In 1976, the South African government tried to force the teaching of Afrikaans on schools in black townships, triggering massive protests and a bloody crackdown that ultimately invigorated opposition to white rule.
After apartheid, Afrikaans became one of 11 official languages in the multi-ethnic country. R.W. Johnson, author of ‘‘South Africa’s Brave New World,’’ wrote that many Afrikaners felt so guilty about the past that they were reluctant to assert their culture, ‘‘in much the same way that after 1945 many Germans became uncomfortable with any assertion of German national identity.’’
Lizelle de Klerk, a Pretville actor, remembers shunning her cultural background and helping craft plays in university about ‘‘how we hate being Afrikaans,’’ but now she believes Afrikaners can proudly tell their own stories, whether they are about race or not.
De Klerk dreams of performing on London’s West End, but also wants to contribute to South African expression in the years ahead. She is reading a book about the 1990s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which opened a nation’s story-telling floodgates by hearing testimony about apartheid-era cruelty.
‘‘South Africa finally had a new narrative that they could draw from to make stories, because finally you had black peoples’ stories, colored peoples’ stories. You heard offenders’ stories. You heard ‘people that were victims’ stories,’’ de Klerk said. ‘‘So it’s a whole new dynamic. But I think we’re moving, slowly moving, forward. And it’s great.’’