Mossel Bay Advertiser, March 29, pp. 2.
Anonymous. 1975a. “Beautiful People verbyster met sy syfers.” Rapport tydskrif, September 28.
Anonymous. 1975b. “Top grosses ‘Beautiful People’.” SA Film Weekly 14(34):1.
Anonymous. 1976a. “‘Funny People’ was no joke on the pocket.” Natal Daily News, May 10.
Anonymous. 1976b. “Amusing situations.” Natal Witness, April 1.
Anonymous. 1976c. “Funniest ever.” Springs & Brakpan Advertiser, March 26.
Anonymous. 1976d. “Funny People het uit oefening ontstaan.” Die Volksblad, April 1.
Anonymous. 1976e. “Funny People sit TV koud.” Die Oosterlig, April 9.
Anonymous. 1976f. “Hulle skiet toe op Jamie.” Die Burger, March 27.
Anonymous. 1976g. “Jamie Uys in Kaapstad vir Funny People.” Die Burger, March 27.
Anonymous. 1976h. “Jamie Uys’ film costly to make.” Pretoria News, May 6.
Anonymous. 1976i. “Jamie-prent is los voor.” Rapport, April 25.
Anonymous. 1976j. “Ons soldate lag 2 uur.” Rapport, March 28.
Anonymous. 1976k. “Uys in wolke oor drie prente vir wêreldmark.” Die Volksblad, May 31.
Anonymous. 1979a. “Jamie does it again.” S.A. Digest, June 1.
Anonymous. 1979b. “Jamie Uys.” Die Volksblad, December 1.
Anonymous. 1979c. “Jamie-prent is klaar treffer.” Die Beeld, May 16.
Anonymous. 1979d. “Nou is dit Jamie en die Boesmans.” Rapport, December 2.
Anonymous. 1980a. “‘Gods’ an all time box-office champ.” Pretoria News, October 1.
Anonymous. 1980b. “‘n Treffer soos min.” Beeld, September 18.
Anonymous. 1980c. “Crazy run on Uys film.” The Daily News, September 17.
Anonymous. 1980d. “’Mal gode’ mania!” Witbank News, October 17.
Anonymous. 1980e. “Twintig miljoen in VSA sien Beautiful People.” Die Volksblad, July 11.
Anonymous. 1980f. “Uit die bynes.” Die Burger, April 5.
Anonymous. 1983a. “Funny People 2.” Pretoria News, October 27.
Anonymous. 1983b. “Jamie lag weer.” Die Burger, August 13.
Anonymous. 1983c. “Mimosa-treffer laat geld instroom.” Die Volksblad, December 12.
Anonymous. 1984. “Gods 2 gaan eers geld maak.” Die Volksblad, September 15.
Anonymous. 1985a. “Apartheid ‘verwar’ Jamie Uys.” Die Burger, May 13.
Anonymous. 1985b. “Jamie Uys maak net treffers.” Republikein, May 17.
Anonymous. 1985c. “Politiek nie Jamie se kos.” Die Transvaler, May 13.
Anonymous. 1985d. “Uys hits the top with a click.” Pretoria News, May 3.
Anonymous. 1985e. “Uys’s methods amaze US.” PE Evening Post, May 3.
Anonymous. 1985f. “Yanks maak ‘Gods 2’.” Die Burger, November 27.
Botha, J. 1986. “Jamie pak weer die gode, maar sonder Goldie Hawn.” Rapport, May 4.
Breytenbach, P. 1968. “Die filmavontuur in die Namib.” Die Transvaler, October 19.
Breytenbach, P. 1974. “Jamie Uys se dieretreffer in R2,6 milj.” Die Transvaler, September 30.
Breytenbach, P. 1981. “Jamie loer by Yanks vir filmagtergrond.” Die Transvaler, August 19.
Bright, B. 1985. “Apartheid is out for Jamie.” P.E. Evening Post, May 15.
Christie, R. 1980. “Crazy? New Uys film hits the jackpot.” The Argus, September 16.
Christie, R. 1980. “Jamie Uys movie packing them in.” The Argus, September 19.
Christie, R. 1986. “Now Lena’s set for ‘Crazy’ stardom.” The Star, August 1.
De Bruin, W. 1981. “Die gode is mal.” Kalender, May 7.
De Bruin, W. 1983a. “Jamie Uys se soort is maar dun gesaai.” Die Volksblad, April 23, pp. 9.
De Bruin, W. 1983b. “Jamie Uys se sort is maar dun gesaai.” Die Burger, April 23.
De Bruin, W. 1985. “Funny People 2 al verby halfmiljoen!” Die Volksblad, November 11.
De Cock, G. 1967. “Die Landstem keer nooiens aan vir Jamie Uys.” Die Landstem, January 4.
Du Plessis, L. 1985. “‘Candid’ boost to acting.” P.E. Herald, September 25.
Eales, A. 1983. “Another funny Uys winner.” P.E. Herald, October 29.
Ferreira, A. 1976. “Jamie Uys.” Cape Argus, March 30.
Garden, G. 1983. “SABC’s stranglehold on the film industry.” Rand Daily Mail, August 13.
Gibson, Gilbert. 1966. “Mooi nooiens vir Jamie en puik rolprente wat S.A. uitbeeld.” Die Landstem, December 28.
Gous, E. 1983. “Noem hom maar Jaamie of Djeimie.” Rooi Rose, October 5, pp. 68.
Greig, R. 1976. “‘Funny People’ on way to record.” The Star, April 24.
Hay, R. 1980. “A nose for a winner.” Screen International, September 27.
Heyns, Katinka. 1996. “Die volledige rolprentmaker.” Insig, Maart, pp. 35.
Javis, R. 1976. “Smash it even before opening.” P.E. Evening Post, April 2.
Keil, J. 1974. “Jamie’s labour of love.” Rand Daily Mail, February 18, pp. 10.
Le Roux, André and Lilla Fourie. 1982. Filmverlede: Geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm. Pretoria: UNISA.
McLennan-Dodd, Vanessa J. and Keyan G. Tomaselli. 2005. “Made in China: The Gods Go East.” Visual Anthropology 18:199–228.
Meyer, Deon. 2005. “’n Oscar, dankie.” Insig, January, pp. 77.
Mimosa Films. 1980. Die Professor en die Prikkelpop. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1985. Mimosa se 21 jaar. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1986a. Funny People. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1986b. The gods must be crazy. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1988. Dirkie. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 1998. General. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 2000. The gods must be crazy II. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 2007a. Jamie Uys Biographical Document. Bloemfontein: Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. 2007b. Jamie Uys: List of awards. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. n.d. Condensed Chronology. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Mimosa Films. n.d. List of films. Mimosa Films Private Archive.
Nicholls, Brendon. 2008. “Apartheid cinema and indigenous image rights.” Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa 13(1):20-32.
Pienaar, M. 1968. “Die keer is Lettie se kombuis in die woestyn.” Die Landstem, October 20.
Richard, W. 1985. “Uys to make sequel to ‘Gods’.” E.P. Herald, March 27.
Rossouw, E. 1983. “Jamie Uys maak wêreld-treffers op die ou manier.” Sarie Marais, September 28.
Rufus-Ellis, R. 1983. “The other side of Uys.” Natal Daily News, October 25.
Slabbert, C. 1976. “Triomf vir SA sakevernuf.” Rapport, May 30.
Steenkamp, M. 1986. “Jamie raak weer Crazy.” Die Republikein, May 13.
Stemmet, Jan-Ad. 2011. On wings of wisdom. Bloemfontein. Mimosa Films International.
Steyl, I. 1980. “Jamie Uys’new film.” The Star, March 7.
Sutton, K. 1983. “Film game paying off.” Eastern Province Herald, May 6.
Thomas, B. 1985. “The gods may be crazy, but Uys has his feet on the ground.” The Star, May 2.
Tomaselli, Keyan G. 2006. “Rereading the Gods Must be Crazy Films.” Visual Anthropology 19(2):171-200.
Uys, Jamie. 1967. Die professor en die prikkelpop. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1969. Dirkie. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1969. Marching to Pretoria. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1969. The great adjustment. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1974. Beautiful people. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1976. Funny people. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1979. The gods must be crazy. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1980. The gods must be crazy. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1983. Funny people 2. Mimosa Films.
Uys, Jamie. 1989. The gods must be crazy 2. Mimosa Films.
Van Rensburg, K. 1976. “Jamie se Funny People vol snaakse mense.” Hoofstad, March 25, pp. 35.
Van Zyl, H. 1975. “Van film-maker tot filmmeester.” Die Burger, December 3.
Volkman, Toby 1988. “Out of Africa: The Gods Must be Crazy.” P. 236–247 in Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects, edited by J. Katz, Larry Gross, and Jay Ruby. New York: Oxford University Press.

Notes:

  1. Wynand Uys, Jamie Uys’s youngest, starred in Die Professor en die prikkelpop. He was such a success that Uys decided to cast the eight year old in the title role of Dirkie. “All children under the age of ten are natural actors…It is the adults who are sometimes difficult to direct,” the director said (Anonymous 1968i).
  2. Apart from the difficulties in filming in a desert, what made the picture even more of a feat was that it was filmed twice: once in Afrikaans, and once in English (Anonymous 1968e).
  3. Once a lion almost killed Wynand Uys, and on another occassion (left alone as his father shot aerial shots of him) he really did get lost in the desert (Mimosa Films 1988).
  4. The hyena once almost killed the Alsatian, the baboon bit an actress, one dog almost devoured the snake it was supposed to be terrified of, Lollie, Dirkie’s terrier took off over the dunes one night (see Anonymous 1968c, 1968d, 1968a).
  5. The picture was also critically acclaimed: awards include a prize from the 1972 Teheran Film Festival (Mimosa Films 2007b).
  6. Apart from a few Bushmen.
  7. While Beautiful People was in the making, Dr Troskie commissioned Daan Retief to compile Jamie21. It was a celebration of Uys’s career, showing scenes from all his pictures. It ended with a few minutes from Uys’s unreleased ‘animal movie’ (Le Roux and Fourie 1982:142).
  8. Uys’s epic had even made news in Hollywood. The American legend, Bob Hope, wanted to narrate the picture, but Uys decided that the animals would be the only big stars in this film (Breytenbach 1981).
  9. Studios offered Dr Troskie fortunes for the unused film material (Van Rensburg 1976:35)
  10. For international distribution, Uys edited, and had dubbed, a British / European / American / Spanish version (Slabbert 1976).
  11. In Sweden alone it showed – uninterruptedly – for 2½ years (showing for three years in Stockholm) (Mimosa Films n.d.).
  12. This is disputed by Volkman (1988).
  13. N!Xau Kganna (different versions of spelling exists) of the Zjoen-Whasie (‘the only people’) tribe (Mimosa Films 2007a).
  14. Filming across Southern Africa, nature, as always, was a moody actor. Animals were difficult to direct, and he had a star that had never seen a movie in his life and communicated only through a translator (Mimosa Films 1986b).
  15. Apart from being in the millions, the exact costs have never been verified.
  16. Many subsequent academic studies follow this line of thought (see e.g. Tomaselli 2006).
  17. Uys remarked that he did not like the title, The gods must be crazy, and hoped to call the sequel something else. In the end, name-recognition was simply too vital to use a different title (Richard 1985).

Taal, landskap en identiteit

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Dan Roodt

Die kwessie rondom taal is besig om dié aangaande ras te vervang as die belangrikste enkele strydpunt in Suid-Afrika. Selfs gedurende die grondwetlike onderhandelinge tussen die Nasionale Party en die ANC tydens die aanloop tot die 1994-verkiesing het slegs drie vraagstukke hul onderskeie standpunte geskei, naamlik eiendomsreg, die sogenaamde uitsluitingsklousule (waarvolgens ’n werkgewer stakende werkers kon uitsluit), en natuurlik, die reg op, of soos dit geblyk het, die keuse van moedertaalonderrig in staatskole. Die berugte rassevraagstuk het nie eens ter sprake gekom nie, wat sekerlik vreemd mag aandoen aan enigiemand buite Suid-Afrika waar rassesegregasie of die woord “apartheid” ewe beskrywend van ons geag word as byvoorbeeld “rewolusie” van Frankryk.

Maar dit wat hier volg, is geen politieke geskrif of poging om tot ’n politieke debat toe te tree nie, hoe gepolitiseer die taalkwessie in Suid-Afrika ook al mag wees. In die eerste plaas gaan dit vir my om ’n besinning oor ’n ervaring van vreemdelingskap in my eie land, ’n soort interne eksiel of ballingskap waarmee ek daagliks as nie-Engelse persoon gekonfronteer word. Op pad tussen Stellenbosch en Franschhoek, in een van die oudste en mees oorwegend Afrikaanse dele in die land, sien ek ’n reusagtige groot padteken wat tweetalig in Engels en Xhosa aangebring is. Op my paspoort is daar deesdae net Engels en Frans, wat my daaraan herinner dat die Suid-Afrikaanse staat kwalik meer Afrikaans as taal erken, hoewel dit in naam steeds een van elf amptelike tale is. Rondom my is daar vele Afrikaners, vele stoere Afrikaners moet ’n mens byvoeg, wat angsvallig besig is om hul kinders in Engels op te voed, kinders met name soos “Justin” en “Megan”, asof die ouers reeds geestelik verhuis het na ’n Engelssprekende land en nie hul spruite met onuitspreekbare Germaans-klinkende name wou opsaal nie.

’n Kafkaeske waas kleef aan dit alles, asof ons almal skuldig is aan ’n onnoembare misdaad en nou daarvoor moet boetedoen deur ontneem te word van ons kulturele burgerskap. Die verskriklike gemeenplaas “apartheid” het sekerlik iets daarmee te doen, maar verduidelik nogtans nie alles nie. Buitendien ervaar ek reeds jare lank hierdie Afrikaanse woord as iets vreemds en onsinnigs, ’n versameling letters wat ek vir die eerste keer gesien het toe ek ’n straat oorsteek in ’n vreemde stad in ’n vreemde land waar dit skielik in wit op die pad geverf voor my opgedoem het.

Denke oor taal en kultuur in Suid-Afrika behaal sy absurdste hoogtepunte juis op amptelike of kwasi-amptelike vlak. In hierdie verband herinner ’n mens jou die uitspraak van regter Johann Kriegler wat beweer het dat indien twee Yslandse kinders ’n Afrikaanse skool sou bywoon, die hele skool sy onderrigmedium na Yslands behoort te verander. Miskien is Ysland hier ’n metafoor vir die amptelike kilheid jeens Afrikaans, of miskien was dit ’n subtiele manier om te sê dat Afrikaans net soos Oud-Yslands, daardie belangrike literêre taal van die sages, sou kon vergaan om iewers in die toekoms net deur spesialiste begryp te word.

Ek sou graag hier wou aanhaal uit die Oud-Yslands, maar as ’n plaasvervanger deel ek graag met die leser die volgende frase van Reinhart die Vos in die Middel-Nederlandse weergawe:

Het staet so, suldi hebbe vrome,
Hier ne mach zijn geen langher staen.
Volghet mi, ic sal voeren gaen.
Wi houden desen crommen pat,

wat rofweg die volgende beteken: “ons kom nêrens deur langer te talm nie, volg my, ek gaan voor, ons neem dié kronkelende pad.” Omdat ons Reinhart ken, weet ons dat dit ietwat riskant is om enige kronkelende pad met hom aan te durf. Só ook die huidige teks, wat begin met ’n kronkelende rit per motor tussen Johannesburg en die Hartebeespoortdam, ’n heel opwindende tog deur rante en klowe wat met aalwyne, verknoetste kareebome en rotsblokke van ysterklip besaai is, brûe oor spruite en riviere, asook skielike draaie en hoogtes wat teen ’n sekere spoed ontstemmend kan raak.

Niks kan meer skokkend wees in die Franse sin van chocquant, as juis die oorgang vanaf, sê maar, Sandton City of die Rosebank Mall, na die Magaliesberg via daardie kronkelpad nie. ’n Mens sou dit ’n Proustiaanse verplasing kon noem, dog sonder om reg aan Proust te laat geskied aangesien syne nooit per motor plaagevind het nie, slegs per trein. Die Europese reisiger is gewoond daaraan om vir twee ure te ry en agterna hom in ’n ander land te bevind, met ’n ander taal, ’n ander mentaliteit, ander gewoontes, kookkuns, gebare, plekname wat moeilik is om uit te spreek. Anderkant die Hartebeespoortdam lê distrikte soos Elandskraal, Mooinooi, die dorpe Rustenburg en Brits, die “diep platteland” soos dit bekend was in die politieke joernalistiek van die ou Suid-Afrika. Dog, anders as op die Europese Vasteland, heg die welaf Engelse inwoners van noordelike Johannesburg nóg waarde aan die kultuur, die taal, die kookkuns, die geskiedenis van hul bure agter die berg, nóg toon hulle hoegenaamd enige belangstelling daarin. Op ’n manier is hulle soos Brittanje se Euroskeptici: hulle staan vyandig teenoor die nie-Engelse, hulle vrees hul komplekse gewoontes en gevoelighede, hulle verag hul gebrek aan Engelse gesonde verstand (“common sense”). ’n Mens kan nie anders as om ’n verband te sien tussen Me Metcalfe se veldtog vir die Engelse taal in skole en die stelling ’n rukkie terug van mnr John Major, toe nog leier van die Tories, dat “Engeland die baarmoeder van die Westerse beskawing” is nie. Vergeet van die Grieke, die Romeine, die Italianers, die Franse, die Duitsers, slegs Engeland het kaart en transport vir die Westerse erfenis.

Daar is tekens dat die platteland — daardie ironiese term vir dit wat onplat voor ons uitstrek — en sy kultuur wat veel meer omvat as bloot die Afrikaanse taal, voortaan aan ’n destruktiewe vorm van herkolonisering, afrikanisering, noem dit wat jy wil, onderwerp gaan word, iets wat na my mening verreikende implikasies het nie net vir die Suid-Afrikaanse kultuur as geheel nie, maar vir ons syn en wese in Suid-Afrika.

Heidegger in sy reaksie op die onafwendbare indringing van tegnologie binne die menslike bestaan het twee houdings geformuleer wat ons behoort in te neem en wat ons mag red as denkende wesens met ’n estetiese projek op aarde. Die eerste is “Gelassenheit zu den Dingen1, wat letterlik in Afrikaans vertaal kan word as “gelatenheid teenoor dinge”. Dit is ’n manier van beide ja en nee te sê teenoor die veranderinge, tegnologies en andersins, wat ’n uitwerking op ons het. Die tweede houding is “Öffenheit für das Geheimnis”, wat weer eens letterlik “oopheid teenoor die geheimenis” beteken. Beide hierdie opvattinge het betrekking op die menslike wese as ’n gewortelde entiteit, gewortel ook in sy geboorteland, sy “pays” soos die Franse sê. Heidegger haal die Duitse digter Johann Peter Hebel aan waar hy sê:

Ons is plante wat — of ons dit wel erken of nie — met ons wortels uit die aarde moet opgroei ten einde in die eter te bloei en vrugte te dra.

Die koloniale ervaring is ’n ontwortelde en ontwortelende, wat in die huidige konteks die estetiese armoede van koloniale kultuur verklaar. Die eindelose moralisme en stereotipering van wat veral in die buiteland bekend staan as “South African literature” val na my mening binne die kategorie van koloniale kultuur. Daarteenoor staan iets soos die onlangse werke van Karel Schoeman, veral die roman Hierdie Lewe 2, wat ’n hoë vlak van “Öffenheit für das Geheimnis” openbaar in die gevoelvolle beskrywings van die Karoo 3, die uitgestrektheid van die landskap en die ongenaakbaarheid van die karakters. Dit lyk asof hy iets vasvang van die tragedie van ’n Karoobestaan tydens die vorige eeu, en by uitbreiding, van die hele platteland. Historici het al dikwels aanmerkings gemaak oor die ekonomiese wankelrigheid van ’n plattelandse bestaan in Suid-Afrika, die gebrek aan standhoudende en voorspelbare reënval, wat tot die nomadisme van beide die Trekboere en swart stamme uit vorige eeue gelei het. Om dus die landskap te beskou is om in ’n sekere sin jou oë te laat gaan oor ’n Leidensgeschichte, die bitter geskiedenis van soveel pogings om te oorleef op meesal droë of brak grond.

Die geskiedenis van Engels in Suid-Afrika is, behalwe Natal, hoofsaaklik ’n stedelike verhaal, sonder woorde om die besonderhede van ons landskap met sy “koppies” en “rante” uit te druk, sy “klowe” en “skeure”, en geen plekname wat die wanhoop van “Putsonderwater” vervat, of die waterobsessies wat hul in soveel “-fonteine” en “-spruiteoor” die hele land herhaal. Die verhaal van die platteland is duidelik ’n Afrikaanse, en die paring van taal en landskap oor die eeue heen het ’n spesifiek plaaslike kultuur geproduseer, wat uiteindelik groot gewig behoort te hê binne die hutspot van ’n Suid-Afrikaanse kultuur. In die mate waartoe Afrikaners en Suid-Afrikaanse swartes tot die Engelse kultuur bydra, staan hulle in dieselfde verhouding tot Engeland as die Skotte, die Walliesers en die Iere: die grootsheid van Engelse of Britse kultuur, ten minste sover dit die letterkunde betref, is te wyte aan die pogings van kunstenaars en skrywers vanuit die geledere van die oorwonne volke wat poog om hul eie sin van waardeloosheid en minderwaardigheid te besweer deur die voortreflikheid van hul werke.

Die Engelse media, en veral die dommer-as-dom buitelandse media, stel die platteland voor as die ligging van wit fascisme, enersyds, en swart armoede, andersyds. Kultureel gesproke is dit ontdaan van enige belang. En tog, tensy ’n mens aan ’n laat vorm van sosiale realisme glo, kan alle fasette van menslike bestaan nie gepolitiseer word nie. As die monochroombril van sosio-politieke cliché afgehaal word, raak die platteland inderdaad kleurvol, welluidend met die stemme van ongekunstelde dog goedgeaarde mense.

Die fassinasie van die volk, le peuple, das Volk, the people, vir intellektuele is bespreek deur Jacques Rancière in sy boek Courts voyages au pays du peuple 4 — “Kort reise deur die land van die volk.” Volgens hom is die platteland baie nader aan ons as wat ons vermoed:

ces contreés toutes proches qui offrent au visiteur l’image d’un autre monde. De l’autre côté du détroit, un peu à l’écart du fleuve et de la grand-route, au bout de la ligne des transports urbains, vit un autre peuple, à moins que ce ne soit simplement le peuple. Le spectacle imprévu dúne autre humanité s’offre sous ses diverses figures: retour à l’origine, descente aux enfers, avènement de la terre promise. 5

[hierdie nabygeleë kontreie wat aan die besoeker ’n blik op ’n ander wêreld bied. Oorkant die détroit, ietwat verwyder van die rivier of die grootpad, aan die einde van die stedelike vervoerstelsel, leef ’n ander volk, ’n mens sou sover kon gaan om te sê: die volk. Die onverwagse skouspel van ’n ander mensdom bied hom in verskeie vorme aan: terugkeer na die oorsprong, hellevaart, koms van die beloofde land.]

Ten spyte van die kultuurapartheid van die nuwe Suid-Afrika wat die platteland wil amputeer ten behoewe van ’n stedelike Engelse en grotendeels ingevoerde Hollywoodkultuur, herken ons die volk as Afrikaans. Selfs die swartes hier praat Afrikaans. Eugène Marais se Waterberg, Breyten Breytenbach se Wellington of Bonnievale, dit alles is maar inkarnasies van hierdie l“and van die volk” binne Rancière se definisie. Dit is waar ons wortels heen strek, waaruit die digter sy inspirasie put of waar ons gewoon die modes en pretensie van die stad afskud en weglê aan ’n bredie en wyn wat in ’n blikbeker geskink kan word.

Die platteland en die volk wat dit bewoon, is egter veelduidig, soos ook uit die hierbo-aangehaalde gedeelte blyk: dit kan óf hellevaart óf beloofde land, of selfs iets anders wees. Trouens, die grond, die bodem is ideologies dubbelsinnig. Die grond is enersyds die lokus van identiteit en nasionalisme, selfs fascisme, maar terselfdertyd is dit die eindbestemming van rewolusionêre vooruitgang waar grondlose kleinboere of die proletariaat oplaas weer hervestig kan word sodat hulle die verlore Eden mag terugvind van waar hulle verjaag is deur die kapitalisme, kolonialisme en apartheid. In Duitsland is die Blut und Boden-slagspreuk uit die dertigerjare vervang deur die groen “terug-na-die-natuur”, twee oënskynlik teenoorgestelde bewegings.

In Suid-Afrika word die sin van die grond en by uitbreiding van die platteland verder gekompliseer deur die nomadiese tradisies van die verlede. Die afsku waarmee ’n sedentêre Engels-koloniale bewind die rustelose Trekboere bejeën het, is verwant aan die idee dat hulle besig was om weg te trek van die beskawing as sodanig, dat hulle as ’t ware op vlug geslaan het voor die beskawing self. Hierdie paradoks van Europese nomades word soos volg beskryf deur De Kiewiet in sy History of South Africa 6 waar hy met kenmerkende Engelse afkeur opmerk:

In the long quietude of the eighteenth century the Boer race was formed. In the vast, unmysterious, thirsty landscape of the interior lay the true centre of South African settlement. When the Trekboers entered it with their flocks and tented wagons, they left the current of European life and lost the economic habits of the nations from which they had sprung. Though they never became true nomads, the mark of nomadism was upon them, and their dominant traits were those of a restless and narrow existence. They had the nomad’s appetite for space and possessed the hardness and courage of men of the saddle who watch their flocks and hunt their meat. Their wealth was in their cattle and in their sons and grandsons, who were born numerously and who thrived amazingly. Their life gave them a tenacity of purpose, a power of silent endurance, and the keenest self-respect. But this isolation sank into obstinacy, their power of endurance into resistance to innovation, and their self-respect into suspicion of the foreigner and contempt for their inferiors. For want of formal education and sufficient pastors, they read their Bibles intensively, drawing from the Old Testament, which spoke the authentic language of their lives, a justification of themselves, of their beliefs and their habits. 7

Waarskynlik sou dié teks môre op CNN gelees kon word apropos van Afrikaners vandag, en niemand sou ’n wenkbrou daaroor lig nie. Hierdie beperkte siening van die Boer en die Afrikaner wat neffens die Europese beskawing leef of geleef het, geld nog steeds. Op ’n manier word die platteland of binneland nog altyd gesien as onaanloklik (“forbidding”). Die koloniale afsku vir die binneland en sy inwoners is magistraal beskryf deur Peter Blum in sy satiriese gedig “Rooinekke op Hermanus” wat in jukstaposisie met De Kiewiet se siening aangehaal kan word.

O gestilde
sinnebeeldvoëls, simboolvlerke, jul pryk
teen sononder, klaar met dool, enkel embleem
van hierdie seksie onwilde, ongewilde
vasgemeerde, aarde-agterhaalde ryks-
arende, pensioentrekkers op ou roem,
wat koel staan teenoor óns rumoer, kil-vreemd
— nie aanvoel wat óns bedoel, ín ons woel:
hartstog-verleerde, wrok-onbegrypende
sege-moeg, effens geaffronteerde
see-afkykers, agterland-afgekeerdes
wat hoegenaamd niks nie brandelik begeer. 8

Blum, ’n Duitser, skryf hier in sy aangenome taal, Afrikaans. Dit is miskien ironies dat hy moes doodgaan in ’n gestig in Engeland, tuiste van die rooinekke. In ’n sekere sin is hy ’n vreemdeling wat oor ander vreemdelinge skryf in ’n taal wat deur baie deesdae gesien word as synde ’n vreemde taal in die Engelse Suid-Afrika, iets wat jy net met onderskrifte kan verstaan. In die jargon van die nuwe Suid-Afrika sou Blum nie kwalifiseer vir die benaming “South African writer or poet” nie. Dit is ’n eienaardige verwikkeling aangesien die ryksarende van die gedig, wat hul pensioen trek op ou roem, skynbaar hulself op die oneerbiedige digter gewreek het. Hul gebrek aan hartstog, hul “kil-vreemdheid” het hulle kennelik goed te pas gekom; die digter het nou iets van ’n uitgestorwe spesie geword, nie die ryksarend nie. Maar tydens die gedig — vir ’n oomblik — vier ons die majesteit van daardie innerlike of binnelandse ruimte, daardie land wat Hermanus omring en waarvan die ryksarende as “agterland-afgekeerdes” hulself afgesluit het. Dit is ’n land, die land van die digkuns, waar elkeen en niemand ’n vreemdeling is nie.

De Kiewiet besef waarskynlik nie dat nomadisme en chauvinisme mekaar uitsluit nie, want die nomade bewerkstellig nie ’n verhouding met die grond wat stabiel genoeg is om as outochtoon gereken te word en dus ander as vreemdelinge te sien nie. Die Boere is “obstinaat” omdat hulle nie die Britse bewind wou aanvaar nie, en kultureel nie hulself wou verengels in ’n beskaafde Engelse Suid-Afrika nie. As historikus van die ryksarende bejeën hy hulle met al die chauvinistiese veragting waartoe die beskaafde man in staat is wanneer hy van aangesig tot aangesig met die barbaarse nomade verkeer. En ook: die proses van trek maak van die Boere vreemdelinge-in-wording wat die Westerse beskawing verlaat en sodoende verafrikaans in die mees radikale sin. Op ’n stadium gaan ’n mens die proses moet ondersoek waardeur die Engelse afkeer van Afrika en rassisme wat aanvanklik op barbare van alle rasse en kulture gefokus was, deur ’n Freudiaanse vorm van “oordrag” uitsluitlik tot Afrikanerhaat en veral onderdrukking van die Afrikaanse taal as ’t ware “gedistilleer” is. (Dit is ’n Freudiaans-Lacaniaanse projek-in-die-kleine wat heel prettig mag wees, aangesien “oordrag” ook een van die belangrikste onderliggende konsepte was by daardie resente Amerikaanse mode wat iets met “con” te make het soos in “decon …” en “déconner”, om nie van die “connards” te vergeet nie.)

Die beweging van mense op die grond, en selfs die wortelskiet van hul kultuur, hul taal en die naamgewing wat ontstaan uit hul interaksie en waarneming van die omgewing, die benoeming van bome en voëls en diere, dit alles vind binne menslike tyd plaas. Die landskap verander egter baie stadig, ongemerk binne geologiese tyd wat mensewesens beswaarlik kan voorstel. In ’n sekere sin is menslike kultuur dus vreemd aan die land, en selfs ons spesie is ’n immigrantespesie wat vandag hier mag wees en môre nie meer nie.

Na my mening is daar steeds ’n humanistiese en daarom antropomorfiese element aan Heidegger se begrip van kultuur as ’n vorm van organiese groei, waarna hierbo verwys is. Dit is waar dat kultuur moeilik kan bestaan sonder wortels: die déracinés binne Suid-Afrikaanse konteks woon slegs hier om die lekker inkopies, en hulle migreer maklik na waar die inkopies beter is (of miskien veiliger). Die plattelander, daarenteen, staar ’n bietjie soos Tityrus in Vergilius se eerste Herdersgedig 9 na die grootte van Rome wat oor Naboomspruit toring soos die statige sipres oor die beskeie vibernum, en besluit dat hy die eenvoudige, stoïsynse lewe verkies bo die inkopies te midde van die stadsrumoer. Dog soms het hy geen keuse nie, soos Meliboeus wat van sy grond afgesit is vanweë ’n gebrek aan politieke vriende in Rome. Uiteindelik speel die kans ’n rol daarin of ’n mens toegelaat sal word om aan te bly of gedwing sal word om te vertrek, of ’n mens jou wortels gaan behou of nie. Daar bestaan iets soos ’n taalkundige ekologie, en tale, soos spesies, is besig om uit te sterf. Anders as Darwin se idee van natuurlike seleksie, word die proses van uitsterwing grootliks gedryf deur toevallige gebeure, deur die kans. Die ekologie, taalkundig of andersins, is ’n stogastiese proses. Daar word gesê dat 99,9% van alles spesies wat ooit op aarde bestaan het, reeds uitgesterf het. Die taalkundige verskeidenheid van die platteland mag kwesbaar wees vir die funeste gevolge van ’n toevallige gebeurtenis, wat die vorm van ’n droogte mag aanneem, of die goudprys op $200, of ’n besluit in Rome.

Is ons almal vreemdelinge? Dit is waarskynlik die siening van Julia Kristeva waar sy sê:

Étrangement, l’étranger nous habite : il est la face cachée de notre identité, l’espace qui ruine notre demeure, le temps où s’abîme l’entente et la sympathie. De le reconnaître en nous, nous nous épargnons de le détester en lui-même. Symptôme qui rend précisément le <> problématique, peut-être impossible, l’étranger commence lorsque surgit la conscience de ma différence et s’achève lorsque nous nous reconnaissons tous étrangers, rebelles aux liens et aux communautés. 10

[Vreemd genoeg woon die vreemdeling binne-in ons: hy is die keersy van ons identiteit, die ruimte wat ons tuiste ruïneer, die tyd waarin wedersydse begrip en meegevoel afbreek. Deur dit binne-in ons te herken, vermy ons dit om dieselfde ding in hom te verag. ’n Simptoom wat juis die “ons” problematies maak, miskien selfs onmoontlik, die vreemdeling begin sodra die bewustheid van my andersheid na vore tree en word voltooi sodra ons onsself herken as synde almal vreemdelinge, rebelle teenoor bande en teenoor gemeenskappe.]

In terme hiervan word ’n mens ’n vreemdeling — “volksvreemd”! — sodra jy teen die gemeenskap rebelleer, of selfs bewus raak van jou eie individualisme. Die platteland is geen vreemdeling as dit by rebellie kom nie, gedagtig aan 1914 of Van Melle se Bart Nel 11, maar is miskien minder verdraagsaam teenoor anderse individue as die stad. Aan die ander kant, deur sy andersheid te behou teenoor die imperiale hinterland van nywerheid en handel, sy ekologie te handhaaf, brei die platteland miskien sy dade van rebellie uit. Kollektief is die platteland tot vreemdeling verklaar, wat miskien lig daarop werp waarom vreemdelinge nie so goed behandel word in sy midde nie.

’n Verwante probleem aan dié van vreemdeling-wees (of dié van setlaar en boorling) is dié van suiwerheid. Op verskillende tye sal verskeie “groepe” — ek gebruik doelbewus ’n gelade term uit die onlangse verlede — aanspraak daarop maak om waaragtig inheems te wees. Hulle was eerste daar, dis die land van húl voorvaders, hulle is die meerderheid, of die uitverkore minderheid, wat die geval ook al mag wees. Hierdie aanspraak is van dieselfde tipe as die aanspraak op rassesuiwerheid, want dit veronderstel ’n goddelike of regskape oorsprong. Dus het ons gevorder vanaf ’n ideologie van rassesuiwerheid tot nedersettingsuiwerheid. Die amptelike siening van die Afrikaanse taal het geëvolueer vanaf die siening onder die Britse bewind in die Kaap tydens die negentiende eeu dat dit die resultaat was van ras- en taalvermenging, wat toentertyd afkeurenswaardig was, na die huidige voorstelling van beide die ANC en die Engelstalige media van ’n wit Afrikanertaal wat gestigmatiseer is deur apartheid en gepaardgaande neigings tot rassesuiwerheid en eksklusiwiteit. Duidelik is geeneen van hierdie sienings korrek as dit gemeet word aan taalkundige of demografiese kriteria nie. Wat ons hier sien, is ’n soort omgekeerde diachroniese dialektiek waar die boosheid van gister figureer as die goeie van vandag, en andersom.

Ook die fassinasie met die ontstaan van Afrikaans as taal wat uiting gevind het in vele taalkundige teorieë sedert die negentiende eeu moet in hierdie lig gesien word. Tot vandag toe word die opvatting van Valkhoff gehuldig dat Afrikaans ’n soort Kreoolse taal is wat sy oorsprong had in die pidginisering van Nederlands deur die Koen-bevolking of Hottentotte. In die negentiende eeu is hierdie gemengde herkoms van Afrikaans gesien as bron van onsuiwerheid, as “kitchen Dutch”, ’n term wat die taalkundige verbastering moes benoem wat die taal nie waardig gemaak het om soos die Europese tale oor ’n Bybelvertaling te beskik nie. Watter ironie is dit nie dus dat Afrikaans vandag juis as rassuiwere witmanstaal voorgehou word nie, die dialek van die AWB en dergelike. Binne die kleinlike rastaalpolitiek van Suid-Afrika het Afrikaans daarom binne die bestek van ’n eeu gevorder van nie-blanke taal tot blanke taal, ongelukkig in omgekeerde orde van politieke korrektheid.

Binne ’n gesonde-verstandparadigma het kultuur, ekologie, musiek, kuns, letterkunde, al daardie elemente wat as buitensporig, of en trop soos die Franse sê, beskou kan word, geen plek nie. Daar is ’n besonder Engelse vorm van gesonde verstand (common sense) wat onhebbelik kan wees. Dit is van die soort wat alles in terme van sy nut sien, en nie in terme van sy waarde (wat in elk geval ’n funksie van die mark is) nie. Gesonde verstand beskou die platteland as ’n blote produksiefasiliteit vir die graanmark, en taal as ’n kode vir die uitruil van inligting tussen verbruikers. Alles kan uiteindelik gereduseer word tot sy nutswaarde, en as dit nie daaroor beskik nie, kan dit vernietig word of weggegooi word. So is dit ook met identiteit, die kleur van ’n individu nie in die rassesin nie, maar in die etniese sin, selfs die stamsin. Waarom mag ons nie ’n stam hê nie, al is dit ’n wit stam? Waarom mag ons nie na Schoenberg luister nie, selfs al bestaan daar geen mark vir sy musiek nie? Waarom mag ons nie begeer nie, al is ons begeertes nie rasioneel nie?

Die kritiek op gesonde verstand — teenoor die Kantiaanse sensus communis wat iets anders is — op naïewe realisme en op naïewe empirisme is weer eens grotendeels op die Europese Vasteland gevoer, en nie op die Britse Eilande nie. Kennelik kan dit gesien word as ’n oorvereenvoudiging van twee uiteenlopende filosofiese tradisies, maar binne die kulturele debat in ons land, veral die tweehonderdjaaroue botsing tussen Engels en Afrikaans, is hierdie digotomie tussen ’n kwasi-Angel-Saksiese en ’n kwasi-Vastelandse siening van kultuur herhaal. (Ek laat hier die sogenaamde Afrikanistiese kultuursiening buite rekening omdat dit meer onlangs na vore gekom het en na my mening nie besonder afwyk van sekere fundamenteel Westerse konsepte nie.) ’n Estetiese betrokkenheid met die taal of die landskap mag vanuit die gesonde verstand-siening met sy klem op operasionele kwessies en transnasionale kommunikasie, opvoedkundige opheffing, ens, gewoon “nasionalisties” of selfs fascisties voorkom. Dog die teenoorgestelde is waar wanneer so ’n betrokkenheid vanuit die veelheid van Vastelandse tradisies soos rasionalisme, dialektisisme, of die verskeie vorme van geradikaliseerde vorme van taalkundige strukturalisme en Nietzscheanisme wat ons in die ná-oorlogse Europa vind, beskou word. Deleuze, om maar een voorbeeld te noem, het inderdaad minderheidstaal teenoor dié van die meerderheid gepriviligeer. Hy siteer onder andere die reël van Proust, “Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère” — “mooi boeke word in ’n soort vreemde taal geskryf” 12. In dieselfde trant praat hy van “etnos, die minderheidagtige, die vluglyn binne die struktuur, die anti-historiese element binne die Geskiedenis”. 13 Afrikaans en alles wat daarmee saamhang, dit het ons ook met die Waarheidskommissie gesien, is toenemend die ongewenste, steurende etniese element wat die samehang van die imperiale Engel se geskiedenis beduiwel. In die sogenaamde nuwe Suid-Afrika word ons gesien as behorende tot ’n voor-geskiedenis, of liefs ’n geskiedenis wat vergeet behoort te word ter wille van die heersersverhaal van swart lyding en bevryding in Engels.

Britse gesonde verstand vrywaar ’n mens boonop nie van rassisme en fascisme, veral daardie besondere variëteit waarna ek vroeër verwys het deur gebruik van die ietwat oudmodiese term, “jingoïsme”, nie. By ’n onlangse konferensie aan die Oxford Universiteit met as titel “South Africa 1895-1921: test of Empire” is die vormingsjare van die huidige semi-nywerheidsland wat ons as Suid-Afrika ken, onder die loep geneem. Die mees onlangse navorsing oor die denke van Lord Milner wat die opvoedkundige beleid met die vorige eeuwending bepaal het en ’n versnelde vorm van verengelsing en taalverdrukking ingestel het in die naam van vooruitgang en ontwikkeling — daardie twee gesonde verstand-ideale — toon duidelik ’n byna boosaardige vorm van Angel-Saksiese heerssugtigheid waarbinne die idee van ’n “heersersras” nie afwesig is nie. Die intellektuele verwarring van ons huidige regering, verskeur tussen Afrikanistiese ideale en die sogenaamde ekonomiese werklikhede wat deur oligopolistiese, koloniale belange aan hom opgedring word, mag wel ’n mutante Milnerisme toelaat in die naam van Afrikabevryding, wat selfs, indien dit te ver gevoer word, kan eindig in een of ander chiliastiese, geradikaliseerde optrede, hetsy deur ’n Kulturele Rewolusie, hetsy umahaa of statsosialisme, of die herinstelling van konsentrasiekampe.

Ek is bewus daarvan dat ek hier sinspeel op sekere van die magtige simbole van wat bekend staan as “denke van regs” binne ons konteks. Dit gaan hier egter nie om opsweping nie, maar om besinning oor die situasie waarin Afrikaans hom tans bevind. Ek durf die moontlikheid van ’n ekstreme terugkeer na Anglosentriese “social engineering” en repressie noem, juis omdat die aktivistiese, moralistiese lesing van die geskiedenis wat onlangs in Suid-Afrika gewild geword het, so kommerwekkend is. Dit is ’n “geskiedenis van die armes” wat soek na ’n enkele oorsaak vir armoede en lyding. Merendeels word dit alles geassosieer met die konsep “apartheid” waarop ek nie nou wil ingaan nie. 14 In soverre as wat die Afrikaner en Afrikaans as ’t ware daarvoor verantwoordelik gehou word dat swart Suid-Afrikaners en by uitbreiding Afrikane suid van die ewenaar nie oor dieselfde vlak van opvoeding en ’n gelykstaande lewenstandaard as die burgers van Switserland beskik nie, het ons te make met die problematiek van die sondebok waarby kwessies soos taal en identiteit wel regstreeks betrokke is. Joodse spekulante is ook verantwoordelik gehou vir die Duitse hiperinflasie tydens die Weimar-republiek, en ons weet waarop dit uitgeloop het.

Voordat ek uitwei oor die opvatting van die sondebok, is dit nodig om te probeer verstaan wat ’n stereotipe of ’n karikatuur soos daar van die Afrikaner en sy politieke betrokkenheid in Suid-Afrika gemaak is, behels. Daar is geen “identiteit” wat so sterk is soos dié van die “dumb Dutchman” nie, daardie frase wat vanaf die Engelse skoolgronde in Suid-Afrika sy weg gevind het tot die voorblad van Time of die gesanik van Europese TV-nuusaanbieders. Veral tydens my verblyf in Frankryk het ek onder die indruk gekom dat ’n mens enigiets oor Suid-Afrika, Afrikaners, Afrikaans, ens, kan kwytraak sonder dat dit in die minste aan een of ander perk of kriterium onderworpe is. Ons is fasciste, mensvreters, moordenaars, barbare, ontaarde wit mense, en wat nog. Ek kan onthou dat die wildbewaarders wat olifante uitdun in die Kruger-wildtuin op televisie voorgehou is as irrasionele wreedaards wat doodmaak omdat dit in hul eie aard is as vermoedelik wit Afrikaners. Vir diegene wat nog gewonder het oor hul identiteit in Afrikaans, is daar reeds ’n klaargemaakte een, ’n “globale identiteit”, wat waarskynlik deur miljarde mense op hierdie planeet as buite bespreking geag word.

Nieteenstaande die besondere verhouding wat daar tussen Afrikaans en die landskap bestaan, en die geworteldheid waarvan daar hierbo melding gemaak is, is dit tans nodig om oor te gaan tot ’n radikale vorm van vergeetagtigheid. By my definisie van Afrikanerskap onlangs, as synde “iemand wat van melktert of koeksisters hou”, wil ek voeg: “iemand wat sterk genoeg is om sy identiteit te vergeet.” Veral ook sy “globale identiteit”.

Sommiges sal hierin ’n Nietzscheaanse definisie van Afrikanerskap sien, en met reg. Nietzsche voel hom as ’t ware ’n vreemdeling tussen die Duitsers, hoewel niemand waarskynlik beter die Duitse taal kon gebruik as juis hy nie. As veeltalige Europeër sien hy neer op die Duitsers en, verwysende na hul kleinlike nasionalisme, chauvinisme, anti-Semitisme, verwys hy na “diese kleinen Benebelungen des Deutschen Geistes und Gewissens” 15 [“die klein bedwelminge van die Duitse gees en die Duitse gewete”]. In sy skerp onafhanklike kyk na sy vaderland — ’n “viviseksie” noem hy dit — is daar vir ons ’n les. Het dit nie tyd geword dat ook ons die skimme van die verlede van ons afwerp en opnuut die vraag vra: wat is Afrikaans, wat beteken dit nie?

Nietzsche neem verder die Duitsers kwalik dat hulle oor “geen hede” beskik nie. Hoeveel te meer is dit nie op ons van toepassing nie! As daar een aspek is van die huidige Suid-Afrika wat uitstaan, is dit die gehamer op die — sy dit dan onlangse — verlede. Elkeen kan homself moreel regverdig en sy vyand as demoon verdoem deur sy visier in te stel op die regte jaartal, of dit nou 1899 of 1976 is. Die selektiewe onthou van die verlede is in ons maatskappy tot ’n kuns verhef, by gebrek aan kuns in die ware sin van die woord. Dit is nodig om ons teen dié dialektiek te verset, deur eenvoudig te vergeet, deur onskuld teen skuld te stel, beaming teen ontkenning, die amorele teen die morele, nie-identiteit teenoor identiteit.

Die intensiteit van die gevoel teen Afrikaans en Afrikaners is nie bloot te verklaar met verwysing na die buitelandse korrespondent wat sy propaganda die wêreld instuur waar dit klakkeloos deur die hordes as evangelie opgeneem word nie. Meer en meer kom dit voor asof anti-Afrikaansheid, of dan “Boerehaat” soos dit tradisioneel bekend staan, nie net vormlik nie maar ook konseptueel verwant is aan anti-Semitisme. Toevallig is Suid-Afrika en Israel tot onlangs in die internasionale media oor dieselfde kam geskeer, maar dit gaan veel dieper, want beide Jode en Afrikaners het ’n kollektiewe aartsonde gepleeg jeens die Weste. In die geval van Jode is dit sekerlik die moord op Christus, asook hul andersheid, hul eksklusiwiteit. Wat Afrikaners en hul voorgangers, die Boere, betref, is dit eerder hul vergeetagtigheid, die feit dat hulle vergeet het hoe om korrek en algemeen beskaaf Nederlands te praat, en in ’n sekere sin hul rug gekeer het op die Westerse beskawing soos wat De Kiewiet beweer. Vergun my weer eens ’n aanhaling uit my gunstelingboek oor die Boere, De Kiewiet se History of South Africa,

Men so widely scattered as they were lost the gregarious habit of their forefathers in Europe. They built few villages. On the great farms each man fled the tyranny of his neighbour’s smoke. It followed that their communal life was loosely organized. They came together when compelled by danger or crisis. In the face of the native population their sense of race and fellowship was exceedingly keen. But their co-operation was not continuous and sustained. The habits of their social life were like the discipline of their commados. It was the sum of individual willingness; at its best it was excellent, at its worst it destroyed the commando. 16

In ’n sekere sin was die Boer dus ’n “soewereine individu” wat staatloos gelewe het, en bloot die gemeenskap opgesoek het as daar sprake was van gevaar. Die beeld van nomades wat al verder verwyder raak van hul oorsprong in die volke van Europa is by uitstek die bydrae van De Kiewiet tot die SA geskiedskrywing, soos ons reeds gesien het. Op ’n baie meer banale vlak kry dit tot vandag toe en veral in die internasionale media uitdrukking in die opvatting dat Afrikaners ’n verworde wit “stam” is en, let wel, geen “volk” nie. Die vergeet van ’n Europese nasionale identiteit is een van die ernstigste aanklagte teen Afrikaners. Dit maak hul minder beskaafd, nader aan barbare, minder moreel.

Aan die ander kant staan die Afrikaner nogtans nader aan die Weste as die Afrikaan wat afkomstig is uit ’n soort Utopie wat nog nie bederf is deur die beskawing nie. In die negentiende eeu het hierdie idee berus in die Rousseauistiese opvatting van die “edele barbaar”; tans vind ons dit terug in die algemeen gangbare geloof dat die lewenstandaard en kwaliteit van lewe van Afrikane veel beter was voor die koms van Europeërs na Suid-Afrika. Trouens, die Groot Trek het die utopiese ruimte van die binneland soos dit gesien is vanuit die Britse sendelingparadigma, besoedel. Die Afrikaner bevind hom dus in ’n tussengebied tussen Europa en Afrika, en hy beskik nóg oor beskawing nóg oor die morele ongeskondenheid van die Afrikaan.

Die hele kwasi-Calvinistiese debat wat daar deesdae romdom “skuld” gevoer word, gaan ons nie eintlik aan nie. Die strik waarin sekere Afrikaanse skrywers trap om skuld of aandadigheid aan die sondige verlede te bely, hoe hulle ouers die woord “kaffer” in die huis gebruik het, die outas agter die kraalmuur met sambokke aangerand het, ens, bewys net weer hoe sterk die globale Afrikaneridentiteit is, dat dit ’n mens oproep tot belydenis, veral as ’n New Yorkse uitgewer sy tjekboek uithaal en sê: “Tell me how dumb ya are, Dutchman.” Glucksmann het reeds gewys op hierdie neiging by die Weste om geen morele skuld aan Afrikane toe te ken nie, en slegs aan die stiefkinders van die Weste, die Afrikaners, alhoewel sy gevolgtrekking dat die Westerling homself in die blanke Suid-Afrikaner weerspieël sien, nie vir my opgaan nie. 17 In die mensdom se obsessie met ras, wat sedert Cuvier en Darwin dateer, is daar voortdurend nuwe vorme van etniese denke en sondeboksoekery wat na vore kom. Teenoor die “eenvoudige” Europese rassisme van die verlede, vind ons nou die oordrag na kwesbare sosiale groepe van die rassekompleks via kulturele of ekonomiese diskriminasie. Niemand het nog ras as konsep afgesweer nie, allermins ons huidige heersers, maar die skuld of die merk van Kaïn het van een groep na ’n ander verskuif.

Die idee van die sondebok is breedvoerig bespreek deur René Girard. 18 Die soort optrede wat uitloop op die soek na ’n sondebok is per definisie dié van ’n heksejag. In sy meer anti-Afrikaanse momente bantwoord die Waarheids- en Versoeningskommissie geheel en al aan hierdie definisie. Tydens die Pes in Europa gedurende die Middeleeue is groot groepe Jode vermoor as sou hulle verantwoordelik gewees het vir die ellende. Die demagogiese begrip “apartheid” is ’n soort opvangbak vir alle maatskaplike euwels wat in Suid-Afrika en selfs in Suider-Afrika werksaam is, vanaf armoede, gebrek aan opvoeding, werkloosheid, tuberkulose, tot Vigs, stamgeweld, misdaad, noem maar op. Dit is nie soveel verskillend van die pes nie, en die werklike oorsake van hierdie toestande is aan ons ewe duister as wat mikrobiologiese verskynsels aan die stadsbewoners van die Middeleeue was. Interessant is dat daar gewoonlik ’n “teken” of eienskap kleef aan die sondebok wat hom uitsonder van die meerderheid aan wie hy kwaad doen of gedoen het. 19 Belangrik is dat die slagoffer van vervolging deur die meerderheid nie gekies word na aanleiding van die misdaad — werklik of verbeeld — wat hy gepleeg het nie, maar op grond van sy slagofferteken wat op stereotipes berus. Stereotipering hou daarom altyd die gevaar van vervolging in. Slagoffertekens is dikwels ook “verskille”, ’n “andersheid” wat ook kultureel of godsdienstig kan wees. ’n Voorbeeld van ’n slagoffer wat deur Girard genoem word is Oedipus in die stuk deur Sophocles.

Plus un individu possède de signes victimaires, plus il a de chances de’attirer la foudre sur sa tête. L’infirmité d’Oedipe, son passé d’enfant exposé, sa situation d’étranger, de parvenu, de roi, font de lui un véritable conglomérat de signes victimaires. 20

[Hoe meer slagoffertekens ’n individu het, hoe groter is die kans dat hy die ongeluk oor hom kan bring. Die gebrek van Oedipus, sy verlede as weggooikind, sy status as buitelander, as parvenu, as koning, maak van hom ’n ware konglomeraat van slagoffertekens.]

In baie opsigte is Afrikaans ’n unieke taal op die vasteland van Afrika, wat die sprekers daarvan ook uniek maak, ’n eienaardige minderheid in ’n wêreld wat oorheers word deur groot imperiale tale: Mandaryns in die Ooste, Engels in die Weste. Dit is ’n ongemaklike posisie om ’n lid van ’n eienaardige minderheid te wees in ’n omgewing of op ’n vasteland wat gedurig gebuk gaan onder maatskaplike en natuurrampe, oorloë, opstande, terreur, misdaad en die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes soos Vigs en malaria. Soos die Jode, is alle Afrikaners of Afrikaanssprekendes uiters kwesbaar as synde ’n “konglomeraat van slagoffertekens”, en moet hulle byvoorbaat die konsentrasiekamp anderkant die bult sien sodra aantygings van kollektiewe skuld gemaak word of etniese stereotiperingsveldtogte via die massamedia gevoer word.

Ek wil vir ’n oomblik stilstaan by die idee van ’n tussengebied, ’n niemandsland, die uitgestrektheid van die landskap, ’n soort Karoo van die identiteit. Daar is ’n woord in Frans vir “gebied” of “omstreke” wat reeds ontgin is om die aarselende betekenis weer te gee waarna ek soek, die woord “parages”.

Parages: à ce seul mot confions ce qui situe, tout près ou de loin, le double mouvement d’approche et d’éloignement, souvent le même pas, singulièrement divisé, plus vieux et plus jeune que lui-même, autre toujours, au bord de l’événement, quand il arrive et n’arrive pas, infiniment distant à l’approche de l’autre rive. 21

[Gebied: aan hierdie enkele woord wil ons toeken dit wat, hier naby of daar ver, die dubbele beweging van naderkoms en wegtrek omvat, eiesoortiglik verdeel, ouer en jonger as sigself, altyd anders, aan die rand van die gebeurtenis, as dit arriveer én nie arriveer nie, oneindig ver verwyder wanneer die oorkantste oewer benader word.]

As hierdie aanhaling klink soos ’n dekonstruksie van die Groot Trek, is dit nie toevallig nie: dit is afkomstig uit ’n teks van Jacques Derrida oor die werk van Maurice Blanchot. Enkele bladsye later tydens ’n ontleding van Blanchot se boek Le pas au-delà (“Die tree na anderkant”), is daar ’n eg Nietzscheaanse formulering van dieselfde konsep van ’n aarselende oorgang:

Il y a toujours deux pas. L’un dans l’autre mais sans inclusion possible, l’un affectant l’autre immédiatement mais à le franchir en s’eloignant de lui. Toujours deux pas, franchissant jusqu’à leur négation, selon le retour éternel de la transgression passive et de l’affirmation répétée. 22

[Daar is altyd twee treë. Die een voetspoor in die ander maar sonder moontlike insluiting, die een wat die ander onmiddellik affekteer maar deur ’n tree telkens verder weg te gee. Altyd twee treë, te gee tot by hul wedersydse ontkenning, volgens die ewige wederkeer van passiewe oortreding en herhalende bevestiging.]

Die huiwerende situasie van Afrikaans, gevang in sy taalgebied in Afrika maar gedurig intellektueel in pas met Europa, is vir my nie anders as die beskrewe beweging nie. Ook die posisie van Afrikaans, in sy opkoms en verval as amptelike taal, die skynbaar fatale dans met mag van die pas afgelope veertig jaar of so, kan gesien word as ’n betreding van dié unieke tussengebied waar die bordjies telkens verhang word. Taalbeweging, taaltrek, taaldraadtrek, dit is soveel valle van die dobbelsteen van die ewige wederkeer. Maar betreding dui reeds op die begaan van ’n oortreding, om die ander se taalgebied as ’t ware te kom bevuil met jou poësie, jou letterkunde, jou radio- of televisieprogram, jou advertensie, jou preek of draakstekery.

Die eindelose herkolonisering van die Afrikaner, nou in die naam van imperiale uitbreiding, dan weer in die naam van postkoloniale ontwikkeling, is inderdaad ’n ervaring van die ewige wederkeer. Dié heen-en-weer beweging wat nie net die herhaalde aanslae van die geskiedenis omvat nie, maar ook die uitspeel van Afrikaans in sy verhouding tot die Suid-Afrikaanse landskap in die breedste moontlike sin, word vir my mooi saamgevat deur Deleuze se koeplet deterritorialisering/reterritorialisering. Afrikaans is letterlik ’n gedeterritorialiseerde Nederlands, wat op sy beurt gereterritorialiseer word deur Engels en die pre-koloniale Afrika-utopie.

’n Mens hoor dikwels dat Afrikaans onder die vorige bewind “bevoorreg” is, en nou gestraf moet word daarvoor. Hierdie denke is eienaardig, maar op ’n manier gee die tussengebied wat Afrikaans beklee hom tog ’n verhewe en daarom bevoorregte posisie. In ’n sekere sin is die Suid-Afrikaanse ervaring nóg Europees, nóg van Afrika. Dit behels drie eeue van deterritorialisering, van vergeet van én die Europese identiteit én die Afrika-identiteit. Ek word geïntrigeer deur die volgende opmerking van ’n sekere historikus wat allermins Afrikaans of die Afrikaner goedgesind is, en wat waarskynlik geen erg sou hê aan die verdwyning van Afrikaans as taal nie. Verwysende na die Hoëveld, meen hy:

These hot, dry and expansive plains of the subcontinent provide the country with its most characteristic landscape, and a distinctive terminology which singles out for special attention any geomorphological feature which so much as hints at either height or water. Koppie, krans, pan, platteland, rand, sloot, spruit, vlakte, and vlei — are all Afrikaans words that defy easy translation and which have been incorporated holus-bolus into the vocabulary of all urban South Africans. They are quintessentially highveld words; words that give life to the ways in which one senses and experiences much of what it is to be South African … When an authentic South African identity eventually emerges from this troubled country it will, in large part, have come from painful experiences on the highveld. 23

Die leser van Nietzsche kan nie anders as om hardop te skater oor die opvatting van “’n outentieke Suid-Afrikaanse identiteit nie”, maar is dit nie ’n kraak in die mondering van die “nasionale en internasionale lingua franca” nie? Wat Van Onselen, die outeur van hierdie reëls nie besef nie, is dat die skoonheid van hierdie woorde — hierdie Afrikaanse woorde — nie uitvloei vanaf of selfs neig na ’n ware identiteit nie, maar vanuit ’n proses van vergeet, van swerf, van soeke na die horison van die tussengebied.

Die verskil tussen Afrikaner-nasionalisme en Afrika-nasionalisme is een lettergreep, en albei hou aan ons ’n identiteit voor wat gefabriseer word uit herinnerde idealisme, Plato se proses van anamnese waar ons almal soos grotbewoners droom van die helder lig daarbuite wat ons nooit sal smaak nie omdat dit tot die ideële wêreld behoort. Eerder as wat ons die identiteit nastreef wat deur die kultuurpolisie van die nuwe ou Suid-Afrika aan ons voorgehou word, behoort ons die proses van vergeet wat eie aan Afrikaans is, voort te sit. Ons behoort ons verlies aan ’n identiteit te bevestig of, in Nietzscheaanse terme, dit te beja.

Om Afrikaans te beja sou onder meer behels om verby die taalmoraliteit en -moralisme te kyk. Soos Nietzsche dit stel:

Die Moral, insofern sie verurteilt, an sich, nicht aus Hinsichten, Rücksichten, Absichten des Lebens, ist ein spezifischer Irrtum, mit dem man kein Mitleiden haben soll, eine Degenerierten-Idiosynkrasie, die unsäglich viel Schaden gestiftet hat! … Wir anderen, wir Immoralisten, haben umgekehrt unser Herz weit gemacht für alle Art Vertstehn, Begreifen, Gutheißen. Wir verneinen nicht leicht, wir suchen unsre Ehre darin, Bejahende zu sein … 24

[Die moraal, sover dit op grond van homself veroordeel, en nie met verwysing na en waardering vir die doel van die lewe nie, is ’n spesifieke dwaling waarmee ’n mens geen simpatie behoort te hê nie, ’n idiosinkrasie van die gedegenereerdes wat ontsaglike skade veroorsaak het! … Ons ander, die immoraliste, het inteendeel ons harte oopgemaak vir elke soort verstaan, begrip, goedkeuring. Ons ontken nie maklik nie, ons soek na ons eer deur bejaend te wees.]

Elders lees ons, met verwysing na die estetika:

‘Das ist schön’ is eine Bejahung. 25

[‘Dit is mooi’ is ’n bejaïng.]

Om Afrikaans te beja sou dus behels om in die eerste plek die taalmoraliteit af te sweer, die historiese rekeningkunde waar die taal nou promoveer tot “bate”, nou weer tot “las”. In hierdie dae van herinnering aan die onlangse verlede, gaan dit waarskynlik byna bomenslike moed verg om te vergeet, om aktief te vergeet ten einde die onskuld te verwerf waarsonder geen skepping moontlik is nie. Om aktief te vergeet beteken myns insiens op die minste ’n stellingname, ’n sekere strydvaardigheid en bereidheid om ’n standpunt te huldig. Dit gaan my te bowe dat soveel middelmatige persoonlikhede behorende tot ons openbare lewe soveel snert en onsinnighede oor Afrikaans en die kultuur in die algemeen kan kwytraak en skotvry daarvan afkom. Is daar geen skrywers meer in Afrikaans nie, kruip hulle almal onder die bed weg? Het ons geen denkers meer nie, of is hulle nog besig om hulself te heroriënteer sodat hulle gemaklik die oorgang vanaf die Broederbond na die Africanbond kan maak? Het Eugène Marais verniet “Winternag” geskryf en verniet teen die morfien gestry? Is ons so geïntimideer deur ’n spul opgepompte Europeërs en Amerikaners wat geen snars van Suid-Afrika verstaan nie dat ons eers die rokspante van die Kappiekommando sal moet vind voordat ons durf antwoord op hul lomp bekookte beledigings?

Is daar niemand wat identiteitloos genoeg is om ja te sê vir Afrikaans nie?

Notes:

  1. Heidegger, Martin. Gelassenheit. Pfullingen: Verlag Günther Neske, 1959.
  2. Schoeman, Karel. Hierdie Lewe. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau, 1993.
  3. Sien byvoorbeeld die beskrywing op bladsy 10, ibid., wat begin “Helder land, glansende silwergrys land wat voor my wegdrywe in die nag, waar ek verwonderd sien hoe elke tak van die harpuisbos glinster soos die digte spirale van sy blaartjies die skynsel van die lig weerkaats en elke rots dof gloei teen die rante …”
  4. Rancière, Jacques. Courts voyages au pays du peuple. Parys: Ed. du Seuil, 1990.
  5. ibid., bl. 7.
  6. De Kiewiet, CW. A history of South Africa, social and economic. Londen: Oxford Univ Press, 1942.
  7. ibid, bl 17.
  8. Blum, Peter. ”Rooinekke op Hermanus” in Steenbok tot poolsee. Kaapstad: Tafelberg, 1974.
  9. P Vergilius Maro. Bucolica et georgica. Basingstoke en Londen: Macmillan, 1972, bll 1-3.
  10. Kristeva, Julia. Etrangers � nous-m�mes. Parys: Fayard, 1988, bl 9.
  11. Van Melle, J. Bart Nel. Pretoria: JL van Schaik, 1981.
  12. Deleuze, Gilles. Superpositions. Parys: Minuit, 1979, bl 109.
  13. ibid, bl 127.
  14. Vergelyk sekere van my opmerkings in Om die Waarheidskommissie te vergeet aangaande die ahistoriese aard van hierdie begrip.
  15. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Sämtliche Werke: Jenseits von Gute und B�se. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1964, bl 183.
  16. op cit, bl 19.
  17. Glucksmann, André en Wolton, Thierry. Silence on tue. Parys: Grasset, 1986, bll 23-24.
  18. Girard, René. Le bouc émissaire. Parys: Grasset, 1982.
  19. ibid, bll 30-31.
  20. ibid, bl 39.
  21. Derrida, Jacques. Parages. Parys: Galilée, 1986, bl 15.
  22. ibid, bl 59.
  23. Van Onselen, Charles. The seed is mine. Kaapstad: David Philip, 1996, bll v-vi.
  24. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Sämtliche Werke: Göttzendämmerung. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1964, bl 106.
  25. ibid, Der Wille zur Macht, bl 573.

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