By Matt Edwards
While I absolutely loathe clichés, I have to admit, as clichéd as it is, Shakespeare did say it best. “What’s in a name?”
I’ve been following the recent Grahamstown name-change debate. I find it fascinating how such a little detail can cause such mayhem. But yet it has, and everyone seems to have their own opinion on the matter, so thus I give you mine.
I come from a town called Klerksdorp, possibly the ugliest name those Voortrekkers could have thought of, and the Klerksdorp (or rather Matlosana) Municipality has recently been faced with this same name-change fiasco. I don’t think many people really cared much because not many people really remember this Jacob de Klerk guy or what he did, even though I’m pretty sure it didn’t have much credibility anyway. Here in Grahamstown though, people seem be much more attached to the history of this town, which I suppose is a good thing.
I do, however, find this attachment a tad disturbing though, following not-so-recent allegations against John Graham and his methods. I suppose I’m not really one to talk though, because I honestly don’t know as much about this town’s history as I’d like to, but I did read the spread of letters in Grocott’s Mail last week. According to some of the irate writers that were published, this Graham fellow tricked his fellow Europeans into staying here, trying “desperately to recreate England”, resulting in the “Disneyland representation of some English buildings”. He also apparently chased away, with quite a bit of force I might add, a fair amount of the native Africans that were here before him, and there was also something about starving them out I think, but I’m not completely sure. Either way, he doesn’t seem to be that great a guy, so I don’t really see what a lot of the fuss is about.
Then there’s also that argument that claims that if we change our name, we’ll somehow lose the history of the town. I see visions of the board at the end of Somerset Street changing from “Grahamstown” to “iRhini”, and, simultaneously, all of our history books magically bursting into flames. I, personally, don’t see much credibility in this argument, but again, that is only my humble opinion. -Honestly, after lunchtime discussion with friends, I think in the end it all comes down to a matter of pride. You have one side that is very proud of their stake to this town. The other side is just as proud, if not more. Of course there is a bit of animosity owing to the town and country’s past to add to the mix. Neither side is willing to budge, because that would show them as the weaker side. I personally think that a little humility from both sides would put to rest the whole argument and people would maybe realise that everyone really has bigger problems to worry about. I mean, “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”