Taalmonument announces winners of flash fiction, hopes to reopen for the public on 1 October

In honour of Afrikaans Language Day on 14 August, the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en -monument (ATM) is delighted to announce the top three and top twelve entries of the institutions’ corona competition. Winner Fawa Conradie and the two runners-up, Nikita Naudé and Karel Dampies, together receive R4 000 and annual permits, and their poems will soon be exhibited with those of the other nine (for the time being virtually) in the Groen Galery. The other nine are Adele Gill, Desidereus Claassen, Dewald Elrico Jacobs, Elzane Brand, Jean Jaco Julies, Kallie Pauw, Neville Carolus, Priscilla Booysen and San Aucamp.

For 2020, after all, no one had 2020 vision. While the ATM was preparing large 45th birthday celebrations, a tiny virus brought the planet to a standstill within months, with lockdowns that kept people housebound as far as possible. Although the ATM is closed to the public, a creative virtual programme began to take shape to make the “new normal” part of the institution’s historic growth. In addition to online virtual tours, webinars, an enhanced social media footprint, a music concert and ‘Picnic on Fire’, one and all were invited to sharpen their pencils and write something funny, absurd or ironic. It included limericks, poems, thoughts, haikus, slogans, flash fiction or lyrics about these historical times – something that took place at their homes or anywhere else during the lockdown.

With the more than 200 entries received, it is clear that Afrikaans people also deal with the current challenges with humour. Innovations such as ‘koeshoes’ (when you dodge someone that is coughing), ‘grendelgriep’ (cabin fever) and ‘kwarantynwyn’ (moonshine, home-made alcohol) as well as the funny memes and jokes spreading like a virus on social media, prove that creativity cannot be curtailed. According to Michael Jonas, the ATM’s director, the institution is a living monument where there is constant interaction between the structure, nature, visitors and language creators. “We thank everyone for their continued support and we are really overwhelmed by all the positive reaction to the competition. The seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic is not underestimated, so we dedicate this exhibition to all those who risk their lives to fight it, and also those who have lost loved ones due to this disease.” Language day commemorates the founding of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (Fellowship for True Afrikaners, GRA) in 1875 in the house in which the museum is located – their members played an important role to have Afrikaans recognised as a written language.

Jonas says most visitors are not only very interested in the history of Afrikaans, but also curious about the language’s development and its latest creative forms as it offers new perspectives on the lived world of Afrikaans-speaking Africans. “Although we are currently temporarily closed due to Covid-19, we consider it a golden opportunity to make our web and social media footprint better known among more people, and to perform maintenance work.” According to him, the institution will reopen to the public on Thursday, 1 October 202, if the necessary permission is granted. “We are watching to see which way the cat jumps, because we do not want to open up just to close again as the pandemic moves through phases. For example, for the sake of safety and convenience, we will also be operating a mobile coffee shop as soon as we open. Visitor numbers will be restricted and all Covid-19 protocols will be adhered to.”

The architect of the monument, Jan van Wijk, felt strongly about nature and therefore he is honoured by this open-air gallery where his ashes are embedded in a boulder, surrounded by indigenous olive trees and granite. Every few months an exhibition of various up-and-coming Afrikaans writers’ works is presented in the gallery’s display cases, made from recycled wood and glass, to focus on the cultural and ecological aspects of the monument. See www.taalmuseum.co.za/groen-galery/ for the current and previous exhibitions.

The website also offers virtual tours of the monument and museum, information in six languages about the symbolism of the Taalmonument as well as many interesting articles on Afrikaans, multilingualism and the institution’s past, present and future. There are also numerous resources for school and research projects.

For further information on the ATM and other events that form part of the institution’s 45th celebrations, call 021 863 0543/4809 and 071 500 8740 (cellphone only during business hours) or visit www.taalmonument.co.za and www.facebook.com/afrikaansaalmonument. The latter also has links to the free virtual events offered by the ATM since the lockdown.