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Open Access

Coming-out of the Coloured closet : An Afrikaaps renaissance in the arts


Afrikaaps, aka ‘Kaaps’, the language associated with the so-called Coloured people of Cape Town, has been displaying a ‘coming-out-of-the-closet’ phenomenon since the dawn of democracy in South Africa. I use the metaphor associated with LGBTQI lived experience as a means to make sense out of how Afrikaaps, a queer language, is truly coming into its own maturity given its subaltern status. Afrikaaps is increasingly being seen as a respectable language, evident from the vast array of scholarship and creative outputs produced in recent years, despite it not being a South African official language.

Kaaps is both the root and fruit of standardised Afrikaans and was for a long time considered to be a bastardised pidgin dialect. Constituted out of non-normative linguistic structures, the dialect mixes multiple languages and makes use of specific vocabulary words unique to the language itself. There is also a distinct or unique aurality, known as the timbre or tone colour associated with how the speaker vocalises the speech fluidly with the necessary inflected (performed if necessary) accents that are racially and socially entangled. Inter- and intra-personal identity formations among a minority of citizens in the geospatial Cape Flats region of the Western Cape also informs how Afrikaaps speakers use the language to communicate with one another.

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