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Doyenne of Afrikaans literature receives top prize
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 28/07/2023

Prof Louise Viljoen has been named as this year's winner of the Jan H Marais prize for outstanding contributions to Afrikaans as an academic language by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (South African Academy for Science and Arts).

One of Stellenbosch University's (SU) top academics, Viljoen is emeritus professor of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at SU. Her research focus is Afrikaans Literature and Literary Theory, with special emphasis on postcolonialism, gender, identity, transnationalism and the position of small literatures against the background of World Literature.

She will receive the prize of R750 000 later this year at a ceremony in Stellenbosch.

Viljoen said the announcement came as a huge surprise. “It is an enormous honour that my work is recognised in this way. I owe so much to all my colleagues at universities here and overseas who helped shape my work over many decades. Without the academic environment, the intellectual freedom and opportunities SU offered me, I would not have achieved this."

Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds and Naspers introduced the annual Jan H Marais prize in 2015. All three institutions owe their establishment to the visionary support of Johannes Henoch (Jannie) Marais (1860–1915), after whom the award is named. Marais hailed from Stellenbosch and, along with his brothers, made his fortune on the diamond fields of Kimberley in the 1870s. Since he was an avid supporter of Afrikaans as an academic and literary language, the prize aptly acknowledges quality scholarly work and publications in Afrikaans.

Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, congratulated Prof Viljoen on her outstanding achievement. “SU is pleased to acknowledge her contribution to Afrikaans as an academic language. The University's substantial financial contribution to the prize attests to our ongoing commitment to multilingual and diverse academic excellence in South Africa," he said.

The Department Afrikaans and Dutch is also overjoyed about Viljoen's well-deserved achievement, said Dr Amanda Lourens. “It's wonderful news. Prof Viljoen's academic excellence is widely known and within the department she not only played an invaluable part to develop Afrikaans literature as an academic discipline, but also helped to grow Afrikaans as a scientific language."

•             Source: Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns