The 600 Grade 8 and 9 pupils at Klein Nederburg Secondary School in Paarl did not attend class on the morning of Wednesday May 18.
However, they did learn a lot while celebrating International Museum Day and Africa Day in their school hall, together with two local museums, the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en -monument and Paarl Museum. Pupils spontaneously sang and danced while being entertained by artists such as the Lukhanyo marimba band from Mbekweni.
The popular drama group Kaleidoskoop performed an extract of their production Ons Komvandaan (Where we are from), titled Gie djy vir my tale? (Do you give me languages?), which was met with applause and laughter. Ex-pupil Herschwell Fortuin on his guitar was a favourite too.
Paarl Museum’s manager, Michael Jonas, addressed the pupils about the importance of the two commemorative days. He encouraged them to visit museums in order to discover how their collections tie in with the school curriculum.
According to Mr Jonas, the museum community worldwide has been celebrating International Museum Day on May 18 since 1977. “The purpose of Museum Day is to highlight the activities of museums as well as their role in society. This year’s theme is museums and cultural landscapes,” he said.
Africa Day is commemorated annually to celebrate the founding of the Organisation for Africa Unity, previously known as the African Union, on May 25, 1963. According to Mr Jonas, the day celebrates progress and freedom from colonialism, but also focuses on challenges. “Africa Day gives South Africans an opportunity to get to know, underwrite and celebrate the continent’s diversity, values and cultures,” said Mr Jonas.
He spoke about the uniqueness of everyone’s heritage, by using his own descent as example: “No nation on earth can claim a heritage as diverse as my own. I am a descendent of the Khoekhoen, ‘Men under Men’, the slaves from the East, Germans from Europe as well as Scots from the British Isles. It is this mixture of blood, culture and traditions that makes me a unique individual. South Africa’s cultural landscape is enriched through my tangible and intangible heritage. Kitchen Dutch as spoken by my slave ancestors from the East later became the origins of my precious mother tongue, Afrikaans,” he said.
Mr Jonas explained how Afrikaans’ vocabulary is enriched through words of the Khoekheon (for example “karos” and “Outeniekwa”) and the slaves (for example “baie” and “soebat”), and also highlighted the slaves’ heritage of Tweede Nuwejaar (second new year), Kaapse Klopse (Cape Minstrels) and Christmas choirs.
He also told the pupils about the living heritage of his ancestor, Reverend Karl Jonas, the first indigenous teacher and preacher at the missionary station at Genadendal, after whom a street in the town was named.
Mr Jonas ended his speech by declaring that it is not one’s skin colour that makes you an “African and unique” – but when one’s “heritage, soul and heart is at home in Africa”.
Contact the Taalmuseum at 021 872 3441 or email@example.com, and Paarl Museum at 021 872 2651 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.