Taalmonument honours authors of new Arabic-Afrikaans works

The Taal Monument in the Winelands.

The Afrikaans Taal Monument (ATM) rewarded three authors of new Arabic-Afrikaans works with R10 000 for their outstanding contribution to this unique writing tradition.

In honour of Reconciliation Month, the abolition of slavery as well as the contribution of Arabic-Afrikaans to the language’s development, an event was held in Paarl recently, during which the overall winner, Gasan Kriel, as well as two runners-up, Mogamat Alexander and Tasneem Chilwan, were announced.

Professor Hein Willemse, editor of Die Afrikaans van die Kaapse Moslems, also delivered a short talk.

According to the judge – Dr Shamiega Chaudhari, an expert on Arabic and head of the Department of Afrikaans at the University of Fort Hare – it was an honour to be able to judge this competition.

“It tugged at my heartstrings that people, even from far and wide, are interested in it. I would also just like to congratulate everyone who participated. While they could not all be in the winners’ category, they are winners in my eyes. It was really a very close call,” she says.

As part of the institution’s 45th anniversary, the ATM launched a competition in which Afrikaans texts could be transliterated into Arabic or Jawi (Arabic as adapted to reproduce specific Afrikaans sounds).

The positive response and numerous entries – from religious texts, original works on Afrikaans and issues such as Ubuntu to the lyrics of Spoegwolf and Refentse – prove that there is still a huge interest in Arabic-Afrikaans.

In addition, some of the more than 40 entries were received from countries such as Germany, Austria and Saudi Arabia, which is truly a feather in the cap of the Taalmonument’s international online presence.

According to Michael Jonas, director of the ATM, the mission of the institution is to illuminate, among other things, the hidden histories of Afrikaans and to celebrate the rich diversity of Afrikaans’ origins as well as its modern forms.

“That is why we encourage people to reaffirm their participation in this language in this way,” he says. “We would like to see the Afrikaans community build on it.”

Dr Chaudhari had the following comments about the winners: Gasan Kriel’s entry was virtually flawless, with excellent use of harakat (short vowel marks) and diacritical marks that reproduce the phonetic pronunciation correctly.

Mogamat Alexander’s entry (Kaapse Moesliems/Afrikaans) was a well-laid out piece that is easy to read.

Tasneem Chilwan’s entry was quotes from Taalmonument’s builders, and her work of is noteworthy and of cardinal importance, because it captures an important piece of history about the artisans who erected the Taalmonument.

She also highlighted the entries of MF Gamieldien (Holy Qur’an), Mogamat Armien Slamang (original piece on “happiness”’) and Luqmaan Mohamed (Gedagtes van die nie-arbeider) by Louis Esterhuizen, as impressive examples of Arabic-Afrikaans.

Arabic-Afrikaans, or Afrikaans written using the Arabic alphabet, is generally accepted as the first written form of Afrikaans. Many

Arabic-Afrikaans writings – such as student notebooks, voting posters, publications and manuscripts – have been preserved; thus far, 74 of these works written between 1845 and 1957 have been discovered and identified by experts.

Among these are excellent examples of the earliest Afrikaans literature. In addition, it is thought that many more Arabic-Afrikaans writings are privately owned.

The evening commemorated Reconciliation Month, and specifically the liberation of slaves in the Cape Colony in December 1834.

The best 12 entries will soon be exhibited in the monument’s outdoor gallery, where Roman and Arabic/Jawi versions of the same Afrikaans text will appear side by side.

For more information, visit www.taalmuseum.co.za