July 11, 2020

A Language Redeemed

A lot of—maybe most—people used to think of Afrikaans as the language of Apartheid. Perhaps some still do. There's nothing about the language that makes it inherently evil, obviously. It, like English, is simply a West Germanic language with lots of borrowing from outside. Despite all the borrowing, however, it and the Dutch language are still mutually intelligible... and few people think of Dutch as a language of oppression, even though both Dutch and Afrikaans sound quite guttural to English-speaking ears.

So a language whose vocabulary has been utilized to enforce brutality can also be used to express feelings such as love and tenderness. And if a language can be used to separate people according to ethnicity, it can also be used to unite people of different backgrounds. So please watch this video of South Africa's Stellenbosch University Choir—unable to rehearse or perform together in person—singing two unbelievably beautiful songs in Afrikaans via teleconference. The two songs share a theme of the darkness, which is how "die donker" is translated. I'll include the English translation of the songs below this video (it's also found on their YouTube channel).
DIE GANG (The Corridor):
In the dark corridor I saw a light, but the flame was delicate and frail.
I yearned for springtime on my uncle's farm without electricity.
My aunt said, "My child, my child, love and moths are blind."
The flame is delicate and frail, and like a thief it can disappear in the night.
Deep within the corridor I yearned for something.
The wind was singing that spring would bring love.
I could hear the day withering - it was only the sun disappearing.
And as certain as the earth that turns, a cock would crow again.
One evening the night turned to day as the storm erupted with all its force.
And I hid in the corridor, because I was afraid of the electricity.

KLEIN TAMBOTIEBOOM (a farm in the Limpopo Province of South Africa):
When the shadows come to fetch me,
and when the good Lord does not look out for me,

when the ozone layer perishes
and falls into a chandelier of stars,
lay my heart to rest in Klein Tambotieboom
and scatter my ashes across the Bushveld horizon.


I wouldn't be me if I didn't obsess about these two songs. So that's what I did, and I found what I think are their original versions. If anything they're even more beautiful apart from their choral arrangements:

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