On 4 November 2013, I installed the intervention Woorde Tussenbeide/Between words on the Rooi Plein (Red Square) at Stellenbosch University (SUN) as part of the ‘Speaking Spaces’ Honours project at SUN department of visual art.
The intervention was sited above the subterranean J.S Gericke library bringing the Afrikaans shelves to the surface, i.e. the roof of the library, forming spatial and symbolic relationships with the physical elements of the plein and the library below. The purpose of the project was to highlight the violence of exclusion & negation which took place as a result of the Standardization of the Afrikaans language in South Africa in the late 1800’s, essentially erasing histories and altering the identity and perception of the Afrikaans language.
The standardization of the Afrikaans language started as an ideological project by the group Die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners in 1875. Consequently, Afrikaans’ West European roots were emphasized while words spoken by the Malay slaves and Malayu words that acquired a distinct Afrikaans pronunciation, were omitted from Standard Afrikaans as they spoke too loudly of the language’s creole roots. While the earliest recorded written form of Afrikaans is in Arabic script, suggestions of its mixed genesis were at odds with the Afrikaner Nationalist discourse of racial purity and for a long time remained buried underneath Apartheid nationalist identity.
Woorde Tussenbeide/Between Words intervenes into the Afrikaans linguistic shelves of the JS. Gericke Library at Stellenbosch University by symbolically re-inserting these surreptitious texts and words back into the archive, coming between the collection material and the viewer to reflect upon ideas of access, accuracy, memory and absence.