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Chronicles of the Kaapse Klopse

Denis-Constant Martin


These chronicles consist in excerpts from articles or books that dealt with or alluded to the Kaapse klopse, and various aspects of Cape Town’s New Year festivals. The texts have been reproduced as originally printed and no effort has been made to correct faulty information, or language that can today seem unacceptable. When absolutely necessary, additional information has been provided between crotchets. The material proposed here should therefore be treated as “raw material” and should be read with a critical eye. The reader must be aware that these texts provide only a small, and biased, part of the story of the klopse and the New Year festivals. Most of them have been written by outsiders to the universe of the klopse, very often journalists writing for a white readership; many of them rely on clichés, stereotypes, not without a pinch of sensationalism, although one can also find here quotations from interesting stories written by talented journalists, such as Jackie Heyns and George Manuel, or more analytical contributions by Gerald S. Stone or R.E. Van Der Ross. These texts must therefore be read as an invitation to do more research: to collect interviews, songs, artefacts that may have been preserved by members of the klopse, the sangkore (Malay Choirs) and the Christmas Choirs; such research, using among others the techniques of oral history, must be undertaken without any delay as people who can still remember what happened in the 40s and 50s will very soon no longer be with us. The present chronicles nevertheless give a sense of the chronology, contribute to a better understanding the dynamics that underlay the development of the klopse carnival, they allow to catch a glimpse of some of the major trends that affected them — in particular the disappearance of the “Privates” and the prevalence of the “Coons”, the shift from string bands to brass bands, changes in the organisation of festivals. They also bear witness to evolutions in the attitudes towards the “Coons” and show how they became, in the times of apartheid, the symbol of a rift between the working class and an intellectual petty-bourgeoisie abiding with the canons of Victorian morality, rift surfacing in polemics often loaded with political undertones, which started in the 1940s and lasted more or less until the end of apartheid. Finally, they record the multiplication of unruly behaviours at carnival time, as the constraints and violence of apartheid increased.
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halshs-03414415 , version 1 (04-11-2021)


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Denis-Constant Martin. Chronicles of the Kaapse Klopse: Followed by Themes in Klopse Names. 2020. ⟨halshs-03414415⟩
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