Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture

By Rowland Smith | Go to book overview

5

Afrikaners, Africans and Afriquas:
Métissage in Breyten Breyten-
bach's Return to Paradise

Johan U. Jacobs

In a speech at the University of Stellenbosch in 1990, Breyten Breytenbach identified himself as an "Afrikaner, South African and African” (1996:32). At a conference on the theme of "Identity and Differences” in Senegal the previous year, he had defined identity in terms of place; he said: "Perhaps the deciding factor is not who you are, but where you find yourself. Which ... implies that identity is circumstantial and relative” (1993:73-74). Breytenbach has since qualified his claim to a triple identity by describing himself as "an Afrikaans-speaking whitish male South African African temporarily living outside the continent” (1993:xiii). At a conference on "Home: A Place in the World” in New York in 1990, he again asserted his Africanness:

Exile has brought it home to me that I'm African. If I live in Europe most of the time, it is not as a participant but an observer, an underground activist for Africa.... I consciously try to shape my work, even the expressions of a private or peculiar idiom, as contributing to the awareness of Africa. (1996:47)

Breytenbach has admitted, however, that "[t]o write about Africa is to go on a journey, to be confronted by the endlessly unfolding conjugations of an elusive reality” (1996:124). In A Season in Paradise (1985) he describes his three-month return visit to South Africa in

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