Relevant to locals and language communities of Africa

The Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument (ATM) in Paarl is increasingly regarded as a must-see and must-experience place by residents and foreign tourists. This according to the director, Michael Jonas, who spoke last week at a function to introduce new additions to the ATM as well as the monument’s vision for the immediate future.

“Afrikaans is currently under pressure, especially from the government, but on the other hand, an incredible and unprecedented amount of Afrikaans books, films and music are being created,” he added. “What is especially surprising is that variants of Afrikaans that have been ignored over the past century are now blooming. The totality of the Afrikaans speaking community is claiming the language, to the benefit of all and especially the language itself. A diverse group of Afrikaans speakers are finding their voices.”

According to Jonas, the ATM takes note of these developments and plays an active role in accommodating and promoting it. “It’s a living institution; it serves as a gathering place for Afrikaans speakers to appreciate and enjoy lectures, music, literature, fun language workshops and each other’s company. And to share it with non-Afrikaans speakers.”

Therefore, the language monument now has audio guides in African and foreign languages to inform more people in their own languages about this youngest member of the language family. The Language Museum in the town plays an important role in the preservation and digitisation of incredible Afrikaans manuscripts. “What is true for the promotion of Afrikaans can also be true for other African languages; there is movement, but relatively slow,” said Jonas. “We want to see this icon become a symbol of hope and pride for all Africans.”

Over and above the monument’s focus on culture, nature and pleasure, Jonas emphasised that the monument, and even the language, is nothing without the local community and Afrikaans-speaking people in general, wherever in the world they are. “That’s why we offer picnics in aid of the ‘Let’s Read!’ literacy projects for children, a fun run in aid of the Boland School of Autism, and also provide students with the opportunity to gain work experience at the monument,” he said.

“Each week school groups from a wide range of socio-economic and language backgrounds come to learn more about Afrikaans’s origins and experience the scenery. And for a decade we have been actively recording undocumented variants of Afrikaans and Afrikaans landscapes, especially in the Northern Cape, and preserving them in a digital format for our descendants. Let’s be clear: if the Boland community does not regard the monument as relevant, it’s difficult to convey the value of this place, this space, to other people.

“Fortunately, the Afrikaans Language Monument is increasingly regarded as a must-see tourism attraction by locals and foreigners. And that’s what we want to build on. In addition, we want to further position the institution as a symbol of hope, nation building and social cohesion.”

Regarding the other developments at the monument, there is an enlarged and improved Volksmond restaurant, new multilingual visitor signage as well as life-sized games for children. This season the monument and museum offer numerous events, such as picnics, music concerts, sporting events and lectures. As the monument will be 45 years young in 2020, a project has also been launched to track down the builders of the monument, to record their stories and to give them lifelong ‘honorary language cards’ with which they can visit the monument for free.

The gathering was attended by amongst others various councillors of the Drakenstein Municipality as well as members of the Afrikaans Language Council. Soulsound Live and Blaq Pearl entertained the guests with music and poetry.

For more information, see www.taalmonument.co.za