Active, Adventurous and Heroic: Visual Constructions of Masculinity in the Afrikaans Church
Keywords:Christian visual culture, Afrikaans churches, semiotics, representation, masculinity, physicality as male ontology
In this article, I consider material collected from three Afrikaans churches in the Pretoria-Centurion area that visually relate masculinity to aspects such as physical activity, adventurism and heroism. I develop a background from the literature to male physical ontology, Muscular Christianity, the Promise Keepers, Afrikaner Christianity, Afrikaner nationalism and the interconnections between them. I also highlight the problematic tendencies involved in physicality as male ontology in terms of inherent misogyny, patriarchy, domination and, at worst, violence. I analyse the visual culture of the Dutch Reformed congregations of Moreletapark and kerksondermure (Church Without Walls), as well as that of the Apostolic Faith Mission Church, Doxa Deo, via a Barthesian (1972) visual semiotic approach. In my analysis, I found an emphasis in the representation of masculine physical activity on camping, sporting activities, adventurism, outdoorism, male bonding activities and the domination of nature. Finally, I contrast and problematise the prevalence of these representations to those of women, which are mainly decorative and subordinate to their male counterparts.
Abelson, M. J. 2019. Men in Place: Trans Masculinity, Race, and Sexuality in America. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/j.ctvc5pc1m.
Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York, NY: Verso.
Andrews, D. 1996. “Sport and the Masculine Hegemony of the Modern Nation: Welsh rugby, Culture and Society, 1890–1914.” In Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity, edited by J. Nauright and T. J. L. Chandler, 50–69. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Angus’ Desk. 2021. “Angus Buchan Website.” Accessed November 7, 2021. https://www.angusbuchan.co.za/angus-desk.
Balmer, R. 2000. “Keep the Faith and go the Distance: Promise Keepers, Feminism, and the World of Sports.” In The Promise Keepers: Essays on Masculinity and Christianity, edited by D. S. Claussen, 194–203. Jefferson, NC: McFarlan.
Banerjee, P., and R. Connell. 2018. “Gender Theory as Southern Theory.” In Handbook of the Sociology of Gender. Second Edition, edited by B. J. Risman, C. M. Froyum and W. S. Scarborough, 57–68. Cham: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76333-0_4.
Barthes, R.  1972. Mythologies, translated by A. Lavers. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.
Barthes, R. 1977. Image-Music-Text, translated by S. Heath. London: Fontana.
Bates, C. 2013. Masculinity and The Hunt. Wyatt to Spencer. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657117.001.0001.
Beal, B. 2000. “The Promise Keepers’ Use of Sport in Defining ‘Christlike’ Masculinity.” In The Promise Keepers: Essays on Masculinity and Christianity, edited by D.S. Claussen, 153–163. Jefferson, NC: McFarlan.
Berger, J. 1972. Ways of Seeing. Port Melbourne: Thorpe.
Brod, H. 1995. “Masculinity as masquerade.” In The Masculine Masquerade. Masculinity and Representation, edited by A. Perchuk and H. Posner, 13–19. London and Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Broodryk, C. 2010. “Come all ye Faithful: Gender and Identity in the Religious Vitalisation of South African Cinema.” Paper presented at the 25th Annual Conference of the South African Visual Art Historians, University of Pretoria, July 9–11.
Buchan, A. 2017. “Mighty Men Conference.” Accessed October 29, 2020. http://www.mightymenconference.co.za.
Buchan, A. 2020. “MMC Online Events. 2020.” Angus Buchan. Accessed November 7, 2021. https://www.angusbuchan.co.za/mmc-2020-watch.
Caarstens, J., and S. Viljoen (Eds). 2012. Sacred Selves. Essays in Gender, Religion and Popular Culture. Cape Town: Griffel.
Chandler, T. J. L. 1996. “Structuring Manliness and the Development of Rugby Football at the Public Schools and Oxbridge, 1830–1880.” In Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity, edited by J. Nauright and T. J. L. Chandler, 13–31. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Chandler, T. J. L., and J. Nauright. 1996. “Introduction: Rugby, Manhood and Identity.” In Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity, edited by J. Nauright and T. J. L. Chandler, 1–12. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Clare, A. 2000. On Men. Masculinity in Crisis. London: Chatto and Windus.
Claussen, D.S. (Ed.). 2000. The Promise Keepers: Essays on Masculinity and Christianity. Jefferson, NC: McFarlan.
Connell, R. W. 1987. Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Palo Alta: University of California Press.
Connell, R. 2016. “100 Million Kalashnikovs: Gendered Power on a World Scale.” Debate Feminista 51: 3–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.df.2016.03.001.
Connell, R. W., and J. W. Messerschmidt. 2005. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” Gender and Society 19: 829–859. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205278639
Craig, S. (Ed.). 1992. Men, Masculinity and the Media. Research on Men and Masculinities. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483326023.
Cromhout, C. 2008. “Sabi Sand Mannekamp.” ksm September: 14.
Doty, W. G. 1993. Myths of Masculinity. New York, NY: Crossroad.
Dube, S. I. 2012. “Masculinit(y)ies and Religion(s) in Canada.” In Canadian Perspectives on Men and Masculinities. An Interdisciplinary Reader, edited by J. A. Laker, 202–221. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.
Dube, S. I. 2015. “Muscular Christianity in contemporary South Africa: The Case of the Mighty Men Conference.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 71 (3): 1–9. http:// dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts. v71i3.2945. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i3.2945.
Dube, S. I. 2016. “Race, Whiteness and Transformation in the Promise Keepers America and the Mighty Men Conference: A Comparative Analysis.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 72 (1): 1–8. http://dx.doi. org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.3476. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.3476.
Dube, S. I. 2018. “The Violence of the Masculine Ideal: A Case for Nomadic Masculinities.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 74 (2): 1–9. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i2.4935.
Du Plooy, G. M. 2009. “Visual Text Analysis.” In Media Studies. Volume Three. Media Content and Media Audiences, edited by P. J. Fourie, 147–203. Lansdowne: Juta.
Eldredge, J. 2001. Wild at Heart. Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Eldredge, J., and S. Eldredge. 2005. Captivating. Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Erasmus, M. 1996. “Lion, Camel, Man.” Image and Text 4 (6): 25–30.
Faludi, S. 2000. Stiffed. The Betrayal of Modern Man. London: Vintage.
Fiske, J. 1987. Television Culture. London and New York, NY: Routledge.
Frisk, K. 2019. “What Makes a Hero? Theorising the Social Structuring of Heroism.” Sociology 53 (1): 3–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038518764568.
focus. 2008a. Issue One: 1.
focus. 2008b. Issue Two: 1.
Gabaitse, R. M. 2020. “‘A New Man in Christ?’: Pentecostalism and the Construction of Masculinities.” In Genders, Sexualities, and Spiritualities in African Pentecostalism. “Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit,” edited by C. J. Kaunda, 67–80. London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-42396-4_5.
Glassner, B. 1995. “Men and Muscles.” In Men’s Lives, 3rd edition, edited by M. S. Kimmel and M. A. Messner, 252–261. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Geldenhuys, T. 2008. “A World through a Child’s Eyes.” focus 2: 13.
Gqola, P. D. 2015. Rape: A South African Nightmare. Johannesburg: MF Books.
Gqola, P. D. 2021. Female Fear Factory: Gender and Patriarchy under Racial Capitalism. La Vergne: Melinda Ferguson Books.
Groepe. 2021. ksm Website. Accessed November 7, 2021. https://ksm.co.za/groepe/.
Grundlingh, A. 1996. “Playing for Power? Rugby, Afrikaner Nationalism and Masculinity in South Africa, c.1900–1970.” In Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity, edited by J. Nauright and T. J. L. Chandler, 1–12. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Hall, S., J. Evans, and S. Nixon (Eds). 1997. Representation. Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi: Sage and Open University Press.
Hudson, H. (Dir.). 1981. Chariots of Fire. United Kingdom: Allied Stars and Goldcrest Films.
Janssen, A., and L. K. Weeden (Eds). 1994. Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family Publishing.
Jennings, E. E. 1965. “The Success Ethic.” Management of Personnel Quarterly 4 (3): 29–34. https://doi.org/10.1002/hrm.3930040307.
Johnson, N. L., and D. M. Johnson. 2017. “An Empirical Exploration into the Measurement of Rape Culture.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence September. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260517732347
Kallos, E. (Dir.). 2018. Die Stropers. Cape Town, London, Los Angeles and Reyjavik: Spier Films.
Kies Self Sorg. 2021. ksm Website. Accessed August 20, 2021. https://ksm.co.za/.
Koenig-Visagie, L. H. 2012a. “Significant Others: A Visual Analysis of the Representation of Gender in the Afrikaans Corporate Church.” MA dissertation, University of Pretoria.
Koenig-Visagie, L. H. 2012b. “The Representation of Gender in the Afrikaans Corporate Church. Fundamental Difference.” In Sacred Selves. Essays on Gender, Religion and Popular Culture, edited by S. Viljoen and J. Caarstens. Cape Town: Griffel.
Koenig-Visagie, L. H., and J. van Eeden 2013. “Gendered Representations of Fatherhood in Contemporary Church Imagery.” Verbum et Ecclesia 34 (1): 1–12 pages. https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v34i1.760.
Lash, J. 1995. The Hero. Manhood and Power. London: Thames and Hudson.
Lombaard, D. 2008. “Fokus en Bou op jou Sterk Punte.” Nuwe Dimensie Februarie: 9.
MacAloon, J. 2013. Muscular Christianity and the Colonial and Post-Colonial World. London and New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315878843.
MacKinnon, K. 2003. Representing Men. Maleness and Masculinity in the Media. London: Arnold.
Mannebediening. 2008. Moreletapark Website. Accessed August 14, 2008. http://www.moreleta.org/NGGM/Users/PortalPageEdit.aspx?Cat=86&SubCatID=77&MenuItem=Item_77.
Mayhew-Rodgers, F. 2008. “Mamelodi se Dag van Helde.” Nuwe Dimensie December: 12.
McCartney, B. 1992. What Makes a Man? Twelve Promises that Will Change your Life! Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress.
McKay, J., J. Mikosza, and B. Hutchins. 2005. “‘Gentlemen, the Lunchbox has Landed’. Representations of Masculinities and Men’s Bodies in the Popular Media.” In Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinity, edited by M. S. Kimmel, J. Hearn and R. W. Connell, 270–288. Thousand Oaks, CA, London and New Delhi: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452233833.n16.
Meiering, D., A. Dziri, and N. Foroutan. 2020. “Connecting Structures: Resistance, Heroic Masculinity and Anti-Feminism as Bridging Narratives within Group Radicalization.” International Journal of Conflict and Violence 14: 1–19. https://doi.org/10.4119/ijcv-3805.
Men’s Health. 2021. Accessed November 7, 2021. https://www.mh.co.za/.
Millar, K. M., and J. Tidy. 2017. “Combat as a Moving Target: Masculinities, the Heroic Soldier Myth, and Normative Martial Violence.” Critical Military Studies 3 (2): 142–160. https://doi.org/10.1080/23337486.2017.1302556.
Monaghan, L. F., and M. Atkinson. 2014. Challenging Myths of Masculinity. Understanding Physical Cultures. Surrey and Burlington: Ashgate.
Morrell, R. 1996. “Forging a Ruling Race: Rugby and White Masculinity in Colonial Natal, c.1870–1910.” In Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity, edited by J. Nauright and T. J. L. Chandler, 91–120. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Morrell, R. 2016. “Making Southern Theory: Gender Researchers in South Africa.” Feminist Theory 17 (2): 191–209. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464700116645877.
Moser, R. 2008. “A Life of Integrity.” focus 1: 16. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1350-4789(08)70213-7.
Mulvey, L. 1975. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16 (3): 6–18. https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/16.3.6.
Nadar, S. 2009. “Palatable Patriarchy and Violence against Wo/men in South Africa: Angus Buchan’s Mighty Men’s Conference as a Case Study of Masculinism.” Scriptura 102: 551–561. https://doi.org/10.7833/102-0-614.
Ortner, S. B. 1998. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” In Women in Culture: A Women’s Studies Anthology, edited by L. J. Peach, 23–44. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Owino, K. O. 2014. “‘Godly Manhood’: Evangelical Constructions of Masculinities in a South African Context: A Case Study of the Mighty Men’s Conference (MMC).” PhD thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Phillips, J. 1996. “The Hard Man: Rugby and the Formation of Male Identity in New Zealand.” In Making Men: Rugby and Masculine Identity, edited by J. Nauright and T. J. L. Chandler, 70–90. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Posner, H. 1995. “The Masculine Masquerade. Masculinity Represented in recent Art.” In The Masculine Masquerade. Masculinity and Representation, edited by A. Perchuk and H. Posner, 21–30. London and Cambridge, MA: The MIT Pres.
Prestjan, A. 2007. “Christian Social Reform Work as Christian Masculinization? A Swedish Example.” Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality 1 (1):1 9–34.
Prinsloo, J. 2006. “Where Have all the Fathers Gone? Media(ted) Representations of Fatherhood.” In Baba. Men and Fatherhood in South Africa, edited by L. Richter and R. Morrell, 132–146. Cape Town: HSRC Press.
Putney, C. 2001. Muscular Christianity. Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880–1920. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.
Ratele, K., J. Hearn, and T. Shefer. 2021. “Men, Masculinities, Peace, And Violence: A Multi-Level Overview.” In Routledge Handbook of Feminist Peace Research, edited by T. Väyrynen, S. Parashar, É. Féron and C. C. Confortini, 313–323. Abingdon and New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429024160-34.
Schwalbe, M. 1995. “Mythopoetic Men’s Work as a Search for Communitas.” In Men’s Lives, 3rd edition, edited by M. S. Kimmel and M. A. Messner, 507–519. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Shefer, T., and K. Ratele. 2011. “Racist Sexualisation and Sexualised Racism in Narratives on Apartheid.” Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 16: 27–48. https://doi.org/10.1057/pcs.2010.38.
Shefer, T., and K. Ratele. 2013. “Desire, Fear and Entitlement: Sexualising Race and Racialising Sexuality in (Re)membering Apartheid.” In Race, Memory and the Apartheid Archive, edited by G. Stevens, N. Duncan and D. Hook, 188–207. Johannesburg: Wits University Press; Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.
Van den Berg, R. (Dir.), F. Cronje, and K. Barwise, K. (Prods). 2006. Faith Like Potatoes. Culver City, CA: Affirm Films.
Van der Spuy, D. 2008. “God het ‘n Groot Plan vir 2007.” Nuwe Dimensie Maart: 1.
Van der Westhuizen, C. 2017. Sitting Pretty: White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Van der Westhuizen, C. 2020. “(Un)sung Heroines. The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Afrikaner Nationalist Volksmoeder in South Africa.” Matatu: Journal for African Culture and Society 50 (2): 258–279. https://doi.org/10.1163/18757421-05002004.
Van Rensburg, J. 2008. “Wild at Heart Kamp.” ksm October: 9.
Van Zyl, L. 2008. “Gay-wees is geneesbaar.” Op pad Oktober: 16.
Viljoen, S. 2008. “New Masculinities in a Vernacular Culture: A Comparative Analysis of two Men’s Lifestyle Magazines.” PhD thesis, University of Cape Town.
Viljoen, S. 2009. “From Bedroom to Boardroom: Corporate Culture in two South African Glossy Men’s Magazines.” In Taking a Hard look. Gender and Visual Culture, edited by A. A. du Preez, 103–128. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.
Viljoen, S. 2011. “‘Papa Don’t Preach’: Fatherhood in a South African Christian Men’s Magazine.” Communicatio 37 (2): 308–331. https://doi.org/10.1080/02500167.2011.576349.
Viljoen, S., and L. H. Koenig-Visagie. 2011. “Gender Representation in Christian Book Covers: A Case Study.” Verbum et Ecclesia 32 (1): 1–9. https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v32i1.487.
Walton, G. 2017. “What Rape Culture Says about Masculinity.” The Conversation, October, 17. Accessed November 3, 2021. https://theconversation.com/what-rape-culture-says-about-masculinity-85513.
Whitehead, S. M. 2002. Men and Masculinities: Key Themes and New Directions. Cambridge: Polity.
How to Cite