Original Research

Letterkundige en wysgerige kanttekeninge by die transformasie-trilogie van Antjie Krog

Hennie P. van Coller, Danie Strauss
Literator | Vol 40, No 1 | a1512 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v40i1.1512 | © 2019 Hennie P. van Coller, Danie Strauss | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 March 2018 | Published: 30 April 2019

About the author(s)

Hennie P. van Coller, School of Languages, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Danie Strauss, School of Philosophy, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Literary and philosophical marginal notes regarding the transformation trilogy of Antjie Krog. In her published PhD thesis, ‘baie worde : Identiteit en transformasie by Antjie Krog [‘many becomings: Identity and transformation in the thought of Antjie Krog], Jacomien Van Niekerk directs her attention to the issues mentioned in the title of her thesis. In the discussion of the trilogy at hand a brief assessment is given of the place of works similar to these within the South African literature. The work of Van Niekerk is appreciated as a contribution to Krog studies, and as a reflection on identity within a South African context. According to Van Niekerk, the concept ‘identity’ and the concern for the possibility of the origination of new identities, such as a South African, Pan African and even a ‘black’ identity, occupies a central position in this work. The work of Van Niekerk is aligned with postcolonial thinking on identity, nationhood and becoming, as well as the investigation of ‘whiteness’, and ‘blackness’ as the opposite of the ‘white’ Eurocentrism of the colonial era. Van Niekerk shows that Krog understands identity as a process of becoming. According to Van Niekerk, the ultimate aim of her book is to launch an investigation into nationhood, while simultaneously highlighting Krog’s rejection of Eurocentrism and the accompanying conception of the ‘inherent superiority’ of western modernity. A shortcoming in the work of Van Niekerk is the striking absence of references to writers such as F.A. van Jaarsveld, Fransjohan Pretorius, J.C. Steyn and Herman Giliomee, all of them authors who wrote extensively about these issues. This results in a particularly one-sided perspective on the past. Krog attempts to justify everything in terms of African thought. Her thinking often borders upon becoming superficial, emotional and ideologically driven. Sometimes it is even ‘propagandistic’ and non-intellectual in nature. Van Niekerk mentions the strong interest in African philosophy. However, both western philosophy and African philosophy are confronted with the same problems. In this article, attention is given to those philosophical problems that are implicit or explicit in the work of Van Niekerk. Among them are problems such as the issue of essentialism, the relationships between what is universal and what is individual, constancy and dynamics (persistence and change), the nature of the whole-parts relation, the question concerning identity-in-becoming, nation, ethnic groups and the state, the relationships between community and communality, the question regarding the assumed social constructs of human society, blackness and whiteness, and a postcolonial yearning to ‘become otherwise’. Even though it may appear that these problems are not interrelated, the way in which they are scrutinised in more detail indeed makes it clear that they do cohere, apart from the fact that all these problems surface in Van Niekerk’s work and in the publications of Krog. Ultimately all these problems are philosophical in nature. Investigating them does not elevate one or another ‘thought-system’ to become the norm for all the others. Rather attention is drawn to certain states of affairs, as well as exercising immanent criticism.


Kanttekeninge; Jacomien van Niekerk; identiteit; transformasie; letterkunde.


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