Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ‘n rooiborsduif

Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou 'n rooiborsduif

It’s one of the most read poems on our website, since we published this one on October 6th 2016. Then we used a free app to make the artwork for the poem. Now it’s time to give this poem; Rooiborsduif the attention it needs. In other words: Rooiborsduif revisited.

There is a good reason that the poem by Breyten Breytenbach was chosen as the most beautiful poem from South Africa. In the Central Library in the Dutch city The Hague, this poem was selected as the best African poems in 2014. This poem is strong in both South African or Afrikaans as well as in English.

Breyten BreytenbachAbout the poet

Breyten Breytenbach was born on September 16 1939 in Bonnievale, Western Cape (South Africa). He is considered to be one of the most important modern writers. Eventhough he is never appointed as a National Poet Laureate, he is considered as the official one for the Afrikaans speaking part of South Africa.

Breytenbach went to the Hoërskool Hugenot and afterwards to the Michaelis School of Fine Art – part of the University of Cape Town. Due to his political beliefs he was forced to leave the country. He stayed in Paris during the Sixties. He was not allowed to return to South Africa after his marriage with Yolande, since she was of Vietnamese ancestry. It was considered to be a criminal offense to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race. This all was part of the Aparheid system that existed between 1948 and 1991.

In 1975 Breytenbach was arrested, because he illegally entered the country. He was convicted and was punished with nine years for high treason. Two years later, he again had to appear before a judge and had to response to charges about planning an attack on the prison at Robben Island. The judge ruled that there was no real evidence for this case and dismissed it. He was however found guilty on charges about the smuggling of letters and poems from the prison where he was held. The fine for this was fifty dollar. He was not released until 1982, after international protests. He went back to France, where he became a French citizen. Until today Breytenbach holds two nationalities.

After Apartheid was abolished in the Nineties, he could go back to his home country. In 2000 he was appointed as a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town.

The work of Breytenbach is greatly inspired by his political beliefs. But, as you can see from the poem Rooiborsduif, he is also known for his other work.

Breytenbach is the brother of Jan Breytenbach, the co-founder of the 1st Reconnaissance Commando of the South African Special Forces, and Cloete Breytenbach, a war correspondent. He is the father of Daphnee Breytenbach, a French journalist.

During Writers Unlimited The Series in The Hague on Friday 26 2014, his poem was selected as best South African poem. Let’s start off with the original version. Something we don’t normally do. But as many of you search for the Afrikaans text, we decided to do things differently.


Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou 'n rooiborsduif

Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ‘n rooiborsduif

Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ‘n rooiborsduif
want niemand sal ‘n boodskap wat rooi is skiet nie.
Ek gooi my rooiborsduif hoog in die lug en ek
weet al die jagters sal dink dis die son.
Kyk, my duif kom op en my duif gaan onder
en waar hy vlieg daar skitter oseane
en bome word groen
en hy kleur my boodskap so bruin oor jou vel
Want my liefde reis met jou mee,
my liefde moet soos ‘n engel by jou bly,
soos vlerke, wit soos ‘n engel.
Jy moet van my liefde bly weet
soos van vlerke waarmee jy nie kan vlieg nie.

As you can see, the official title of this poem is Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ‘n rooiborsduif. This poem tells about the poet who sends a pigeon to fly to the one he loves. The hunters will not shoot, because the pigeon looks like the sun.

My sweet love, I send you a laughing dove

My sweet love, I send you a laughing dove
because no one would shoot a red message
I throw my robin dove high into the sky and I
know that all the hunters will think it’s the sun
See, my dove flies up and down
and he flies, oceans shine
and trees are green
He colours my messages brown on your skin
For my love travels with you
My love has to stay with an angel such as you
like wings, white as an angel.
You should know about my love
with wings you can’t fly with.

Strange right, the rooiborsduif turns into a laughing dove when translated. Still,  this is the right translation for this animal, as you can read on this Wikipedia page.


The photo of Breyten Breytenbach is made by Luigi Novi.
© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons.

The photo of the laughing dove is made by Manojiritty and edited by us to contain the poem by Breyten Breytenbach.


Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou 'n rooiborsduif
Article Name
Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou 'n rooiborsduif
A poem written by the South African poet Breyten Breytenbach, about love.
Publisher Name
The Ministry of Poetic Affairs
Publisher Logo

2 thoughts on “Allerliefste, ek stuur vir jou ‘n rooiborsduif

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

%d bloggers like this: