Thursday, 9 March 2017


Oranians rockin' their traditional Afrikaner garb.

(Sebastiaan Biehl is a German-born man who moved to South Africa and settled in the Afriakner mini-ethnostate of Orania in 2004. Read more about his story here.)

Living in Orania, the Afrikaner ethnic hometown

After 12 years in Orania, life seems quite normal and natural and indeed it should be. I guess it is not so different from life in a rural American town. On a typical day, we go to work (most of us work in the city limits of Orania), which takes us about 5 to 10 minutes, by car, on foot, by bicycle or with the local bus. Everybody speaks Afrikaans everywhere. After work, we do our shopping in small shops all over town, where everybody greets everybody and often chats a few words; we visit our neighbours or friends after work, go to the cinema or the restaurant, have a barbecue on Saturday, go to church on Sundays. Children play outside after school, up to dawn, go to the swimming-pool, ride their bicycles, play sport and games.

Unlike in most of South Africa, there are no fences, elaborate alarm systems, or security companies driving around. Our national commemoration days include celebrations of Afrikaners' historical milestones, like the Great Trek (16th of December), the Anglo-Boer Wars (31th of May and  28th of February),  and the formation of the Afrikaans language (14th of August) etc. Often, traditional garb is worn on these occasions. This is quite normal to us Oranians, but most South Africans regard as as very strange. You have to understand the “normal” South Africa to realize how “abnormal” Orania is.

For starters, 90% of Afrikaners (white people that speak Afrikaans, a language decent from Dutch) live in cities, mostly in town house complexes. Everything is fenced off, crime is very  prevalent, and stress is part of everyday life. Everybody has a long journey to work, always in his or her own car, in heavy traffic. At work, you get all kinds of people of all races and creeds, but in spite of this “diversity,” English is the only language spoken in public, often even between fellow Afrikaners at the same workplace. Children are driven to school by their parents because it is too dangerous to walk or ride by bike. Schools are mixed as well and conflict and frustration about language, values, and ethics is common.

After school, children cannot play outside because it is too dangerous. Playgrounds are long gone. Everybody plays some computer games or spends their time permanently on the phone; children have to be driven around by Mom’s taxi service for sports or music practice. Pa comes home late because of traffic and there is not much family interaction. Watching rugby and having a braai (barbecue) on Saturday is maybe all that is left of something “typical” Afrikaner.

The media’s perception and attitude

Since Orania’s founding in 1991, derogatory, even hateful news articles about it have abounded. In most cases, these articles say more about the journalist’s blindness than about Orania. Although Orania has changed a lot in the past years, the articles—both then and now—seem almost identical, especially in the foreign media. Almost everyone’s headline includes varieties of something like “white, racist town/ last outpost of apartheid/ poor, white trash dessert dwelling,” or at best “an anachronism in the (wonderful) multi-cultural rainbow nation South Africa.” Pictures used are usually drawn from the internet and show an Orania of 10 or even 20 years back. The picture of the statue of Prime Minister Verwoerd overlooking Orania (which was moved to the museum 10 years ago) is always displayed, as well as some photos of untidy, unappealing poor whites.

We can keep on explaining to the journalists that self-determination is an internationally-recognized right, that we discriminate against nobody but don’t want to be discriminated against ourselves, that the Afrikaners are a cultural and ethnic community and that Orania is about the preservation of a unique culture, not about race, that we must take care for ourselves because no one else will etc. The effect on the journalist’s preconceived opinion is next to zero. Recently there was an article on CNN about Orania which is a text book example of this kind of journalism towards Orania specifically and the the Afrikaners in general. Twisted statistics are quoted to “prove” that Afrikaners have no reason to complain since black South Africans are worse off regarding crime or unemployment.

In spite of what I have written, we do not have to lose hope because of a negative and hostile media. The media is powerful and has its own left-wing agenda which won’t change, but their power is rapidly shrinking. The internet and social media have broken the grip that the so-called "mainstream media" has on people’s thoughts and opinions. Even the CNN article admits that Orania is part of a "new wave," although it is framed in negative terms, and seen as part of a dire trend:
"The splintering of a portion of South Africa’s Afrikaner community is only a microcosm within a much larger trend. In the wake of Brexit, the rise in nationalist movements in Europe and arguably the United States, directly or indirectly through president-elect Donald Trump, isolation has become a hot topic." 
To decode this sentence: Orania and what it stands for is still detestable (for CNN and other left-wing opinion-makers), but it is part of a new movement.

Even a negative article in an international news medium makes quite a few supporters of Orania that can read between the lines, aware of our ideal. I myself read the first time about Orania in a negative, derogatory article, but I could still draw my own conclusions and became a committed supporter. On a daily basis we take several visitors on guided tours and really everybody leaves Orania with a better opinion of the town. In some cases, they are even so impressed that they join the Orania Movement (, encourage their friends to visit Orania, or even decide to move to Orania (which is what I ultimately chose to do).

We are thankful to everybody that has helped in one way or the other to transport our message, be it through a letter to a newspaper or a supporting comment, through influencing friends, by showing our DVDs, passing along our pamphlets, or spending time (and money) in Orania. After hard work, our tree is bearing many fruits. Our tree is still small, but it is full of life and growing. The powerful left-liberal media’s tree is large, but increasingly hollowed-out. The winds of change might blow it down; its branches break off already. CNN experienced its own powerlessness when, with the recent American election, as the results came in, they were utterly wrong with their prediction of a Clinton win; their strong support for Clinton and condemnation of Trump did not make much of an impact.

Carel Boshoff Sr., the founder of Orania, once said: “Nothing is as strong as an idea whose time has come.” Our time is busy coming. Or, to use the words of Mohandas Gandhi (although used in another time and context): “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”


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