Celebrating language on Heritage Day

Bo-Kaap residents Fadwa Samaai and Toufiek Samaai take part in the Heritage Day event celebrating Afrikaans.

All too often, language can cause division, particularly when things are lost in translation.

However, on Heritage Day, Saturday September 24, a group of Bo-Kaap residents wanted to show that language can unite people as well.

Saturday’s event, organised by Stigting vir Bemagtiging deur Afrikaans (SBA), included a fun walk, entertainment by a Cape Malay Choir, as well as traditional Cape Malay food.

It was also about celebrating the history of the Afrikaans language and its roots in the Bo-Kaap.

One of the organisers, Fatima Allie, said this was the second year the SBA had held the event and that the organisation aimed to make Afrikaans more prominent in the community.

“The reason we are here in the Bo-Kaap on Heritage Day is because of the history of the language with the Cape Malays.

“We are celebrating Afrikaans in the Bo-Kaap on Heritage Day. Instead of using Afrikaans as language to divide the community, we are using it to bring the community together.”

“There are so many things that highlight what heritage is today but we are trying to bring the language aspect into it. With issues such as Fees Must Fall and the fighting over the medium of language for education, it is still very important to have children taught in their mother language. To many of us in the Western Cape, Afrikaans is what we speak at home.”

Ms Allie said the reason the event was being held in the Bo-Kaap, was because that was where Afrikaans as we know it originated. She said there was evidence to suggest that the first Afrikaans writing came from the area. It was brought to the attention of the public by the late Dr Achmat Davids, a historian and resident of Bo-Kaap, through his research.

“He was a linguist and for his PhD he did a lot of research with archival documents where there was Arabic script. When you pronounce the Arabic, it sounded like Afrikaans. That is how the Cape Malays in the Bo-Kaap started speaking Afrikaans. That is why we are so confident about Afrikaans coming from the Bo-Kaap. This is our history, our culture and our heritage and why we are proud to use Afrikaans as a unifying factor in our community.”

The event was supported by the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, the Boorhaanol Movement, the Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch and the Bo-Kaap Flats Body Corperate.