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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Construction of Eugene Marais as an Afrikaner Hero
Author:Swart, SandraISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
biographies (form)
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Literature, Mass Media and the Press
About person:Eugène Nielen Marais (1871-1936)ISNI
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/4133887
Abstract:Eugène Marais (1871-1936) is remembered as an Afrikaner hero. There are, however, competing claims as to the meaning of this 'heroic' status. Some remember him as the 'father of Afrikaans poetry', one of the most lionized writers in Afrikaans, and part of the Afrikaner nationalist movement. Yet a second intellectual tradition remembers him as a dissident iconoclast, an Afrikaner rebel. This article shows, first, how these two very different understandings of Marais came to exist, and, secondly, that the course of this rivalry of legends was inextricably bound up with the socioeconomic and political history of South Africa. The author looks at the portrayal of Marais at particular historical moments and analyses the changes that have occurred with reference to broader developments in South Africa. This is in order to understand the making of cultural identity as part of nationalism, and opens a window on to the contested process of re-imagining the Afrikaner nation. The article demonstrates how Marais's changing image was a result of material changes within the socioeconomic milieu, and the mutable needs of the Afrikaner establishment. The hagiography of Marais by the nationalist press, both during his life and after his death, is explored, showing how the sociopolitical context of the Afrikaans language struggle was influential in shaping his image. The chronology of his representation is traced in terms of the changing self-image of the Afrikaner over the ensuing seven decades. Finally, in order to understand the fractured meaning of Marais today, the need for alternative heroes in the 'New South Africa' is considered. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]