The Boers in East Africa: Ethnicity and Identity

The Boers in East Africa: Ethnicity and Identity

The Boers in East Africa: Ethnicity and Identity

The Boers in East Africa: Ethnicity and Identity

Synopsis

At the end of the Anglo-Boer War in May 1902, the defeated Boers emigrated en masse out of South Africa. They had three diverse destinations: a large group went to Argentina, a smaller group to the American southwest (Mexico and the Texas-New Mexico border area), and a third group to East Africa. In both the large migrations, to Argentina and East Africa, the different denominations of the Dutch Reformed Church established congregations and sent dominees (ministers), who were regularly replaced by new dominees fresh from South Africa. The dominees became important agents in the preservation of Afrikaner ethnicity and instruments in return migrations, decades later, of Afrikaans speakers to South Africa.

Excerpt

The end of the Anglo-Boer War in May 1902 left a people who were defeated, disgruntled, and bitter in a land that was denuded of fields and devoid of stock. Unable or unwilling to start anew, Afrikaners (also known as Boers) emigrated from South Africa. A large group in three different treks went to Chubut Province in Argentina and made a new life for their families on the windswept pampa. A smaller group followed Boer war generals to the American southwest, where a few settled in Chihuahua, Mexico, and the rest farmed the new frontier at the border between Texas and New Mexico. A third group trekked north, settling in East Africa.

The Boers had a tradition of trekking. Boer society was born on the frontiers of white settlement and on the outskirts of civilization. As members of a frontier society they always had a hinterland, open spaces to conquer, territory to occupy. Their ancestors had moved away from the limiting confines of Cape society to settle the eastern frontier. In time this location became too restricted, and individuals and families moved north across the Orange River. The frontier was always redefined, always beyond the next valley. Afrikaner consciousness and nationalism took form even as the spoken language took shape in print, but there remained an undercurrent of independence, individualism, and stubbornness. This resulted in a continuous mobility, in more cases trekking away from restrictive control than to some ideal state. Away from the British administration in the Cape, away from the eastern frontier following the emancipation of slaves, away from Natalia after Britain annexed the Boer republic, away from the liberal policies of President Burgers in Transvaal, and ultimately away from the British authority after the Anglo-Boer War.

This study has essentially two aims. The primary aim is to recount the migration of individuals and families who left a war-torn South Africa during the first decade of the twentieth century. Poverty, disillusionment, and feelings of hostility prevented many Boers from settling into the postwar British-administered country. The first aim, then, is to trace the histories of the East African settlements through the eyes of the Afrikaners who moved northward into German East Africa . . .

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