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The term Kaffir (and variations of it such as Caffir, Kafir in some instances; or Kaffer in Dutch and Afrikaans) was the name used by the Dutch settlers in the mid 17th century, to refer to black people, notably people of African or Bantu origin.

Deriving from the Islamic term kāfir[1] ("infidel"), from kafara ("to deny, refuse to believe"), it soon became a more abusive term, used to refer to all non-white people of African origin, often in a derogatory manner.

Today the term is seen as possibly the most virulently spurned term of racial abuse in the country, a South African equivalent of the American negro or nigger[2].

The term was later replaced officially (though it remained in active use in the common tongue) by such more "neutral" terms as Native (or Naturel in Dutch and Afrikaans) and Non-European under British and Apartheid rule. By the 1980's however, all such the terms were seen as highly derogatory and replaced by the term black (or blacks). as opposed to white (or whites) This again a reaction to the American led Black Consciousness Movement and other similar initiatives.

After 1994 all such racist terms are theoretically no longer to be used, and their use have in recent years been the cause of high profile court cases.

Historically, the terms are not only found in numerous books, novels, poems and plays from the 18th to the 2ist century, a number of them classic works, but also in the names of plants, places, rivers, mountains, and so on. While many names of places and things are being changed, the role of the terms in the arts remain a complex matter, since anyone writing about racial abuse and oppression for example, will use the terms to demonstrate the issues they are raising.

For example, a 2018 edition of Woza Albert!, the iconic play from the struggle period of the 1980s, still has all those terms, the argument being that cleaning up the text by changing them or excising them would make the play meaningless. Keeping them there maintains - perhaps even enhances - the shock effect of the play. Similarly Mark Mathabane's 1986 autobiography Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa exploits precisely that reaction to excellent effect to expose the harsh reality of the times.

In ESAT the terms are retained where such sources are cited, but are shunned by the writers of the encyclopaedia themselves in their writing up of the history.

See also Hottentot and Coloured in this regard.





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