A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday the 3rd of October 2009, two friends, Volker and Liezl, invited us for a full-moon picnic at the Taal Monument (Afrikaans Language Monument) on the outskirts of Paarl. We hadn’t visited the place for a few years, and this was the first time we’d be able to have access to it at night, so we were looking forward to it with much excitement.
Shortly before 6pm, we arrived at the monument, which is on the lower slopes of Paarl Mountain, also known as Paarl Rock, the hill that overlooks Paarl. Paarl Rock is the second largest granite outcrop in the world, formed by three huge rounded outcrops of intrusive igneous rock. Despite, or perhaps because of, its smooth, unfissured and steep faces, it is very popular among adrenaline-rush-seeking rock climbers – though it is definitely not for the inexperienced or for the faint-of-heart!
We quickly unpacked all our picnic paraphernalia – sleeping bags, picnic blankets, extra jerseys, cooler bags and a rucksack containing all the cutlery and crockery – from the car. It was a beautifully clear and sunny day, and the view was just breathtaking. We found ourselves a table overlooking the plains that stretched all the way to the high Drakenstein mountains.
The wind was gusting strongly here, though, and we didn’t feel like picnicking right next to the parking lot, so Liezl and I left the guys sipping a leisurely glass of wine, while we went for a stroll up the hill to find a more sheltered spot. At the end of the tarred road, we had this lovely view of the monument:
We walked back down and around the other side of the monument, where we found a sheltered lawn with a couple of still-unoccupied picnic tables. We quickly went down to fetch the lads and our luggage, and proceeded to unpack our long-awaited picnic. Soon, the table was full of all kinds of delicious and tempting yum-yums: a grilled chicken, soft buns, a large bowl of salad, small containers with feta cheese, olives and sugar-snap peas, a bottle of wine and packs of fruit juice.
I strolled around with my camera while there was still enough light to take some photos. Near our table was a large flowering Protea bush.
The monument was designed by architect Jan van Wijk and unveiled on 10 October 1975:
“Completed in 1975, [the monument] commemorates the semicentenary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa separate from Dutch. Also, it was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (the Society of Real Afrikaners) in Paarl, the organization that helped strengthen Afrikaaners’ identity and pride in their language.” (Wikipedia)
On the official website, you can find a document explaining the symbolism of the monument. The central idea is that languages from three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) influenced the development of Afrikaans:
Walking up the steps to the main path that leads to the monument, you pass four pillars on the left, decreasing in size and proportionately representing the four European languages (Dutch, German, French and Portuguese). Here is a shot of these four pillars from the other side:
More or less in the middle of the steps up ahead, there is another pillar, which represents the two Asian languages (Malay and Malay-Portuguese). You can’t see it, but in the middle of the path are inlaid the Afrikaans words “Dit is ons erns” (roughly translated as “We are earnest/serious about this”).
If you continue walking up the steps, you enter into a curving tunnel, that leads towards the tallest spire, and its shorter companion. The tunnel can also be seen as a bridge, referring to the words of NP van Wyk Louw, who said that Afrikaans acts as a bridge between the languages of Europe and Africa.
I like this shot of a little boy running up the sloping bridge between the group of four shorter pillars and the very tall one:
Just after sunset, I got this very odd shot of the tallest spire, which represents the rapidly ascending growth curve of Afrikaans. I honestly don’t know what happened in this shot, but I like it!
As you walk up the gentle slope inside the tunnel, you’ll notice that the large spire is hollowed out, so you can look all the way up to the top. There is a stone pool at the base of this spire that also embraces the base of its adjacent shorter companion. This represents the Republic of South Africa, as the birthplace and home of Afrikaans.
As you emerge from the tunnel into the light, you find yourself on a large curved open space, with a couple of steps at the far end, topped by three hemispheres. These symbolise the Khoi languages (isiXhosa, isiZulu and isiSotho), which also influenced Afrikaans.
As there was now very little light – and as I had forgotten to take along my tripod! – I went back down to finish eating my picnic and to join my friends in waiting for the moon to rise.
Suddenly, there it was! Be-eau-ti-ful!
What a wonderful evening this had been, and what a treat to share it with good friends!
Information from the website:
Diarise the full-moon picnic dates for the 2009/2010 summer season:
Sat. 3 Oct. 2009 moonrise 18:18, sunset 18:50
Sat. 31 Oct. 2009 moonrise 17:05, sunset 19:14
Wed. 2 Dec. 2009 moonrise 20:17, sunset 19:43
Sat. 30 Jan. 2010 moonrise 20:02, sunset 19:53
Sat. 27 Feb. 2010 moonrise 18:30, sunset 19:25
Sat. 27 Mar. 2010 moonrise 17:00, sunset 18:48
Time: Anytime from 17:00 – 22:00
You can bring your own picnic basket or prebook a basket by selecting products from the picnic menu at the VOLKSMOND restaurant. Call 021 863 2800 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost: R12 adults | R5 students | R2 children
You aren’t allowed to bring any dogs, or to make a fire.
General enquiries: 021 872 3441.