What is it with Dutch cultural elites and South Africa? The last time I travelled two hours to watch an opera, it was in South Africa, on horseback. A self-declared pig farmer I was staying with was invited to attend a private opera function at his neighbor’s place, and decided I’d come along. The ride took us through swamps and empty veld. Living on the other side of the ridge, the neighbor turned out to be an emigrated Dutchman. Not much farming happening on the estate he bought some years ago. “We’re thinking of growing some vines. And push the opera scene here in the Cape as well.” Where better to do this than on a farm a good three hours drive outside of Cape Town.

This scene came back to me when I drove up to Nijmegen in Holland on Saturday to attend the South African Afrikaaps hiphopera. The play was exceptional. Exceptional not only because it hit all the right notes (the cast of self-defined coloured artists proved itself to be the multi-talented group of musicians and activists they are lauded for back home), but also because the show stands out in the throng of South African artists visiting the Low Countries each year. I didn’t do my maths properly, but I’d say seven out of ten of South African artists visiting us here each year are white (and Afrikaans).

Language, obviously (the standing ovations for the Afrikaaps plays over the last two weeks being a fair indicator); history, possibly (Dutch colonialism in the 17th century); guilt, maybe (with the exception of some leftist groupings in the Netherlands, the Dutch populace and their government were not all that critical about the Apartheid state); and religion, sure (disciples from the same protestant root).

Then there’s the thrill of the clash between white and black? One would sure think so when browsing the Dutch papers lately. There is the essay about Afrikaners being the victims of a new apartheid (by a Dutch right-wing politician in a ‘respected’ newspaper), Afrikaners feeling alienated (a guest column by Afrikaner “civil society activist” Flip Buys in De Volkskrant of all places), reviews of the Festival for (the) Afrikaans (language) in Amsterdam (at the ‘Tropics Theatre’ — the usual Afrikaans suspects show up: yesteryear’s authors and musicians), there is the Africa in the Picture festival (where one third of the featured films was South African), talks about Shooting the Boer, and articles on the trial of Eugene Terre’Blanche’s murder ‘dividing the country to the bone’ (it sure does – but only in the foreign press).

So when I came across this essay and photo series in the Dutch newspaper Vrij Nederland about a right-wing Afrikaner commando-style training camp (‘There’s Afrikaner blood running through my veins,’ republished in the Belgian paper De Standaard over the weekend under the title ‘Afrikaner training camp: afraid, white and bullied’), I can no longer feel surprised.

They are all Afrikaners, with Dutch, French or German roots, these youths of the so-called born free-generation.

Cue: rape, murder, ANC and Malema. It makes you wonder who pays for these articles. And why.

Soon, our mainstream media will feature an article on South Africa without those four words, but not just now.

Read and watch the ‘multi-media production’ here.

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.