‘Die Belangrike Manne’ (The Important Men)

by Naretha Pretorius

I found this image in my ‘box of goodies’… 

Die Kerkraad van Kameeldrift (The Church Council of Kameeldrift) - Photographer unknown

Isn’t this image just so iconic of the old South African regime? White men in suites… 

This photograph speaks of the Apartheid regime, a patriarchal society of white conservative men that ruled our country.  This in fact is a photograph taken in the 1980’s of the church council of the ‘Gereformeerde Kerk’ (Reformed Church) in Kameeldrift (just outside Pretoria).  

This photograph is more than just a reflection of what our country used to be like, it is a reflection of what my life used to be like as a child!  My father is seated in the front, the one with the impressive moustache!  You see, very much like the Apartheid regime, the church was a patriarchal system, with men in the leading seats and women as the nurturer, the caretaker and the mothers of society.  The church council used to be only men (white Afrikaans or sometimes Dutch men).  Men made the decisions, they had those important meetings while women raised their children, served tea to the ‘important men’ and well… baked!  To raise funds for the church of course …  Society and the Afrikaner household was based on this exact structure; with the men as the head figure and leader, the decision maker, the father, the manager and women as the subservient wife and mother, and the subordinate in social structures. 

The problem is, although South Africa went through a political transformation, the Reformed Church stayed very much the same… ironic the name then isn’t it?  To this day, the Reformed Church have mostly only men on their church council, they still remain predominantly white (depends on the area), with their marriage sacrament still instituting the husband as the head of the household and the wife as obedient to her husband… (have a look at the sacrements from the Reformed Church in South Africa: www.gksa.org.za > look under ‘wie is ons’ > formuliere > huwelik…unfortunately only available in Afrikaans) 

Can anyone blame me for no longer attending a church so conservative? 

My new ‘religion’ is to believe in the possibilities of what life can present us, that men and women are equal (not the same…), that all humans are equal (not the same…) and that life has more meaning to it than anyone of us can ever imagine.  To believe is very different from belonging to a religion.  Religion like Calvinism and the church is an institution, very much like governmental institutions: it’s a set of regulations to control the masses.  I find no spiritual inspiration from conformation. 

My two cents…  for what it’s worth.