Image: Zanele Montle, iThemba'lethu, 2020, acrylic on canvas.
Our November 2021 issue presents Kaaps-language poetry and prose by South African writers. Developed in sixteenth-century colonial South Africa through contact between indigenous, Southeast Asian, and European populations, Kaaps was later appropriated by Afrikaner nationalists, who eliminated its “impure” elements to create the Afrikaans language. The resulting dismissal of Kaaps as street vernacular or a mere dialect of Afrikaans reflected the dominant culture’s oppression and negation of South Africa’s Coloured—or multiracial South African—population, to which many Kaaps speakers belong. The authors presented here link Kaaps language and identity to argue for the validation of both. Poet and spoken-word artist Khadija Tracey Heeger hails a complex ancestry. Nashville Blaauw makes a biblical plea for guidance, and Shirmoney Rhode calculates the risks of parenthood. In two family stories, Olivia M. Coetzee’s young woman learns the truth of her parentage, while Andre Trantraal’s stubborn boy defies his devout grandmother. Hip-hop artist SIEP contributes a stirring salute to the individual (we have the video, too). And Olivia M. Coetzee outlines the history of Kaaps and the speakers who wielded it as a force for cultural affirmation.
This Language Called Kaaps: An Introduction
The contributors here not only expand the body of Kaaps literature, but also confirm the link between language and its speakers’ identities.
Children of the Xam
In this sacred tapestry the blood of Khoi and amaXhosa / sweetened with the native Xam.
I affirm the soul in each person / It’s clean as a bone with the vocal tone
The Wind Blows Where It Wishes and You Hear Its Sound
It should be patently obvious to anyone but the most resolutely blind that he is not aching with impatience to go to the house of the Lord.
I Lift My Eyes Up
Where moving out is / mostly in a coffin
and that which has no use / will be discarded
JB was the one to start that fire inside my head.
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