Political Power of Language: The Afrikaans Language Monument

Die Afrikaanse Taalmonument, or the Afrikaans Language Monument, ostensibly represents the growth and development of Afrikaans as a language. As the only monument dedicated to language, it is hailed by linguists around the world. However, in South Africa, which is where the monument was unveiled on October 10, 1975, it is reviled by many because Afrikaans was the language of the apartheid government.

Afrikaans is but one of the 11 official languages in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Swati, Setswana, Sesotho, Sesotho sa Leboa, Venda and Tsonga. The monument gives recognition to Afrikaans’ roots that are spread over three continents: Africa (the Khoi languages of Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho), Europe (Dutch, German, French and English), and Asia (Malay, Malay-Portuguese and Arabic).

The National Party, which was the governing party of South Africa from June 4, 1948 until May 9, 1994, and was the mastermind of apartheid, was well aware of the power of language and its relationship to national identity. It was dominated by Afrikaners, or Afrikaans-speaking whites, and it erected the monument to commemorate the semi-centenary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa separate from Dutch, and to promote the Nazi-like nationalism deeply rooted in the language.

I took the pictures below during my trip to South Africa in February 2010.

Jiri Stejskal
CETRA Language Solutions

The spires symbolize the growth of Afrikaans and the Republic of South Africa


The spheres symbolize Khoi languages: Xhosa, Zulu, and Sesotho