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C Louis Leipoldt's ‘valley trilogy’ and contested South African nationalisms in the early twentieth century

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Abstract

C Louis Leipoldt has long been received as a major figure within the Afrikaans literary canon. The recent posthumous publication of his English‐language Valley Trilogy (written in the 1920s, when the white Union of South Africa experienced contestation between Anglophone and Dutch or Afrikaans political lobbies) now reveals him as a dedicated liberal, squarely set against the isolationist policies of his Afrikaner peers. Leipoldt is a complex figure who fits partially into both these camps. His background in Moravian mission culture was more continental than Cape Dutch; his experiences as a journalist and medical student gave him broad perspectives of Britain, Europe and the Far East. He worked with nationalists such as Gustav Preller, yet his sympathies lay in the liberal Cape. The essay reads these dynastic novels as novels of ideas in which from 1840 to 1920 the characters enact in microcosm the formation of South African civil society, and engage with the unfolding tragedy of racial rivalry.

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... A major difference between past and present is the attention to health education in school, the focus of this article. Better known as a figure in the Afrikaans-speaking literary canon of the early 20 th century than as an educational innovator, Leipoldt's intervention in 1918 was similar to that of the contemporary South African Paediatrics Association (Merrington 2003;Lindgren 2015; Oppelt 2019). In the framework of a budding Afrikaner nationalism, the context of an emerging system of segregated schooling, and as a medical inspector of schools concerned with the health of white children, he did however advocate for health education in schools. ...
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... A major difference between past and present is the attention to health education in school, the focus of this article. Better known as a figure in the Afrikaans-speaking literary canon of the early 20 th century than as an educational innovator, Leipoldt's intervention in 1918 was similar to that of the contemporary South African Paediatrics Association (Merrington 2003;Lindgren 2015; Oppelt 2019). In the framework of a budding Afrikaner nationalism, the context of an emerging system of segregated schooling, and as a medical inspector of schools concerned with the health of white children, he did however advocate for health education in schools. ...
Article
Full-text available
Amidst the Covid-19-inspired rethinking of education, this article appeals for the recognition of the township school-going learner as a playful child and playing citizen for whom the world is an imaginative play world. It deliberately places under a microscope, a township boychild named Kabelo, who is labelled in the formal education system as underperforming, learning-disabled and cognitively challenged. Kabelo epitomises the pattern of boy academic underperformance in South Africa and worldwide, particularly in reading and literacy. This pattern feeds a dominant narrative about systemic learning deficits that risks the stigmatisation of academically underperforming children whose lives intersect with stubborn structural inequality, and renders them invisible as capable, playful children. Through a third-generation Engeströmian activity theory lens, it illuminates the interactions between Kabelo’s worlds of academic performance and play, before and during the Covid-19 lockdown, as a portal of complex contradictions. It proposes that the contradictory interplay of his worlds opens up opportunities for socially just recognition of his play capabilities as decisionmakers deliberate over education system reengineering during and beyond the pandemic.
... A major difference between past and present is the attention to health education in school, the focus of this article. Better known as a figure in the Afrikaans-speaking literary canon of the early 20 th century than as an educational innovator, Leipoldt's intervention in 1918 was similar to that of the contemporary South African Paediatrics Association (Merrington 2003;Lindgren 2015;Oppelt 2019). In the framework of a budding Afrikaner nationalism, the context of an emerging system of segregated schooling, and as a medical inspector of schools concerned with the health of white children, he did however advocate for health education in schools. ...
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The Afrikaans poet C. Louis Leipoldt (1880–1947) left behind a writing legacy that is a case study of missed or lost opportunities for critical debate. Work that went unpublished in his lifetime reveals a painstakingly continuous literary project that opposed Afrikaner nationalism and populist fearmongering, even predicting future socio-political hardships and uneven development in South Africa. Many of Leipoldt’s criticisms of Afrikaner Nationalism went largely ignored or misread, presumably because Leipoldt was seen as a senior figure of importance in the Afrikaans literary set. In spite of the great amount of research produced by scholars like Kannemeyer and Gray between 1970 and 2000, revealing Leipoldt as a captivating public figure entangled in prominent moments in South Africa’s cultural development in the early twentieth century, little further interest has been shown. Speculation about Leipoldt’s personal life and his interactions with other established Afrikaans writers tend to receive more attention than the consistency and multi-pronged nature of his literary-cultural critiques of South Africa. These critiques are presented in his poetry, prose, plays, journalism and even his medical, culinary and travel writing. Now, at a time of strong intersections between identity politics, populism and sentiment, and with the urgent discussions around decolonization of universities and the literatures they teach, Leipoldt’s views from a century ago may be more worthwhile than before.
Chapter
This chapter offers an historical reading of injustices in South Africa. Drawing on South African fiction as well as the medium of film, it documents the injustice of the sociohistorical constellation after the South African War on to the one during apartheid. The chapter analyses C. Louis Leipoldt's novel The Mask , a depiction of perceived injustice on the part of early twentieth-century Afrikaners in South Africa, along with the book A Human Being Died That Night by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and the film Invictus for their contributions to the concept of African humanism. The chapter also discusses the legacy of Nelson Mandela's humanism, with its emphasis on the communal effort against mass injustice.
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The famous Afrikaans poet C. Louis Leipoldt (1880-1947) has long been misread as a nationalist writer. During the first half of the 20th century Leipoldt's poetry seemed to be in sympathy with Afrikaner nationalism, and since his death he has mostly been remembered for this element of his work. Recent scholarship reveals a different Leipoldt, one fiercely anti-nationalist in his unpublished English fiction and more openly aggressive in his non-fiction prose. Leipoldt regularly wrote about food and culinary traditions in South Africa and used his knowledge of local cuisine to argue against notions of “authentic Afrikaner dishes”, instead insisting that the earliest authorities behind original South African dishes camefrom the “Cape Malay” population of theWestern Cape. This article aims to explore Leipoldt's cosmopolitan argument against political, sectional possessiveness in the cultural development of South Africa between the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, with a sustained focus on the importance of food as a cultural marker.
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