Free those without a voice


Free those without a voice

In a Vrye Weekblad column from 1992, ANTJIE KROG writes about language racism and the stigmatisation of languages, how (especially) English and Afrikaans have been favoured, and how black languages ​​have been left behind.

  • 11 August 2023
  • Free Speech
  • 8 min to read
  • article 23 of 25
  • Antjie Krog

ONCE upon a time, a father, a mother and their daughter lived in a small village. The father was an active underground member of the ANC for years and founded the United Democratic Front in the village. He was frequently arrested and detained for months. On one occasion, the mother was also arrested and kept in solitary confinement for six months. She was released after a nervous breakdown. Upon her release, she barely recognised her only child.

Let's call the mother Margaret. Someone needed to let her family know. The letter was written in English, although the family spoke Afrikaans and Sotho. Why English? If we write in English the family will accept that we are educated people. Besides, what are the Sotho words for endogenous depression or bipolar frequencies?

Margaret kept a diary during her imprisonment. The prison scenes were described in Afrikaans, the struggle and ideals in English, the tightrope walk between reason and madness in Sotho. As part of the healing process, she decided to publish it. She translated the diary into English...

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