Original Research

What Oom Gert does not tell: Silences and resonances of C. Louis Leipoldt’s ‘Oom Gert vertel’

H. Viljoen
Literator | Vol 20, No 3 | a496 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v20i3.496 | © 1999 H. Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 1999 | Published: 26 April 1999

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Abstract

This paper is an attempt to reconstruct the resonance of “Oom Gert vertel” at the time it was written. The story that Oom Gert tells is reread for its silences and unsaid things. Oom Gert’s reticence about his own story, his silence about the politics of the time and his partial view of the devastating effects of martial law are explored against the backdrop of Leipoldt's reports on the trials of Cape rebels in the treason court for the pro-Boer newspaper The South African News and of other reconstructions of the period. From this reading Oom Gert emerges as representing the complexities of the loyalty of Cape Afrikaners. It is postulated that the unsaid historical background, which would have resonated powerfully for Cape Afrikaners of that time, was written out of the poem so that it could fit better into the circumstances of its first publication. Appropriating the poem for Afrikaner nationalism is a misreading.

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