Practices pertaining to visual representation in an Afrikaans home language textbook series after apartheid

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On 14 February 2016, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, announced that a task team should investigate stereotyping and inequality pertaining to representational practices in school textbooks. The researched field of textbooks in Afrikaans was prominent during the heyday of apartheid, when authors such as Esterhuyse (1986), Webb (1992) and Du Plessis and Du Plessis (1987) showcased the ludicrousness of overt stereotypical representations in (specifically) Afrikaans textbooks. Because of this research, publishers on the eve of a new dispensation were alerted to the impetus of change and intervention in representational practices in textbooks. The importance of identifying stereotyping and inequality in school textbooks has again been brought to the foreground by the minister’s recent call for investigating prejudice and inequality in South African textbooks. However, since democracy dawned on South Africa, not many studies have been conducted that explore the extent to which transitional publications have addressed these myths of the past. This article reports on such a study that was carried out in 2009 on an OBE textbook series published between 1997 and 2005. As a transitional publication between apartheid and democratisation, this series intentionally addressed the misrepresentations, generalisations and exclusions from the past. Cognisance of the findings of this research is imperative for future research, as it presents a basis for comparison in similar studies.

The contextualisation and the literature study probe the responsibility of textbook writers in the construction of socio-political paradigms within the deeper power balance of the hidden curriculum. Issues in the literature on textbook representation, such as overt attempts to help create a new cultural reality, new mutations and manifestations of ethnocentrism and prejudice as well as confronting sensitive issues to counter stereotypical representations, are described in the literature study. Through the theoretical lens master symbols from the apartheid era as criteria by which to measure the representations in the textbook series. These master symbols were derived from an influential study when 53 South African textbooks were analysed by Du Preez (1986) to establish 12 master symbols in textbooks of different subjects. Two master symbols were chosen to inform the conceptual framework, namely (i) white people are superior and black people are inferior; and (ii) white Afrikaners have a special relationship with God. These two symbols were chosen because of their relation to white dominance and the Christian national education system during the apartheid era.

A thematic analysis of the visual material was employed as the research method. The units of analysis consisted of all visual examples where people of colour were represented in an Afrikaans Home Language textbook series. Textual elucidation of the visual material, such as captions and questions, or assignments relating to the visual material, was also considered. The analysis tries to identify ways in which the visual material confirms or contradicts set stereotypical beliefs from the past. Are there still power relations underpinning these visual representations and are different cultural perspectives presented? Do shared values and similarities rather than differences inform representations? Do the apartheid fallacies about Afrikaans still serve as a lens and filter to make meaning of a new dispensation? Is ethnocentric material still evident? Can all learners identify with the visual representations in the textbook series?

Based on the assumption that textbooks serve as a mirror of the social and political order, the purpose of this qualitative study is to determine the extent to which an Afrikaans language textbook series fosters cultural stereotyping. The findings are presented as indicators derived from the thematic analysis of the visual representation in the textbooks. Traces of the myth that Afrikaans is a white man’s language and signs of apartheid master symbols could not be found in the textbooks. Standard Afrikaans was no longer the undisputed norm and demythologisation of the history of Afrikaans freed the language of its previous apartheid enclaves.

Visual texts, as well as the assignments and information contextualising the visual material, can without a doubt be classified as counter-symbols that facilitate the claims of the development of a tangible “new South Africa”. However, because of their highly politicised past, the Afrikaans textbooks intentionally over-emphasise a utopian “new South Africa" where race and difference are non-issues.

The three main themes that emerged from the data set were: (i) attempts to offer all learners the chance to identify with the visual material in the textbooks; (ii) attempts to include rather than exclude all speakers of Afrikaans; and (iii) to present the vision of constantly working towards nation building. Inculcation of positive, new and binding values were found throughout the data set. Identifiable language variation representations were artistically applied to enable all learners to participate with empathy towards a future inclusive South African vision. The extensive use of role models from the whole race spectrum, non-exclusive names, addresses, and places in South Africa, identifiable illustrations and authentic examples of regional languages such as Griqua and Northern Cape Afrikaans all added to the claim of counter-stereotypical representations in this transitional publication. No exclusivity pertaining to Afrikaans was detected; instead, nation-building was facilitated by the intentional construction of “we” as referring to all South Africans. Exercises and assignments linked to the visual material tend to focus on similarities between people from different origins, rather than differences. In this regard, emotion as a human characteristic was powerfully portrayed to encompass differences between people from different origins. In the data set diversity is also presented as a normal, everyday phenomenon, rather than a problem that has to be dealt with.

Furthermore, the article asks the question whether moral and political pressure on textbook prescribing committees in South Africa has perhaps led to intentional (although perhaps cosmetic) attempts to disregard any form of unequal representational practices in Afrikaans textbooks. It can be concluded that this transitional series untangled and dispersed attitudes and perceptions that had been fossilised for many years and can serve as a barometer for further research now being called for after a decade of democracy.

Key words: apartheid master symbols; counter-stereotyping; demythologisation; diversity; equality; hidden curriculum; home language textbooks; Outcomes-based Education curriculum; representational practices; thematic analysis; visual material; visual representation

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Praktyke met betrekking tot visuele voorstellings in ’n Afrikaans Huistaal-handboekreeks na apartheid

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