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Transvaalwijk – Leeuwarden 

Jun 20, 2019

During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the Dutch showed great interest in the brave fight of the citizens of Transvaal and the Free State against the British. Dutch volunteers also participated in the war. One of them was Cornelis van Gogh, a brother of the famous artist Vincent van Gogh. He immigrated from the Netherlands to the Transvaal in 1889. When the war broke out, he ranged on the side of the Boers and was captured by the British. When he fell ill, he was admitted to the sickbay of the Brandfort Concentration Camp where he died on 14 April 1900. The Transvaal Red Cross claimed that he had shot himself; however, other sources denied that it was suicide. The book Die onbekende Van Gogh: Die lewe van Cornelis van Gogh, van Nederland tot Suid-Afrika on Cornelis van Gogh’s life was written by Chris Schoeman and published in 2015.

Another interesting vestige of the Anglo-Boer War in the Netherlands is the so-called Transvaal or Afrikaner neighbourhoods that were established in various Dutch cities after the war. Due to their hero worship for and sympathy with the Boers, who at that time were considered Dutch descendants, the Dutch named neighbourhoods, streets and squares after Boer leaders, famous battles and places in the Free State and Transvaal. These neighbourhoods are found in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Baarn, Den Haag, Dordrecht, Haarlem, Leeuwarden, Leiden, Vaassen, Vlaardingen, Zaandam, Nijmegen, Hengelo and Rotterdam. It was mostly working-class neighbourhoods with simple and inexpensive houses. More recently, some streets have been renamed after anti-apartheid strugglers. In Amsterdam, for example, Pretoriusplein became Steve Bikoplein. However, most of the original names have been preserved.

Leeuwarden’s Transvaal district is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the Netherlands. It is bordered on one side by the city canal, which means it is located among beautiful public recreational areas with giant trees, lawns and flowers. According to the census figures, 2 645 people lived there in 2012. The neighbourhood is being modernised, and many of the original homes are currently being restored.

For a visitor like me with a passion for Afrikaner history, it is moving to walk in Steijnstraat [sic], De Wet-, Cronjé-, Natal- and Transvaalstraat and experience the preservation of our past, while in South Africa it is so easily despised or forgotten.

I strongly recommend a walk through Leeuwarden’s Transvaalwijk, especially during springtime when the grass on the banks of the canal is almost neon green and the fragrance of roses hangs heavily in the air.

About the author

Alana Bailey

Alana Bailey is Head of Cultural Affairs at AfriForum

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