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November 2021

The Language of Identity: Kaaps Writing from South Africa

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 Shirgmoney 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. 

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Book Reviews

Helene Bukowski’s “Milk Teeth”: A Plausible Post-Apocalypse

Reviewed by Kevin Canfield

Helene Bukowski's harrowing debut novel invites readers to a strange dystopia.

In “I Was a French Muslim,” a Writer Revisits Internal Tensions of Algeria’s Independence Struggle

Reviewed by Jocelyn Frelier

The strength of Mokhtar Mokhtefi's memoir is in the invitation it offers the reader to experience the personal stakes at the center of all collective struggles.

Mario Levrero’s “The Luminous Novel”: Writing as a Spiritual Experience

Reviewed by Isaura Contreras

In a work that takes the form of a diary and a novel, Uruguayan writer Mario Levrero contemplates failure and procrastination to ultimately affirm writing as an act of freedom.

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