Afrikaaps: The new rebellion on the block

This week, I was the first member of the public to get a sneak preview of world-renowned filmmaker Aryan Kaganof's next feature film... And, would you believe it, it's mostly in Afrikaans (or "Afrikaaps", as the speakers of this dialect of Afrikaans call their language)!

Kaganof, who is famous for among other weird and wacky projects like the first full-length feature film (SMS Sugar Man) shot entirely on cellphones, has now shifted his attention to a rather more serious topic: the widespread farm unrest that has plagued the Western Cape in recent months.

The hour-long documentary, entitled Die Ander Rebellie, delves into aspects of the recent labour unrest mostly hidden from view in daily media reports.

Filmed on location in places like Hangberg, Smartietown, Cloetesville, Heuwelkroon, Boesmanskloof, Rondebosch Common and De Doorns, it features interviews with so-called activists and scenes of protest.

The footage was shot right at the beginning of the trouble, before the large-scale closing down of the N2, and provides a thrilling if spine-chilling picture of how the protest started as well as the political and cultural motivations behind it. A large segment of the film focuses on the struggle music of the growingly coherent group of people who have now started to call themselves "Khoisan activists", which is nothing less than a form of brown nationalism.

"These politics and ideas are spreading like wildfire across the Western Cape - as far as I can judge. The meetings I have been attending are increasingly more crowded and the debates on Facebook, for example, increasingly busy," Kaganof explained to me in a frank e-mail interview.

"I think that all institutionalised (fossilised) organisations in South Africa are completely unaware of the speed with which this consciousness is spreading across the Western Cape.

"The wages strike is a manifestation of a broader discontent that you have correctly described in your question. In a nutshell I would say that millions of brown people in the Western Cape do not feel adequately served by the democratic dispensation, they do not feel represented by the way that post 1994 politics have been staged."

Listening to some of the comments from activists on film, these sentiments are clear.

"Mandela means nothing to us," one of them says (in Afrikaans). "De Klerk and Mandela negotiated over our heads."

At one point, a poster is revealed bearing the slogan "SAY NO TO DEMOCRACY". This is vibrant, angry, if somewhat idealistic movement, using colloquial Afrikaans and reggae and folk music as its vehicles. "Ons praat daai taal, ons gooi daai tong," someone sings. And "Afrikaaps is legal".

Amidst chilling scenes of incidents bordering on police brutality - in one piece of footage one can clearly see innocent bystanders, among them women, being thrown into the backs of police vans - one gets a sense of a thriving community spirit, lively town hall meetings, and a strong sense of family and community.

One tries in vain, however, to place this uprising in the wider context of South African politics.

"ZILLE = INVADER, PLATO = TRAITOR", one banner reads. The Khoisan rebellion is vehemently anti-ANC, but has no time for the DA and for white capitalism either. The idea of private property is derided on the grounds that, in the minds of these people, all of the Western Cape originally belonged to them. Naive? Maybe not.

As Kaganof explains it: "Obviously not everybody is unhappy with the appellation 'coloured'. But remember that a 'coloured' has no claim to land restitution in terms of United Nations declarations. A Khoisan does have UN recognition and therefore is protected under UN Resolutions from hostile police and army actions by the SA national state against indigenous populations."

As South Africans, we would be foolish to try and ignore this new rebellion. And as for me, I simply won't be able to forget all that wonderful music, those harmonies, all the new lyrics and incredible talent. This is a movement that can, ultimately, destabilise a large part of our economy, true enough, but it is also a phenomenon that, if understood correctly and handled well, could result in massive cultural growth and a return to self-respect of a section of our nation who had been marginalised and victimised for far too long.

The film Die Ander Rebellie will soon be screened at film festivals across the country.
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