NWU awards honorary doctorate for work in Afrikaans

Belinda Bantham -- Thu, 11/09/2017 - 08:33

NWU awards honorary doctorate for work in Afrikaans

The North-West University (NWU) has awarded an honorary doctorate to a seasoned and experienced academic who has made an outstanding contribution towards promoting Afrikaans in the Low Countries (the Netherlands and Belgium).

Prof Ena Jansen, who has lived permanently in Amsterdam since 2002, was honoured for her enormous contribution towards reviving the status of Afrikaans as subject in these countries, particularly at universities that were politically strongly opposed to contact with South Africa in the past.

She obtained a BA, BAHons (cum laude) and MA in Afrikaans Dutch from Stellenbosch University (SU). She continued her studies at the Rijksuniversiteit of Utrecht in the Netherlands and obtained her Litt Doctorandus (cum laude) in theoretical and comparative literature in 1979, and her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 1992.

Prof Jansen’s long academic career in South Africa started in 1972, when she was an academic assistant in the Department for Afrikaans and Dutch at SU. She then became acting lecturer in Dutch literature at SU, and in due course lecturer (1984-1992), senior lecturer (1993-1998) and associate professor (1999-2002) in Afrikaans and Dutch literature at Wits.

From 2003 she filled the sought-after position as professor in the “leerstoel Zuid-Afrikaanse letterkunde” (chair for South African literature) at Amsterdam University. During the three terms (14 years) that she occupied the position as professor in Afrikaans literature,this position has grown to one of the most sought-after positions in Afrikaans literature. She delivered her farewell address on 17 June 2016.

Prof Jansen also played a big role in retaining Zuid-Afrika-Huis (ZAH) in Amsterdam as an asset for Afrikaans and South Africa, and to develop it even further.

Her role as activist started in 2011, when she drew the attention of the South African literary community to the possible closure of the ZAH. This possible closure was a threat to the collection of South African literature and historical resources housed there.

According to Prof Wannie Carstens, former director of the School of Languages (who nominated Prof Jansen for the honorary doctorate), Prof Jansen and other academics in South Africa and the Low Countries started an active campaign in the South African and Dutch media by appealing to South Africans and Dutch citizens to help meet the financial needs of the ZAH.


Prof Wannie Carstens, former director of the NWU’s School of Languages, nominated Prof Ena Jansen for the honorary doctorate.

This campaign eventually led to an intervention by Naspers (in the name of Die Burger), who made funds available for the restoration of the ZAH. “The house could at last be restored and modernised and thereby this precious cultural, historical and language asset was preserved for Afrikaans,” he says.

“The modernised ZAH is now once more the place in Amsterdam where people gather to promote the interests of Afrikaans in the Dutch context.”