The undulating spires of the abstract Afrikaans Language Monument jut up from the vineyard surroundings of the Paarl Valley to commemorate the language. Also called the Taal (language in Afrikaans) Monument, the impressive granitic structure designed by architect Jan van Wijk, is full of symbolism, its various arcs, mounds, podiums, pools and stairs represent the rise of the 300-year-old language and its many influences and impacts on South African culture.
The onsite two-floor museum, the former home of Gideon Malherbe, one of the founders of die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (GRA, Association of True Afrikaners), has exhibits on the language and the cultural identity around it. The lower floor is decorated as the dwelling may have looked in 1875 with eccentric patterned wallpaper and original furnishings. One room of the top floor contains the printing press used to create the first Afrikaans newspaper – an entire wall of the room is plastered with its productions. Informational exhibits with
photographs and text describe the early written language. Afrikaans first appeared in Arabic, not Roman, script, and, in addition to its Dutch foundations, the language claims Malay, Portuguese, French, German and indigenous Khoi languages as influences. Displays on unusual word origins line colorful walls, and exhibits of the modern and historical impacts of the language on culture including in various genres of South African music, are also on the top floor. An outdoor Green Gallery near the gardens has rotating exhibits of art and poetry.
Many visitors to the monument and museum opt to picnic on the lawn fronting the monument.
The sloped greenspace overlooks the surrounding mountains. A small coffee shop and café also serves light fare beneath umbrellas for warm-weather al fresco dining.
The monument and museum are located at Gabbema Doordrift Street in the town of Paarl Mountain, about 17 miles north of Stellenbosch. It is included in several tours departing Cape Town for the surrounding vineyards. The museum and monument are ticketed separately at R 25 each for adults (R 40 for both sites), and R 5 at each site for children. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Apr. through Nov. and at 8 p.m. between the local summer months of Dec. and March. Complimentary guided tours are available. The site has limited wheelchair access.