Women rack up thousands of rands; top-13 works exhibited at Taalmonument

The Afrikaans Language Museum and Monument (ATM) and Historium Trust are delighted to announce the winners of their latest Arabic Afrikaans competition, for which R10 000 and annual permits were up for grabs. From Komatipoort, Mpumalanga, Zahraa Ameer is the overall winner, with her sister, Zaynab Ameer, and Naeema Fredericks from Cape Town named as joint runners-up during the Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture at Paarl on Saturday, 15 October. The ten other best works, together with the entries of these three, are exhibited for a few months in the monument’s outdoor gallery.

In honour of Heritage Month and specifically the contribution of Arabic Afrikaans to the language’s development, the ATM requested short Afrikaans texts in Arabic or Jawi (Arabic alphabet as adapted for Afrikaans) script. This follows the highly successful competition in 2020 when more than 40 new Arabic Afrikaans writings were received, as well as the recent Arabic Afrikaans workshop at the museum.

The positive response, media coverage and numerous entries – from religious texts and poetry to original works in Afrikaans – prove that there is still a great interest in Arabic Afrikaans. In addition to South Africa, this year also saw entries from Germany and Qatar, with Ludwig Schmidt, Alamien Gaidien, Egbert Vermaak, Suleman Dangor, Jubayda Venos, Albrecht Beer, Johann Potgieter, Dorette Booysen, Tuhfah Emjedi and Jo-Mari Reynolds whose works made it to the top-13.

According to the winner, she is interested in Arabic Afrikaans “as it plays a big role in the history of Muslims in South Africa. I am Muslim-Indian by ethnicity and my home language is not Afrikaans, but I grew up in a mostly Afrikaans-speaking village and went to an Afrikaans school,” says Zahraa Ameer. “Many South African Muslims who did not grow up in the Cape or are not Cape Malay are unaware of how rich a role Afrikaans plays in the history of our faith and religion.”

Runner-up Naeema Fredericks says she finds this type of writing very unique. “I spent a lot of time editing because I wanted to make it easy for the readers.”

“Afrikaans is a very fascinating language for me,” explains the other runner-up, Zaynad Ameer. “I’m not usually interested in history, but the history of the language is very special and interesting to me. The competition was challenging and fun; at the same time, it reminded me of sheikh Abu Bakr Effendi who used Arabic Afrikaans in his madrassa. The hardest thing was finding the right sounds for certain letters that didn’t match.”

Afrikaans written using the Arabic alphabet is generally accepted as the first written form of Afrikaans. Numerous Arabic Afrikaans writings – such as student notebooks, election posters, publications and manuscripts – have been preserved; so far 74 of these works written between 1845 and 1957 have been discovered and identified by experts. Amongst them are excellent examples of the earliest Afrikaans literature. In addition, many more Arabic-Afrikaans writings are privately owned, which the ATM would love to digitalise for future generations.

The judge was Dr Shamiega Chaudhari, a lecturer in the faculty of education at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where she teaches Afrikaans as a major and Curriculum Studies. She is not only an expert on Afrikaans and Arabic – and a lover of Jawi – but also focuses on decolonisation, identity studies and orature. According to her, the judging was not easy, but the top 3 stood out head and shoulders above the rest. “I also want to make a special mention of the immediate runners-up in the 8/10 category who did an excellent job,” she says. “To the rest of the candidates I would like to express my thanks; it was good, and shows hard work and interest.” In conjunction with this competition, Chaudhari also presented a stimulating Arabic Afrikaans workshop for beginners on 16 July 2022; the modern type ‘madrassa’ class was not only well attended, but there were numerous requests for more workshops.

According to Michael Jonas, director of the ATM, the aim of this competition is to make a modern contribution to this unique writing tradition. “Our mission, after all, is to also highlight the lessor-known histories of Afrikaans and to celebrate the rich diversity of Afrikaans’s development as well as its modern forms. That is why we want to encourage people to reaffirm their participation in this language in this way,” he says. “In the Taalmuseum in Paarl we give a lot of recognition to Abu Bakr Effendi, who played a major role in the development of Arabic Afrikaans and thereby also Afrikaans in the 1800s in the Bo-Kaap. We would like to see the Afrikaans community build on this.”

The winner receives R5 000 in cash and the two runners-up R2 500 each, sponsored by the Historium Trust. All three also win a family year permit for the ATM that includes unlimited visits for four people to the monument, museum, coffee shop and full moon picnics. To reach a wider audience, the best 13 entries are exhibited in the monument’s outdoor gallery where the Roman and Arabic/Jawi versions of the same Afrikaans text appear side by side. It is also available online at www.taalmuseum.co.za/groen-galery

• For more information on all the other exciting events, concerts and courses at the Taalmonument, call 021 872 3441/863 0543, visit www.taalmonument.co.za or follow them on Facebook. The website also offers virtual tours of the monument and museum, information in six languages on 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 many resources for school and research projects. Annual permits are available at only R120 for individuals or R220 per family, which includes access to all Full Moon Picnics. The ATM Koffiehuis offers delicious food and beautiful views daily.