Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
28 November 2023 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Leonie Bolleurs
Prof Angelique van Nieker and Prof Hennie van Coller
Attending the launch of the book – Van toeka af die toekoms in. Die geskiedenis van Afrikaans-Nederlands aan die Universiteit van die Vrystaat, 1918-2023 – were Prof Angelique van Niekerk (Head of Department and co-author) and Prof Hennie van Coller, a former head of the department.

The Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently launched the book Van toeka af die toekoms in. Die geskiedenis van Afrikaans-Nederlands aan die Universiteit van die Vrystaat, 1918-2023. The event was hosted at the Brandkop Estate in Bloemfontein – in the structure that was built in 1919, the year after the establishment of the first Afrikaans department at a university.

In 1918, Prof DF Malherbe was appointed as the first Professor of Afrikaans. He played a key role in establishing Afrikaans as an academic discipline in South Africa. It is also his handwriting that features on the front cover of the book, stating that students are permitted to use Afrikaans as medium for all exams at the University of South Africa. 

A proud history

The idea for the book was born just after the department received a very positive external review in March 2020, says Prof Angelique van Niekerk, Head of Department. With courage and confidence, they decided at a departmental meeting in 2021 to document the department's history and publish it as a book. The late Prof Jaap Steyn (former colleague and research fellow), known for his scholarly research on the history of Afrikaans, was invited to be part of the editorial team. He worked on this until he passed away in September 2021.

The book also features a part on the German and French sections. The three sections were formed into one department in 1998.

Several former colleagues attended the book launch, including Prof Hennie van Coller, Prof Anthea van Jaarsveld, Prof Theodorus du Plessis, Dr Annette de Wet, Irma Loock, and Hesma van Tonder (who, together with colleague Lee Goliath, provided help and support with the book). In addition, research associates Corrie Geldenhuys, Anton Roodt, and Marietjie Lambrechts were also present. Representatives from, among others, the departmental advisory board and NALN also attended the event, as well as Prof Victor Teise from the Sol Plaatje University.

The oldest colleague present was Prof Johan Lubbe, who started working in the department in 1969, and the most recent addition to the department was Lize Botha. She was appointed as an academic assistant for the German section in 2021.

An interview conducted by Dr Francois Smith, Senior Lecturer in the department, shed light on the curation of the book. He spoke to the core group that was closely involved in the compilation of the book, including Prof Van Niekerk (co-author), Prof Henning Pieterse (co-author), and Corné Richter, research assistant. Also present at the event was Ria Müller, the sister of the late Prof Steyn.

In this interview, numerous anecdotes were shared about the experiences and occurrences that unfolded during the two-year process of compiling the book. The heated discussions about the use of punctuation such as the comma, the repeated and often aloud reading of the book to avoid errors, and the diverse – often humorous – approaches to gathering material for the book, were highlighted.

The authors stated that they were proud to be part of this history and that the department's historical background is clearly also linked to that of Afrikaans, Dutch (Hollands), as well as the University of the Free State.


Special mention was made of the first critical reader, Prof Bernard Odendaal, and the two external reviewers, Prof Fransjohan Pretorius and Prof Wannie Carstens, as is evident from the back cover of the book.

The postscript in the book lists acknowledgments to different people and entities that contributed to the publication, including the Directorate for Institutional Research and Academic Planning (DIRAP), the UFS Department of Human Resources, Library and Information Services, NALN, as well as the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

A changed landscape

They are also proud of the department’s alumni. In each of the chapters, the ‘voices’ of a sample of well-known former students (many also writers) throughout history are heard. Individuals such as Dolf van Niekerk Jaco Jacobs, Riana Scheepers, Sophia Kapp, Ilne Fourie, Gert Coetzee, and many others share stories about their studies in the department. 

Prof Van Niekerk says she expected this journey to be tedious. “But it was very interesting to see how the landscape and the world changed by reading through material such as departmental minutes, (Die) Bult magazine, and UFS rulebooks since 1922.”

“We witnessed changes in staff and student composition. For instance, we are reaching a point where we have fewer Afrikaans home language speakers in the department than we had 10 years ago. Nevertheless, other areas have shown growth, such as the modules for conversational languages – including Afrikaans as conversational language, and the MA in Creative Writing.”

“Keeping up with modern times requires, among other things, the adaptation of course content to introduce postgraduate modules on language and technology,” she stated. “As we adapted to these changes, new growth has entered the department,” she added. 

  • The book is available on the website of Naledi Publishers. It will later also be available in selected bookstores in Bloemfontein. 

Read the article in Afrikaans here.

News Archive

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.