MEETING A REQUEST FOR A READING LIST: My old colleague and comrade Burton Joseph asked me on FB to please provide some references or a reading list. Not an easy task by far and of course to get 2016-02-04 14.13.50to the narrative that I relate I cannot even begin to put down all of the references. Also it is not as easy as suggesting one or two books where you will find my perspective. I cross reference and hunt down small pieces of information within texts and it is often from looking at the same information that others have cast their eyes and minds on for years that by using a different eye one sees the hidden gems.

I am often asked to share some of the reading matter or research publications which form part of informing the history and heritage narrative that I relate when telling the stories of our past and reaching some of the conclusions that follow.

I see my role as a heritage activist, story-teller and interpreter of the past rather than an academic. For much of my 60 years, even going back to my school days I read a lot and absorbed history. You will see from the reading list that I share with you that by approach to research and crafting my stories is multi-disciplinary – history, culture, heritage, anthropology, sociology, psychology, global or international studies, archaeology, politics, built environment, science, military studies, criminology, legal studies, migration, and literature all are brought together to interrogate a subject to arrive at an outcome which I share as my version or take on history and heritage. The reading list (only partial) presented here was also part of my personal library built up over the last 40 years. Unfortunately during the upheavals of my life over the past two years most of my books were stolen. They were to have become the library in my Heritage Centre here at home for the greater public good.
My magnificent obsession with slavery and Cape slavery as a subject began at around the age of 8 when a German Holy Cross nun from Nile Street District Six, Sr Mary Martin would have me kneel with her before the statue of a black man dressed in Dominican attire as she asked for advice and protection from this 16th century black Saint – the son of a slave woman – San Martino de Porres. It was also the time that I first awakened to the fact that my maternal grandmother Francina Haddon, who was referred to in our family as a Creole and had been born into a freed slave community. These two factors led to me reading everything on the subject that I could lay my hands on. In time over the next 52 years, particularly from my 20s onwards, I pieced together my family tree and found that I had a mix of 22 slaves in my family line, 4 Khoena and a cross section of Europeans.
As time marched on my reading moved on away from the basic slave history narratives which in South Africa were often skewed and filled with information that undermined the story rather than enhance it. I began to discover serious researchers and found that they held different opinions and often also contradicted themselves but herein lay the exciting world of discovery. I would continuously discover new angles and then later discover their negation and the birth of totally new information from overlooked or sub-scripted titbits that would open up new vistas. Often academic works were never read outside their circles, wonderful as that research may be. The academic circles were incestuous and were largely closed to external critique and public gaze (vital critical component to knowledge development). I progressed from being a reader to a critique and from a critique to developing a different narrative, respectful of academic contribution, but going much further by applying historical knowledge to current identity, heritage, political, and psychological burning issues of our day.
To meet the request for a reading list I cannot possibly be comprehensive and list all of the literature that I have been exposed to and which has informed my ideas and narrative. But what I can do is share some of the book titles to encourage people to further explore and also to show you that although I generally write off the cuff, it is informed by a sound wealth of literature. Some of the books that I will suggest are really basic outlines of slavery at the Cape or Indigenes at the Cape and are full of discrepancies served up emphatically by the writers, but when you read a basket of literature you will discover for yourself what stands up to scrutiny and what does not: What I can refer you to in terms of a means to navigate the tons of research information making up the Slavery literature is a comprehensive index of such literature produced by Dr Robert Shell and Mogamat Kamedien entitled Bibliographies of Bondage – Selected bibliographies of South African Slavery and Abolition.
Firstly I am informed by particular schools of thought on the subject of identity which I do not see as singular nor ethnic and on a particular orientation on what in liberation-speak we called the ‘National Question’. Here two authors stand out in influencing me – Amin Maalouf (On Identity) and Mzala Jabulani Nxumalo (as can be found in ‘The National Question in SA’ edited by Maria van Diepen – and other writings). Associated with these schools of thought and variations is a whole lot of works on nations, nationalism, and the notion of so-called race and racism which flows from race identification.
From reading relating to the National Question in South Africa and globally my next reading framework involved understanding global slavery in all its facets but especially the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and The Indian Ocean Slave Trade. Allied to the latter it was further important to get a handle on the social, political and economic history of India and Southeast Asia and particularly the conduct of the rival European East India companies in that part of the world. It was also important to get more information on voyages of exploration of Arabs and Chinese and not simply to be focussed on the European voyages of exploration. Again there are too many works to be cited here but let me suggest just a few – Contingent Lives; Social Identity and material Culture in the VOC World edited by Nigel Worden; – The World’s Oldest Trade; Dutch Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean in the 17th Century by Marcus Fink; – A history of Early Modern Southeast Asia 1400 – 1830 by Barbara Watson Andaya and Leonard Y. Andaya; – 1421 The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menses; – The Slavery Reader by Gad Heuman and James Walvin; The Slave Trade with Madagascar; the Journals of the Cape Slaver Leijdsman 1715 by Piet westra and James Armstrong; -Slave Routes and Oral Traditions in Southeastern Africa by Benigna Zima, Esward Alpers and Allen Isaacman; – A Short History of Slavery by James Walvin; Written Culture in a colonial context: Africa and the Americas 1500 – 1900; – Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch east India Company by Kerry Ward.
Then there are just some very basic South Africa history books introducing slavery and Indigene history most of them simply scratching the surface or focus on a single subject within the field, with one exception – an old but invaluable and exceptional old book namely that of Victor de Kock (Those in Bondage – An account of the life of the slave at the Cape in the Days of the Dutch East India Company). Sometimes these also perpetuate myths. But nonetheless they are extremely valuable for getting a foothold into understanding this subject and its complexities. This category of books includes – Up from Slavery: The Slaves at the Cape, their origins, treatment and contribution by Richard van der Ross; – An Unsung Heritage by Alan Mountain; – A history of South Africa by M Wilson and L Thompson; – A New History of South Africa by Herman Gillomee and Bernard Mbenga; Cape Town Making of a City by N Worden, E van Heyningen and V Bickford-Smith; Cape Town in the 20th Century by the same previous authors; – First People of the Cape by Alan Mountain; Martha by Winnie Rust; The Black Countess by Richard van der Ross; and there are many others. Two of my earliest influential history books on SA were Time Longer than Rope by Edward Roux and Class and Colour by Jack and Ray Simons. I believe that these are fundamental to laying a groundwork for further research. Add to this two other books that although they have flaws are comprehensive and probing of the story of those labelled ‘Coloured’ – Between the Wire and the Wall by Gavin Lewis and In our own Skins; A political history of the Coloured People by Richard van der Ross.
Then there are a range of books which with a historical backdrop interrogate current issues from a sociological, cultural and psychological perspective and are invaluable when coming to grips with either primary texts or research works on Slavery in the Cape, the indigene story or the making of the City. Not White Enough, Not Black Enough by Mohamed Adhikari; – Straatpraatjies, Language, politics and popular culture 1909 – 1922 by Mohamed Adhikari; – The Afrikaans of Cape Muslims by Achmat Davids; – Racism: A very Short Introduction by Ali Rattansi; – Kramats of the Western Cape by Mansoor Jaffer; – Groep Sonder Grense by HF Heese; Cape Malay by ID du Plessis; – Coon Carnival – New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present by Denis-Constant Martin; – Colourful Heart of Cape Town by Michael Hutchinson; – Outcast Cape Town by John Western; Imagining the City: Memories and Cultures in Cape Town by Sean Field; District Six by Adam Small and Janse Wissema; The Spirit of District Six by Cloete Breytenbach; Recalling Community in Cape Town by Siraj Rassool and Sandra Prosalendis; – Group Portrait South Africa – Nine Family Histories by Paul Faber and Annari van der Merwe; – Lost Communities, Living Memories Remembering Forced Removals by Sean Field; The Cape Coloured People by JS Marais; — Sugar Girls and Seamen: A journey into the world of Dockside Prostitution in South Africa by Henry Trotter; – The Angry Divide: Social and Economic History of the Western Cape by Wilmot James and Mary Simons; The Shaping of South African Society 1652 – 1820 by Richard Elphick and Hermann Gilomee; – National Liberation by Rostislav Ulanovsky; Every Step of the way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa by HSRC Press and Ministry of Education; Ethnic Conflict and Political Development; – Colonial South Africa and the origins of the racial order by T Keegan; Contingent Lives: Social Identity and Material Culture in the VOC World Edt by Nigel Worden….. there are just so many more of this type of literature that is vital to a discourse that helps one see historical texts with different eyes and helps one to zoom in to look at overlooked pieces of text. Part of my journey here was also to get involved in producing productions with a huge amount of oral input – a 6 part series with Elna Boesak for radio – Os Geskiedenis Tussen die Kraake; – Afrikaaps: The multimedia stage production; Krotoa – Perspectives on her life and so on.
In looking at Indigene Khoena, San and amaXhosa history and heritage there are many thesis papers and other research which is invaluable but not very accessible to the person on the street and hence it would be useless and time consuming on my part to note these here. One can explore some of these sources by reference for instance to a broad sweep on relevant texts such as ‘Notes towards a history of Khoi Literature’ by Hermann Wittenberg (UWC) but there are many conference papers and research documents that only painstaking reading in libraries and repositories can fulfil. Besides the many individual research papers poured through and hours sitting in the Cape Archives pouring through primary documents important basic texts dealing with indigenes which are a must read are – The Van Riebeeck Diaries (3 volumes) edt by JB Thom Van Riebeeck Society; The Record by Donald Moodie; -The Khoi Khoi and the Founding of White South Africa by Richard Elphick; The Cape Khoisan in the eastern districts of the Colony before Ordinance 50 of 1828 by VC Malherbe; – The KhoiKhoi Rebellion in the Eastern Cape 1799- 1803 by VC Malherbe an S Newton-King; – Shaping of South African Society 1652 – 1820 by Richard Elphick and Herman Gilomee; – The House of Phalo: a history of the Xhosa people in the days of their independence by J Peires (and other valuable works by this author); – Voices of the San by Willemien le Roux and Allison White; Borderline by William Dicey; The Forgotten Frontier by Nigel Penn; – Rogues, Rebels and Runaways by Nigel Penn; The Sunburnt Queen by Hazel Crampton; The King of the Hottentots by John Patrick Cope; – David Stuurman: Last Chief of the Hottentots by VC Malherbe; The Island: History of Robben Island 1488 – 1990 by Harriet Deacon; – Seven Khoi Lives by Karel Schoeman; Khoisan resistance to the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries by Shula Marks; – The Griqua Captaincy of Philippolis 1826 – 1861 by Karel Schoeman and at least 5 other works by Schoeman on various aspects of the Griqua story. A more creative and entertaining version of Griqua history employing much imagination but nonetheless fairly factual is ‘Children of the Mist’ by Scott Balson; Krotoa by Trudie Bloem (fiction but worth the read); – The Khoisan Peoples of South Africa by Isaac Schapera (a dated and highly inaccurate account that resulted in the popularising of the inaccurate term Khoisan); The Cape Herders by Emile Boonzaaier; – The Hottentot Venus: Life and death of Saartjie Baartman by Rachel Holmes; — The Bushmen of Southern Africa: Slaughter of the innocents by Sandy Gall; Hunters and Herders of Southern Africa: A Comparative Ethnography of the Khoisan Peoples by A Barnard (another of the books that perpetuates some Khoisan myths and stereotypes now embraced by some as though fact as well as a number of works based on the same erroneous notions); A History of the Xhosa of the Northern Cape 1795 – 1879 by Elizabeth Anderson; – The Struggle for the Eastern Cape 1800 – 1854 by Martin Leggasick; – Adam Kok’s Griquas by Robert ross; – Masters and Servants on the Cape Eastern Frontier by S Newton-King; The Career of JT van der Kemp and his role in the history of South Africa by WM Freund; The Return of Makhanda: Exploring the Legend by Julia C Wells; – Even the Cows were amazed: Shipwreck Survivors in South-East Africa 1552 – 1782 by Gillian Vernon….. there are just so many avenues of reading that one must travel down and cross reference to find the hidden history that falls between the cracks.
The literature on Cape Slavery and the shaping of Cape Town through slavery is extensive. It is amazing that this subject which has been suppressed for years and laboured under all sorts of mythologies could be so hidden from public gaze regardless of the wealth of resources that cover the subject. People often ask me “where on earth do you find this information?” My response is that it requires work but it is not so hard to find. Here are some of the resources to look at (by far not all): Children of Bondage by Dr Robert Shell; Early Slavery at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1717 by Karel Schoeman; – Portrait of a Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope 1717 – 1795 by Karel Schoeman; – Cape Lives of the 18th Century by Karel Schoeman; Slavery in Dutch South Africa by Nigel Worden; Trials of Slavery by Nigel Worden and Gerald Groenewald; – Breaking the Chains: Slavery and its legacy in the 19th Century Cape Colony by Nigel Worden and Clifton Crais; – The Diary of Adam Tas edt by L Fouche; – The House of van der Stel by Ian Colvin; – Paarl Valley 1687 – 1987 by AG Oberholster and P Breda; – Nog Altyd hier gewees – Herman Gillomee; -Slavery, emancipation and Colonial Rule in South Africa by Wayne Dooling; The Dutch East India company’s Slave Lodge at the Cape by Helene Vollgraff; Echoes of Slavery by Jackie Loos; – Colour, Confusion and Concessions: The history of the Chinese in South Africa by Melanie Yap and Dianne Leong Man; – Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape by AJ Boeseken; Cape of Torments by R Ross, Routledge and P Kegan; – Slavery in South Africa: Captive Labour on the Dutch Frontier by Elizabeth Eldredge and Fred Morton; – Decline of urban slavery at the Cape 1806 – 1843 A Bank; – Tindals, Kroomen and Seedis (Simonstown Historical Society Bulletin); – The sea is in our blood: Community and Craft in Kalk Bay 1880 – 1939 (Manilla Filipinos of Kalk Bay) by A Kirkaldy; Aided immigration from Britain (including the poor of St Helena) to South Africa 1857 – 1867 by Esme Bull; The Black Atlantic Communications Network; African American sailors and the Cape of Good Hope Connection by Keletso Atkins; Kroomen: Black Sailors at the cape by Alan Davey; – these readings should be complemented with a visit to the Slave Lodge museum in Cape Town and must be cross referenced with some of the literature mentioned earlier to cross pollinate with cultural, sociological and psychological perspectives and perspectives around the areas from which slaves were taken.
Complementing history and genealogical studies there is a range of work that has been done in the realm of DNA studies…. Here I will mention just two – the Final Report LivingHistory Project June 2008 of Pro Himla Soodyall; – and Discoveries in South Africa for the Genographic Project by National Geographic Genographics.
Additionally there are readings of many government and global agency reports that can also influence perspectives such as – the United Nations ‘State of the World’s Indigenous Populations; the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People; Observations on the state of Indigenous Human Rights in the light of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s – SA 2007.
Then there is some of my own work:
Does Afrika-tourism have a future in the Western Cape? The challenge for Black entrepreneurs and their Cultural Heritage niche tourism product focused on slavery and indigene heritage – dissertation 1999; Business Plan for the Transformation of the Cultural History Museum into the Slave Lodge Museum – 2004; Western Cape Heritage: The Stories your tour guide didn’t tell you – 2005; Navigating Cape Identities published in – 2007; Black Roots of the Vine in Fraschhoek and Environs: An untold history of dispossession in the Drakenstein – published 2008; Lenses on Cape Identities – published 2009; as well as 30 biographies on resistance heroes 17th Century – 21 st century (commissioned) some of which can be found with other writings on my blogsite
Nou hell maar Burton Joseph dit was baie werk. Now you have the reading list boet, you have a lot of homework to do. Lol.

REFLECTION ON EMANCIPATION DAY 2015 – An overview of Cape Slavery


EMANCIPATION DAY – 1 DECEMBER: The majority of the Cape population are descendants of SLAVES and KHOENA INDIGENES whose slave labour and skills built this city, its rural towns and its farmlands. The City of Cape Town and indeed the Western Cape Province owes a great debt to these men and women that are still not properly recognised in the official calendar, nor in public spaces or indeed in the dominant narrative of the making of the city and provinceo.

Today we celebrate Emancipation Day (1 December 1834) and the long tradition of exercising liberty slave descendants once more walked, sang, played musical instruments, laughed, cried and prayed on their way last night from the Old Quarry in Strand Street to the Castle in Cape Town. While it is understood that neither a City nor a Province can declare a National Public Holiday, I do feel that this date should be marked as an official commemorative day on the provincial calendar and an official statement of remembrance and commemoration be issued each year. This is well within the powers of the City and Province which unfortunately continue to overlook the importance of emancipation from slavery as an integral part of the heritage of the majority of citizens in this part of the country.

From the time of the first visitations to the southern tip of Africa by Europeans in the late 1400s, these visits impacted on indigene peoples in many ways. But from the early 1600s it made an indelible impact that caused the local population to adopt new modes of living and new economic activity. From 1653 the importation of slaves caused further impact as slaves sought refuge amongst indigenes and later indigenes themselves began to be enslaved through use of apprenticeship and indenture mechanisms.

The impact most noticeably occurred first amongst the Goringhaiqua and then amongst the Cochoqua. Later maroons deserted these groups and formed a new and relatively settled community who lived along the seashore and on the banks of the Camissa – a fresh water river running from Table Mountain (Hoerikwaggo) into the sea at Table Bay (Hu Gais). Today the river still runs underground, as much as the history, heritage and identity of people labelled ‘Coloured’ was farced underground. This maroon group of indigenes known as the Goringhaicona kept some cattle and also harvested seafood, but a core activity that had emerged over just a few decades was to service the ever more frequent passing European vessels with fresh water and meat supplies. Some Europeans called them the ‘Watermen’ because of this activity. They under two successive leaders – Chief Xhore and Chief Autshumaowere the true founders of proto-city of Cape Town and the free resfreshment station for passing ships. The van Riebeeck settlement established in 1652 effectively took over this enterprise and he was incorrectly ascribed the title of founder of the city. Historical record shows that Autshumao travelled to Jakarta with the English, who then established the first refreshment station under Autshumao and 30 of his followers on Robben Island. He later asked to be removed back to the mainland where he and his followers set themselves up on the banks of the Camissa River to continue serving the passing ships.

It was this settlement that played host to van Riebeeck whilst he built his fort in the winter of 1652. The first attempt by the English to establish such a settlement in 1642 using Chief Xhore and a group of Newgate Convicts was not successful and Chief Xhore lost his life to the Dutch some years later. Thus in 1652 the entrepreneurial Autshumao and his people were ousted from their enterprise with the arrival of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) under Jan van Riebeeck who then took control. The Khoena fought this Dutch control in two bitterly fought resistance wars. After over 160 years of passing ships, the European interaction with the indigenes had suddenly changed to be replaced by conquest but the foothold of the early group of Dutch, German, Nordic and Ambonese VOC officials was shaky. The environment was wild and hostile and there was urgent need to develop infrastructure and farming which could only be done by bringing in large numbers of SLAVES to do the backbreaking work and to provides artisanal skills.

While a small number of slaves initially arrived from 1653 – 1658 to support senior VOC officials as house servants there was a dramatic increase in numbers of slaves in the years following. A new dynamic emerged at Camissa. Escaped rebel slaves were accepted and assisted by dispossessed Khoena resisters and in the quest for freedom the foundation of a new class of people began to emerge on the embankment of the Camissa in the shadow of the VOC fort and spread into the interior. The last of the rebel Khoena wars under Klaas and David Stuurman took place over the first two decades of the 1800s. This footprint of Camissa people (former slaves, indigenes, amaXhosa allies and a few non-conformist European rebels) spread across South Africa and would later be labelled ‘COLOURED’.

From the late 1500s European shipping to South East Asia dramatically increased with the Cape of Good Hope playing host to the passing ships which needed fresh water and meat for their long voyage.

In 1602 the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) was formed and soon they had set up bases in Myanmar – Thailand – Vietnam – Cambodia – Malaysia – Indonesia – Timor – Philippines – Japan – Formosa and South China. By 1652 they set up at the Cape of Good Hope as a halfway station to their VOC capital at Batavia (Jakarta).

They traded in silk, spices and SLAVES destined to build the infrastructure of the new European colonies.

The first slaves at the Cape came from India / Bengal, but within a short while they were joined by slaves from South East Asia, Africa and Madagascar. Between 1653 and 1808 around 63 000 (researched by Dr Robert Shell) and from 1808 – 1856 at least 8 000 more Prize Slaves were brought to the Cape. Slaves from Africa and Madagascar numbered around 42 150, Slaves from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh numbered around 17 350; and slaves from South East Asia numbered around 13 500 drawn from the Indonesian Archipelago, Arakan Myanmar, Thailand, Hanoi Vietnam, Malaysia, Southern China and Formosa, Philippines and Borneo. Most became slaves due to being war, captured by pirates or through debt bondage systems in the east and in Africa villages were plundered by slave traders captives who captured slaves and sold them to large holding stations.

The very first slave that arrived in the Cape was Abraham van Batavia who had the misfortune of being a stowaway on a ship coming to the Cape.

he first people to brought to the Cape were largely a number of women and mainly from India, Bangladesh and Madagascar. The Dutch VOC officials had become use to having servants to do their cleaning, washing and cooking – this was the start of Domestic Service in South Africa which is still an entrenched culture of the lower middle classes right up to the super rich.

Eva van Madagascar, Jan Bruyn (3 years old) and Anthony van Madagascar arrived in 1654. Maria van Bengal arrived in 1655. Then Kleine Eva van Madagascar, Myndert van Antongil, Catharina van Bengal, Espaniola van Madagascar arrived in 1656. Also in 1656 two young captive Abyssinian princesses were gifted to Maria van Riebeeck as slaves by a passing French Captain. They were Cornelia van Abyssinia (10) and Lysbeth van Abyssinia (12). They joined the young Khoena girl Kratoa in domestic service in the van Riebeeck household. (All 3 are part of my family tree) Catharina van Paliacatte, Angela van Bengal and Domingo van Bengal arrived in 1657. Another Maria van Bengal arrived in 1658.

These 15 people, 8 women, 4 men, 2 girls and 1 boy were the first slaves that joined a number of indigene Khoena women and girls, the most notable being Krotoa Goringhaiqua (Eva van Meerhof) as house slaves doing domestic service.

The first large shiploads of slaves arrived in 1658 with 308 surviving slaves on board. The Amersfort had 180 surviving slaves and the Hasseldt had 228 surviving slaves of the original numbers captured when the Dutch overpowered the Portuguese in a sea battle. The Amersfort originally captured 500 Angolan slaves, seized 230 and left the others adrift on the severely damaged Portuguese ship. Those seized were mainly children and 50 more died or were tossed overboard before reaching the Cape.

The Hasseldt obtain 271 slaves from the Grande Popo in Benin but 43 had died at sea on the journey. Over the next couple of months many of the sickly captives died at the Cape. Some were put back on ships to be sold in Batavia and the rest were to live out their lives as slaves at the Cape.

In official histories slavery is usually given just a cursory mention and then collectively slaves are always incorrectly called MALAY SLAVES. Without the slaves the VOC would never have achieved building Cape Town and its farmlands. Slaves brought to the Cape included people from these locations:

FROM INDIA, BENGAL & SRI LANKA: Surat, Bombay, Goa, Calicat, Cochin, Tuticorin, Malabar, Coromandel, Negapatnum, Tranquebar, Pondicherry, Palacat, Masulpatam, Colombo, Galle, Bengal

FROM SOUTH EAST ASIA: Arakan, Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), Tonkin (Hanoi Vietnam), Malacca (Malaysia), Macao, Deshima (Japan), Formosa, China, Indonesian Archipelago (Borneo, Celebes, Ternate, Ambon, Banda, Roma, Boeton, Moloccas, Rambon, Boegies, Timor, Alor, Solor, Bima, Bali, Soembawa, Java, Madoera, Flores, Sumatra, Djambi, Nias, Padang)

FROM AFRICA & MADAGASCAR: Benin, Guinea, Angola, Mozambique (including southern Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia), Mombasa, Zanzibar, Madagascar (Antogil Bay, Sante Marie, Manajari, Matitana, Augustine Bay, Radama Bay)

When one can see the extent of the diversity of slavery and its bond with indigenes, one can begin to come to an understanding of how over time a new creole people were shaped in the Western Cape. The shorthand in official history books fails to take proper cognisance of this powerful coming together of peoples of colour.

Only a few slaves ever got to keep their own names – most were given names either by slave traders or by those to whom they were sold. These given names became surnames in the future. Other surnames evolved from first names. The months of the year indicating month of birth was one type of slave name; others included topo-nyms (places or slaver stations from where the slaves had been brought), other Geographic names, Classical Greek and Roman names, Facetious names, Biblical names, Names of Masters, names of Moods.

EXAMPLES: September, van Batavia, Canton, Plato, Titus, Snuffelaar, Contant, Moses, Karelse, Geluk etc. First generation creole slaves born in the Cape usually would carry the father’s first or second name plus the name van der Kaap (or van Cabo).

What were the conditions of slavery? Slaves were bought or sold as possessions of Masters & Mistresses (often by auction). Slaves enjoy no marital rights. Slaves had no control over their children or their destiny. Some slaves were subject of breeding practices by Masters. Slaves who practised animist, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Catholic beliefs were not allowed to do so (but these continued secretly). Because of a sunset clause to their enslavement if adherents to the Christian Reformed Church, slave owners discouraged baptism (the authorities were divided on this issue). Slaves were not allowed shoes and had no freedom of movement. Controls were exerted over what clothes slaves could wear. Food was rationed and largely offal and unwanted parts of animals and fowls. Slaves worked for no remuneration and had no choice in what they had to do and work ranged from housework, backbreaking public works such as roadbuilding and bush clearing, farming fieldwork as well as skilled craftsmen’s work. Slaves were subject to harsh and cruel punishments including rape, various tortures, scourging’s, crushing of bones, mutilation of body parts, depravations, and death by fire, drowning, garrotting, dismembering, crucifixion and impalement. In the administration of justice the word of a slave in terms of leading evidence could not carry weight.

There were VOC Company slaves and there were slaves in private hands: – Throughout the slavery period the VOC and its officials was the largest slave owner and the company Slave Lodge bordering the Company Gardens was built to house over 1000 slaves. Company slaves were marshalled and controlled by a regimented and hierarchical system. The Slave Lodge also informally acted as a brothel for company officials. It was a dark, dingy and damp hell hole, with a small school, hospital and quarters for the mentally ill. Slaves in Private Ownership fell into different categories. Urban and Rural, and house slaves and field slaves. Slaves in private ownership were bought either at slave auctions or directly from a ship. There were also slave owner to slave owner deals that were made. Urban conditions were more liberal and often slaves were skilled craftsmen and enjoyed good relationships with the Free Black community. This contrasted harshly with rural slave conditions under cruel and patriarchal masters. Rich owners on large farms replicated to some degree the Company slave regime while smaller farms and less well of farmers and more remote farms held the worst of conditions for slaves. Fieldworker slaves faced the worst conditions.

Punishments were a big part of life for slaves. There were both judicial punishments and private punishments meted out by slave owners. The judicial system was such that in a two-part legal process the second part allowed for “handing over the accused to the torturers so that they may freely make a confession”. In the court a slave’s word could not be used against a master or mistress. Only in the latter years of slavery was a public advocate for slaves established in the form of a ‘Protector’s Office’. Over the period 1652 – 1795 over 1400 crucifixions alone were carried out. Crucifixions, impalements, garrotting, drowning, being hanged drawn & quartered, torture on the rack, public death by burning, amputations and dismemberment, floggings, removal of the tongue and so on are recorded. The crimes ranged from running away, petty pilfering, fornication and disrespect to a master or his property – through to assault and murder. Punishment in private hands included tortures of all sorts, floggings and rubbing salt into the wounds, rape, food and sleep deprivation and much more.

From the earliest years of slavery various types of revolt are recorded. Running away and acts of arson were the most prominent acts of revolt. Additionally there were many cases of individuals or small groups of slaves making common cause who turned on their owners and faced assault and murder charges. Over the first 150 years revolt became more daring and graduated from ‘boiling over as a result of conditions’ to revolt against the institution of slavery. Alongside these developments an abolitionist movement amongst a small minority of the European colonists also emerged.

By far the biggest and most significant Slave Revolt was the armed ‘Jij Rebellion’ of 1808 led by Louis of Mauritius, a first generation slave brought to the Cape as a 4 year old. Over 326 slaves, including a few indentured Khoena labourers and two Irish sailors participated in an organised rebellion which included a plan to attack the seat of government at the Castle and establish a free black government. The leaders were executed and participants punished after Lord Caledon’s Dragoons defeated the rebels at Salt River.

For many years there was a denial about enslavement of indigene Africans or that Indigene South Africans were ever exported in the global slave trade. Much research now shows that this was false projection largely based on the early assertion that indigenes did not want to work and therefore slaves were required in the settlement.

Once the colonists had defeated the Khoena in Table Bay and particular after the devastating smallpox epidemic of 1713 the Khoena were forced to become labourers on settlers farms or were forcibly conscripted into Militias. These Khoena Militias headed by European officers were used to hunt down and exterminate all adult San people and to take the children captive to work on farms. Slavery of this type was commonplace amongst European frontiersmen. The last Khoena resistance war was in the 1820s and conscription of Khoena youth into Militias was a pivotal cause of the resistance. The issue of military conscription divided the Khoena and its impacts last to this day. It also caused a huge rift between the San and the Khoena.

Captured amaXhosa and later baTswana and moSotho later had the same fate. As early as Governor Simon van der Stel’s time at least one Nguni is recorded amongst Groot Constantia’s slave inventory. The later capture and export of slaves to the Americas from Natal is recorded. There is also the very well documented case of a European Mormon family who took an amaGcaleka boy, Gobo Fango, to the USA and made him a slave. Any assessment of Slavery in South Africa cannot only focus on imported slaves. Slavery was most certainly also a condition that indigenes were subjected to.

Slavery in the Cape is almost completely drowned out by the European colonial narrative and sites of memory in Cape Town a source of great grievance by slave descendants who make up the majority of the local population. Many tragic events go completely unrecognised in public life and public spaces. There are too many events to mention, but one of these were the 1713 outbreak of smallpox which decimated the slave, Free Black and Khoena populations reducing these dramatically and altering history. Another of these events was the wreck of the slaver ship San Jose in 1794 with 500 slaves on board just off Clifton beach. It is estimated that 212 slaves drowned with their shackles and the survivors were sold locally. The ship was bound for South America.

And so we come to this event that we celebrate today…. EMANCIPATION. Throughout the period of slavery there was the practice of manumission which under very tight regulation allow for a slave to be freed by their master or for the slave or someone else to pay for their freedom. The numbers of manumissions increased dramatically in the 1820s. Over the entire period a Free Black population emerged from freed slaves and from free persons of colour who had migrated to the Colony to work or trade. Then the beginning of the end came when the Slave Trade and Slavery on the High Seas was brought to an end after the abolitionist struggle had resulted in anti-slavery legislation being passed in the British Parliament in 1808. This led to the passing of the Act of Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies in 1833 in the British Parliament.

The British Crown decreed that Emancipation should enacted the Cape on 1 December 1834 and that a conditional apprenticeship of 4 years be instituted to manage the freedom process. All slaves therefore would be fully free in 1838. But for those ‘Prize Slaves’ undergoing 14 year Apprenticeships their full freedom would take up to 1870, as ‘Prize Slaves’ continued to arrive until 1856. The last ‘Prize Slaves’ arrived in 1890 when the Oromo slaves were brought here by the British Royal Navy and were sent for schooling to the Lovedale Mission.

After the ending of slavery the most primitive of wage-labour systems was quickly introduced with the result of watering down the freedom from slavery – the Indentured Labour system and Apprenticeship system. The legacy of this persisted right through to the imposition of the Apartheid State and beyond as these metamorphosed into the Migrant Labour and Pass Law system and then into the Labour Brokering system. This also created an industry for previous Slave Traders. From 1838 indentured workers were transported into South Africa to work on farms and mines and in service from St Helena, Bechuanaland, the Rhodesian territories, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, India, Bengal, and from rural South African villages. Their labour was cheaply rewarded and those trafficking these people took a large share of what employers paid. Indentured workers often stayed in crude hostel accommodation. It was very little different from slavery. Between 1808 and 1856 ‘Prise Slaves’ brought to South Africa by the Royal Navy after ‘liberating’ them from Slave Trader ships were forced to undergo 14 year Apprenticeships which were also very similar to slave conditions.

Slaves brought to South Africa came from a great variety of locations in Africa and Asia and had a range of religious beliefs, traditions, languages, music, dance, cuisine, clothes, and other cultural attributes. The popular humble Chilli in our cuisine is owed to slaves. Over time through the coming together of Slaves, Indigenes, Europeans and other Migrants from around the world a creolisation of cultures emerged in the language of Afrikaans, the impact on English and Indigenous languages, the use of musical instruments and the making of music, on dance, on the emerge of an Afro-Asian fusion cuisine and in many of our manifestations of faith. South African eating habits and the use of spices and rice in the Cape most especially his highly been influence by India and South East Asia.U


n the Cape the greatest symbol of our tapestry of cultural roots is the Ghoema Drum and Ghoema beat. It derives from African, Asian and Malagasy sources and the word evolved from Ngoma the east and southern African name for Drum. The way of the drum (ngoma) is a description for the ngoma faith of which most people only know the term Sangoma. The Mazbiekers slaves brought the term ngoma to the Cape with their drumming and locally it became GHOEMA…. The creolisation of NGOMA.


Our story on Cape Slavery would not be complete without looking at its modern form which continues into the present – HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Slavery has not disappeared, it has simply changed form. Human Trafficking and People Smuggling, some forms of Labour Brokering, Shipping agency practices, Sweatshops, Brothels, Nightclubs and the sex industry in general, some Farms, Drug Mules, Brides for Sale, Harvesting and sale of body parts, War captives, Use of children as soldiers and terrorists, are all forms of modern slavery.


In a city such as Cape Town it is likely that within every 6 kilometres from where you are located that there is someone being held in bondage and being forced into sex work under various guises or in bonded labour in sweatshop conditions. Brides for sale, drug mules and all of the other practices mentioned continue right under our noses.

This has just been an introduction on Cape Slavery and why we celebrate Emancipation Day, and indeed why this day should be given some official status by the City and Province. There is so much more that could be shared.

Please feel free to come visit the Asirawan Siam Healing House and the SA-Thai Slave Heritage Reflection Centre and Thai Spa at our home in West Beach, Bloubergstrand. More information at

These involve persons brought in from far off places including India and Bangladesh, South East Asia, China, Eastern Europe and from other African countries. It also involves South Africans who are spirited from one part of the country to another. The vast majority of modern slaves are women and children.

Lessons to be learnt from the Sao Jose tragedy of 1794

In the middle of packing up in Joburg and preparing for my move to Cape Town my cellphone and electronic communication packed up while I was writing this piece. I also lost much of my info on my phone. Also I regretably missed an important commemoration in the anals of slavery at the Cape when due to my still being in Joburg the memorial at Clifton of the San Jose tragedy took place.

This week for the first time many of the people of Cape Town first heard about the great 1794 tragedy that played out just off the shore between Oudekraal through to Clifton when a Portuguese slaver ship, the Sao Jose Paquete de Africa carrying over 500 slaves sank and over 200 drowned. It is one of many many hidden stories that our citizens do not know and one which illuminates the multifaceted and unclebrated heritage of the people of Cape Town. This incident represents by far one of the largest single migrant landings in Cape Town, albeit by accident, as around 300 of the surviving African Slaves were sold locally by auction and dispersed largely to the Western Cape farmlands.

I came across this story around 2002 and began to regularly raise it through my old blogsite Cape Slavery Heritage, bringing to the attention of the public who relax and forget about their troubles on Camps Bay beach, that the scores of bodies that washed up was buried in a mass grave on the beach of Camps Bay. I then called on tourism practitioners to integrate this story into their narratives and called on the city and Cape Town Tourism to recognise this tragic event with a permanent memorial marker board or a monument of some sort. My argument was that there are so many important sites for indigene and slavery memory that are unmarked and have no visual recognition of the history and heritage of our forebears in Cape Town and the broader Western Cape that it stymies the tourism narrative to such a degree that an almost false history is presented. In fact even the content of courses which tour guides have to undergo is often based on a highly skewed narrative. Tour guides who attempt to redress the skewed narrative and talk about indigene and slave heritage, and indeed even about non- conformist or rebel colonial history have to appeal to tourists to use their imagination because of the lack of visible markers and the lack of place names that truely reflect the past.

It was wonderful that the passionate Iziko Maritime archaeologist Jaco Boshoff took up this challenging exercise with his Slave Wrecks Project and that the wreck has been positively identified. The discoveries of artefacts also opens up the world of objects of memory and this provides a means of connecting us with our past in a visible and dynamicway. Imagining is very valuable but not as valuable as the tangible connection.

The Sao Jose was of course not the only slaver ship to sink in our waters and dynamic impact of many other indigene and slave stories do not reflect in our memory nor projection of the pillars of history on which our city is built. The 1808 Jij Slave Rebellion involving around 400 slaves which was brutally suppressed by Lord Caledon is just one such historical event. The slaves in both the case of the Sao Jose and the Jij Slave Rebellion were mainly those we refer to as the Mazbiekers. East and Central African slaves who were captured from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar and transported through Mozambique Island and Maputo to Brasil, the Caribbean and US with a steady trickle being sold at the Cape. The Sao Jose was en route with its human cargo to Brasil. A half a million East African slaves were taken to the Americas via Mozambique and the Cape of Good Hope in the latter 18th century and possibly as many from the entire Indian Ocean territories before. From 1808 the British Royal Navy began to intercept these slaver ships and seized the human cargo whom they called Prize Slaves. The Prize Slaves were then taken to various Indian Ocean Naval Stations and then resettled in South Africa and the Caribbean not as free men and women, but as people who were forced to be indentured labourers for 14 years. Prize Slaves continued to be brought to the Cape in large numbers until 1856 and remained in indenturship until 1870. So even although slavery was abolished in 1834 and effected fully in 1838 it hung around until 1870. The last of the Prize Slaves in fact arrived in 1890 – the Oromo. They were seized from a slaver vessel and came to the Cape from the RN Naval Station in Yemen. They were children and were taken to the Lovedale Mission College.

In 1818 another Portuguese slaver ship the Pacquet Real wrecked on Woodstock Beach with 167 slaves on board of whom 37 perish in the sea and their bodies was buried in a mass grave on that beach. Ships carrying slaves were also frequently wrecked on the wild coast and surving slaves were integrated into local Eastern Cape communities. There is so much more to our collective heritage in South Africa which involves the slaves of diverse African-Asian origins and this is a part of who we are today. These too are the ties that link and bind us as South Africans. Too many today think of themselves a “pure race” whatever that may mean and as having exclusive inalienable rights based on this “purity” as opposed to those whom they “other”. In paying tribute to these our slave forebears we are also reminding ourselves that it is the gravest folly and insult to our ancestors to engage in antagonisms towards others whom we may deem to be alien…. forgetting our cousin connections.

The history and heritage of slavery in the Cape and indeed in South Africa as a whole has many facinating dimensions which is poorly understood. In the earliest years of slavery West Africans features as the largest single group of slaves to be brought to the Cape in the first 50 years of settlement by Europeans. India and Sri Lanka slaver stations supplied the Cape with the largest numbers of slaves after the combined number of slaves brought from the African continent and Madagascar over the whole period of two centuries of the importing of slaves. But over 16 500 slaves were also brought to the Cape in the 17th and 18th centuries from another distinct corner of the world and while this was the smallest segment, their diversity and cultural impact was great. They came from South East Asia and the Indonesian Archipelago incorporating Bengal, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Jakarta, Java, Borneo, Celebes, Buton, Boegies, Ambon and othr islands… even as far as Japan and China.They came to be mistakingly collectively called Cape Malays largely because the slaver ships and slave stations used the Portuguese-Melayu languages as the main means of communication.

Of concern to me about how the present San Jose investigation is being pursued with our friends in the USA playing a large role is that while at last US academics are waking up to the role of the Indian Ocean slave trade they seem however to be starting their learning journey by making a cardinal mistake because they are still looking at the subject through a skewed lens. Reports in the media show them to be proceding from the notion that the Sao Jose shipment of slaves represented the first or earliest of the shipments of slaves from the Indian Ocean region, whereas this is just not true. Slaves from the Indian Ocean region were taken to the US and Latin America for 150 years before this date already and in the Indian Ocean slavery tradition such slaves would have been of both African and Asian origin. Before New York became New York it was New Amsterdam at the time when the Dutch were still in ascendency in Asia and a dominant force in the Indian Ocean. The trade in African and African Asian slaves from Madagascar and Mauritius shifted to Mozambique as the new centre from around the 1770s whereafter slaves who had predominantly come to the Cape from India, South East Asia and Indonesia became much smaller in number and the import of East African slaves began to dominate. Slaver ships destined for the European colonies rounded the Cape with their human cargos throughout the 1700s. However so dominant is the Atlantic Slave trade in US historiography that now the Indian Ocean slave trade is coming into the picture it is being presented as a later occurance and simply being seen as African slaves rather than the diverse community of slaves from all corners of the Indian Ocean territories occupied by the European empires.

Our understanding and approach to Cape Slavery has been isolated to the locally recorded experience of slavery largely through the eyes of slave owners and colonial authorities. As a result Cape Slavery has also been captured in a highly stunted and skewed manner in a relatively dry and dispassionate academic exercise. Cape Slavery’s full diversity, cultural heritage and impact, the slaves own experience, slavery resistance, indigene slavery and relations with imported slaves, Indian Ocean slavery and the experience of colonialism in India, South East Asia and Indonesia has largely been factored out. Only in the last 15 years have these dimensions began to be seriously explored in South Africa and elsewhere. There is an amazing connection between what happened here at the Cape and what happened eleswhere across the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British colonial footprint in East Africa, India, South East Asia, Indonesia, Japan and China. There are ties that bind us across the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean territories, but alas we are very ignorant of these in South Africa and of how it contributes to our identities whether of black, white, coloured, dravidian or asian ancestry. A few years ago when there was an international on slavery in Durban it was embarrassing to South Africa as to how ignorant the South African government participants were on the history and heritage of slavery in general and even more so on chattle slavery in South Africa. The dominant US narrative on slavery is also guilty of distortion and perhaps it will be though collaborations such as this Sao Jose story that we may have opportunity to influence the skewed perspectives…. But we really must be alert to distortion.

The Sao Jose story therefore represents much much more than the tragic loss of life. It represents a huge set of hidden histories and perspectives and a new opportunity for voyages of discovery about our past and exploration of our connections to so much more other communities than our previous narrow perspectives have allowed. It is a window on how Cape Town and its people were moulded from the first Khoena maritime trading settlement at the Camissa River in Table Bay, taken over by the Dutch under Jan van Riebeeck, to become the city of Cape Town today, with a people of such diverse roots. The over amplification of Dutch, French, German and British contributions to Cape Town has drowned out the Indigene contributions and that of the forced labourers who arrived in large numbers over time from the 1650s onwards from Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius and across the Southern African region – from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – from Arakan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore – from Jakarta, Java, the Celebes, Buton, Malaccas, Ambon, and Borneo – from the Phillipines, Makau, Japan and China – .and the Kroomen and Siddis from West Africa and from Zanzibar. What a rich history we have and what does this mean when we interact eith peoples ftom thesd same regions who continue to migrate here today either voluntarily or as smuggled and trafficked migrants to our shores. (Yes slavery still exists and slaves can be encountered within 10 kilometers of any South African home).

In conclusion it will also be interesting for readers to know another hidden fact about Camps Bay, the site of the mass grave of Sao Jose slaves….. The very first landowner of the entire Camps Bay estate and most sucessful farmer of her time was the Cape born daughter of two West African freed slaves, Anne and Evert of Guinea. Her name was Swart Maria Evert. She died in that fateful year of the first smallpox epidemic in 1713 and was the richest woman of her time…… But that is another story. ( pictures show the divers examining the wreck and the ceremonial scattering of sand from Mozambique at the wrecksite by divers)


After 1602 through to the end of the 17th century the Dutch entered an old trading network in South East Asia between powerful Kingdoms and other external parties – Arab, Chinese and Portuguese known as the Nusantara wherein everything from Javanese horses to silk, spice, Martaban jars and food products were traded. This linked Kingdoms in Siam (Thailand), Myanmar, Tonkin (Vietnam), Cambodia, Laos, and Bengal, with Japan, Batavia, Sri Lanka, Formosa, Taiwan and other Dutch stations. The Dutch outpost factories at Ayatthuya (Siam), Tonkin (Vietnam), Zeelandia Castle in Taiwan and Dejima in Japan were particularly connected by the Dutch trade in Silk for silver and the Dutch controlled shipping between these centres. But this trade and trading links were dominated by crooked merchants who conducted insider-trading which undermined the Dutch United East India Company (VOC), their employer. For instance every time the VOC discovered that the head of mission at Tonkin was corrupt, he would be dismissed and replaced only to find that the next head would also be corrupt.

This South East Asian scenario was to have a direct influence on the fortunes of the Cape of Good Hope, because of the destiny of one of those corrupt officials – Jan van Riebeeck. Thus the connection of slaves from Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam (Tonkin) who appear in our heritage records at the Cape is not the only dynamic linkage. Most people do not know of the Jan van Riebeeck story of his connection to Vietnam, Thailand and Japan.

The see note below artical - what is the real image of Jan van Riebeeck

The see note below article – what is the real image of Jan van Riebeeck

The heads of mission or Directors of the factories were actually just petty lower middle-ranking personalities in the vast VOC commercial empire and the Tonkin factory was made up of one director (chief merchant), one assistant-director, one bookkeeper, one surgeon (an official charged with doing amputatins), several assistants including merchants, and a company of soldiers.

As the first director of the Tonkin factory Carel Hartsnick started off in 1637 and was succeeded by Antonio van Brouckhorst who when he finished his service, recommended one of the younger merchants, a certain Jan van Riebeeck as his successor, because he best understood and conversed in the Vietnamese language. But Jan van Riebeeck was then found by the VOC to have been involved in the self-enrichment smuggling racket of private dealing at the expense of the VOC. He was thus dropped as successor to the first Director, dismissed and sent back to the Netherlands in disgrace. The Directorship was then given to Director Jan de Groot, who was later found to have also developed a vast smuggling network of illicit trade between the Ayattuya, Tonkin, Dejima routes, amassing considerable wealth for himself and undermining the VOC interests. He too was removed, and the next director, Philip Schillemans, proved to be both incompetent and unable to root out corruption. Tonkinese silk was continuously smuggled to Nagasaki by VOC officials who made huge fortunes. This chain of corruption ultimately led to the demise of the Tonkin factory in Vietnam. The Dutch later fared equally badly in Thailand and in Japan.

The successor interim director at Tonkin, Jacob Keijser was also found to be corrupt as was his successor Baron and so was Verdonk who succeeded him. Epitaphs for van Riebeeck, through to Verdonk all sang their praises as pious upstanding religious men of great virtue. The record says different.

Jan van Riebeeck while still in Japan was already scheming to get involved in an entrepreneurial venture of acquiring animal hides from the Cape of Good Hope and exporting these. Then on his voyage of disgrace from Tonkin back to Europe, in stopping off at the Cape of Good Hope in 1651 he developed a pitch to the VOC executives to establish a Dutch controlled half-way house for serving shipping fleets on their way to the east. A year later in 1652 the disgraced Jan van Riebeeck, one of the company of Tonkin rogues, was given the chance to redeem himself by leading the quest to take over the service role of local inhabitants to international shipping which for 40 years had been formally managed first by Chief Xhore and then Chief Autshumao who established the first proto service settlements on the mainland and at Robben Island.

Both had been taken abroad by the British to London and Batavia respectively for ‘training’. Prior to 1613 for 130 years Europeans of all nationalities had been stopping off at the Cape and were informally serviced by whomever they met from indigene communities. The notion of the 1652 settlement founding Cape Town is an erroneous one albeit that the arrival of the man of Vietnam infamy was an important moment in history. The quest to establish a European service base at the Cape had been tried before by the British in 1614 when they attempted a settlement comprised of released Newgate prisoners, which failed after three years. Jan van Riebeeck kept up his South East Asian interests while at the Cape of Good Hope and then returned to Batavia after a decade at the Cape, and is buried there.

Our history and heritage is closely bound to the Dutch United East India Company and to South East Asia, through slavery and the Dutch United East India Company (VOC) but most people today do not know about these deep ties. Most of those who hail Jan van Riebeeck as a super hero and founder of South Africa actually know very little about him and the history outlined here or the territories and Dutch imperial interests that the Dutch settlement at the Cape supported.

(The picture popularized in the past of Jan van Riebeeck as appeared on stamps, coins, banknotes etc was of a completely unrelated different man Vermuyden. The picture behind the banknote is the true image of Van Riebeeck.)


People ask the question – “When did the first Thai people come to South Africa?” They are surprised when told that Thai people are first clearly recorded in South Africa over 250 years ago and that there are indications of even earlier South East Asian arrivals.


Archive records show the presence of a Thai male slave by the name of Achilles of Siam in Cape Town in 1759. Another record for Cape Town shows a Thai female slave by the name of Leonora of Siam in 1790. The Thai first names were changed by slave traders when they found difficulty pronouncing Thai names.

But other indicators suggest that Thai and other South East Asian slaves were amongst the earliest slaves in the Cape during the period 1652 until 1710. Slaves were also taken from Arakan (Rhakine in Myanmar) and Tonkin (Vietnam). A man by the name of Soutanij of Burma is recorded for 1706. Today in the 21st century Thai people often comment on how some Coloured people in Cape Town look like Thai people. Now you know why!

The great Buddhist temple at Borobudur in Indonesia further shows a bass relief of an East Asian ship doing a voyage around the tip of Africa as early as the 8th century, so one cannot rule out the possibility of even earlier linkages.

Cape Town has a very old relationship to Thailand and the two main linkages are ‘SLAVERY’ and the ‘DUTCH UNITED EAST INDIA COMPANY’(VOC) which had a commercial factory in Ayatthuya. Both slavery and the VOC were the dominant forces in Cape Town which was the half-way station for the 65 European ships per year that were doing trade with the Kingdom of Ayatthuya.

Thailand loosely translated means ‘the land of the FREE’ and this has great significance to the descendants of slaves in the Western Cape Province of South Africa where around 65% of the people have slave ancestors including from South East Asia, India, the Indonesian Archipelago, Madagascar and Africa. Over 71 000 slaves were brought to Cape Town from 1652 through to the mid 19th century. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of slaves imported into Cape Town were all born into slavery.

Although formal slavery was abolished and gradually phased out over 20 years after 1834, South Africa would only, after the resistance struggle against Apartheid, become the ‘Land of the FREE’ after 1994 under our great President Nelson Mandela.

Old Siam and the Kingdom of Ayatthuya was a kingdom where many people were slaves and were not free. This changed under the great progressive and beloved King Chulalongkorn Rama V, the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, transformed the face of Siam by abolishing slavery leading to the emergence of Thailand – the land of the FREE.

Slavery was so entrenched in Thailand that by 1867 over one third of the population of Siam, were slaves. Some of these slaves were taken to Cape Town. In 1874 King Rama V enacted a law that began a process taking over 30 years that led to the Slave Abolition Act passed in 1905. Sometime after the death of King Rama V, the broader reforms which he started were continued by the nationalist military officer Luang Phibunsongkhram who in 1939 renamed Siam as Thailand.

The links between Thailand and South Africa go back to 1602 when the Dutch United East India Company (VOC) was formed as the first modern joint stock company monopolizing trade with Asia.

By 1619 the VOC founded the powerful city-state of Batavia (Jakarta) as the center of the company’s interests in Asia, South East Asia and Indonesia with a Governor-General appointed to govern all Dutch interests and settlements from Cape Town to Ayatthuya in Siam and Deshime in Japan, as well as over the entire islands of the Indonesian Archipelago. These were the beginnings of the ties that bind Thailand and Cape Town in South Africa.

The Siamese Kingdom of Ayatthuya remained a strong and free Kingdom which the Dutch were not able to control but they were allowed to set up a factory and trading station by the King of Siam. King Ekathotsarot had sent a delegation to the Dutch State in 1605 and as a result a Dutch VOC factory was established in Ayatthuya and Dutch shipping frequently stopped off there in great numbers.

These ships and the trade with Ayatthuya were regularly serviced by the vital Dutch half-way station at Cape Town under the VOC administration based at Fort de Goede Hoop from 1652.

The Dutch settlement at the Cape desperately required slaves to build Cape Town and work on its farms so India, South East Asia and the Indonesian islands became a major source for over 30 000 slaves sent to Cape Town including skilled artisans. This is the background as to why Thai people and people from Myanmar, Bengal, India and Indonesia came to Cape Town in South Africa.

Along with these people came the mixture of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, as well as Reusi, Dukun and other Shaminist faith traditions that collectively influenced religious belief in Cape Town, as well as, cooking traditions, use of spices and rice, and other cultural practices.

This is the true story of the deep roots of heritage ties between Thailand and South Africa and how we share blood ties.

The Maroons in our Heritage – The “Drosters of the Cape”

The term “Maroon” derives from the Spanish cimarrón meaning “fugitive, runaway”, and literally “living on mountaintops”; from the Spanish word cima: “top, summit”. In colonial societies based on slavery the Maroon phenomenon can be seen worldwide, where fugitives from colonial tyranny upped and left to establish fugitive communities far from the reach of the colonial authorities. These Maroon communities made up of fugitive slaves, indigenes, Free Blacks, escaped convicts and rebel Europeans often thrived and prospered.

Cecil le Fleur

In the Cape the earliest Maroon community in fact developed in pre-colonial times, but as a result of the passing shipping, doing stop-overs in Table Bay, in the two centuries before 1652. Those Marooned Khoena who were from various nomadic clans who visited Table Bay, but who left their clans for various reasons and lingered on permanently around the Camissa river mouth and seashore to conduct trade with these ships, became known as the Goringhaicona (lit. lost children of the Goringhaiqua).

But most Maroons at the Cape were fugitive slaves, Free Blacks, escaped convicts and rebel Europeans who moved far away. The first Maroons were noted as fleeing to hideaways on Table Mountain where their cooking fires could be seen as dots of light all over the mountainside at night. The two most famous getaways were Cape Hangklip community and much further way – the Gariep River communities, but there were many more. The Eastern Cape Rharhabe King Ngqaika also gave refuge to Maroons.

At the Cape there was a local term for Maroons. They were collectively called “Drosters” and the Drosters are a major part of our history and heritage. Again, this part of a hidden history and heritage which deserves greater recognition and exposure. The most famous of the Droster communities in fact were the first to establish what was effectively a proto ‘Coloured’ nation and nation-state, and formally independent territory – before the Boer Republics – the Griquas and Griquawaland. The various Droster Bergenaar Baster communities came into coalition, dropped the derogatory term Baster, renamed themselves by part using an old clan name associated with the first Adam Kok’s royal Gagariqua wife and launched the Griquas with their own constitutional framework. They went on to adopt all the trappings of state including coinage and stamps, and an independent Griqua church, before this prosperous and coherent community were sold out by the British in an appeasement process to the Boers of the Free State. A later attempt to establish an East Griqualand revived state was crushed, Europeanized and after the rebels were rounded up for sedition and leader Cecil le Fleur incarcerated at the Breakwater prison in the Waterfront – the bulk of the Diaspora community were dispersed across the Western Cape.

There are so many different, interesting and complex stories of Maroon or Droster communities that are a part of our heritage that it is not possible for a short FB posting to cover. In some cases entire communities of Khoena, such as the Goringhaiqua and the from the Cape Peninsula and West Coast upped and left as fugitives from the colony to form fugitive communities such as the Korana and the Witboois at the Gariep River. Others formed fearsome horseback riding nomadic clans such as the Orlams Afrikaners, the original Afrikaner proto national group who were people of colour. These preceded the adoption by the Boers of the term “Afrikaner” more than a century and a half earlier. Fierce rivalry developed between different Maroon communities such as the Springboks, Orlams Afrikaners, Witboois, Bergenaar Basters, Korana and others, all of whom kept livestock and hunted along the vast expanses of our own Wild West. Our historians became so bogged down and besotted with the fortunes of British conquest on the Eastern frontier that the evolution of communities of colour on the wide and inhospitable West of South Africa remained largely ignored.

Maroons from three origins in the Eastern Cape are also a big part of our history and heritage. Firstly Maroons like Coenrad de Buys give us a fascinating insight into rebel trek-Boers who made common cause with, and assimilated into, communities of Colour. Coenrad was a tall Boer who took wives who were slaves, Khoena, amaXhosa and from every people that his wandering life led him to engage with. The de Buys clan today numbers many, many thousands. Maroons like Herman Matroos assimilated into Khoena and amaXhosa communities and rose to be a major resistance leader in the frontier wars. This was one wave of Maroons from the Cape Colony. Then there Maroons from the inter-kingdom conflicts amongst the various Eastern Cape Nguni groups and also thirdly the Maroons from the British conducted wars of conquest and genocide in the Eastern Cape. Many of these also joined the Maroon communities on the Gariep, particularly the Griquas.

Additionally there was another completely different type of Maroon. Those marooned shipwreck survivours on the wild coast who over century were taken in by various local communities in the Eastern Cape. These were European and Asian shipwreck survivours who were given hospitality and continued for the rest of their days totally cut off from other Europeans. They married into various Eastern Cape kingdoms and indeed some, like the shipwrecked British girl, Bessie, grew up and married into the Tshomane royal family. Clans like the amaMolo and abeLungu and others are rooted in these relationships. This aspect of our history and heritage is subject of a great book by Hazel Crampton – The Sunburnt Queen. More about the Gariep frontiers communities can be read in Nigel Penn’s outstanding book on the subject – The Forgotten Frontier.

Amongst the seven tributaries to our heritage and identity, that of the “Maroons” also known as “Drosters” is perhaps the least explored. It is the arena in which the indigene Khoena people embraced and gave refuge to others and provided the binding cement and cohesion for survival and indeed prosperity. This was a cornerstone in the emergence of a distinguishable set of communities who were labelled ‘Coloured’ by the successive British administrations.

*PICTURE: East Griqua Kaptein Cecil le Fleur and his resisters after their arrest for sedition in 1897.

Using the ‘Seven Steps of District Six’ symbolically to explain the Seven tributaries to Cape Identity

To anyone who has had an association with old District Six, the very mention of the ‘Seven Steps’ immortalized in Taliep Petersen’s musical ‘District Six’, stirs up deep emotions. The Seven Steps of stone, worn by the thousands who used these over the years, to work, to home, to school, to play, to ‘bok’, to church, to mosque, to shop, to celebrate and to mourn, were part of the great big soul of the district. Today, so many years after its destruction, the Seven Steps stands out as the premier symbol of District Six. The District Six museum, for instance, has the ‘Seven Steps’ as an integral part of its brand and logo. And who can forget how the ‘Seven Steps’ feature in Taliep Petersen and David Kramer’s ‘District Six – The Musical’.



District Six became Cape Town’s own Harlem on the edge of the city and had its roots as one of the first settlements of freed urban slaves after emancipation. Further back, its community are the manifestation of the Camissa footprint – The Khoena Goringhaicona community who opened their arms to embrace the uprooted slaves when these fled their captors.

The seven stone steps standing in the heart of District Six became one of those enduring symbols of District Six that still lives in the hearts of all who lived, loved, played and worked in the ‘District’. The Seven Steps became a powerful representation of popular memory and the continuation of the Camissa footprint.

The physical District Six is lost somewhere on the patch of earth and grass that has remained like a gash on the body of our city. The District Six Museum is custodian of some of the old blocks of stone – the steps, and some of the pictures, paintings, street signs, writings and artefacts that exist, but the greatest legacy symbolised by the Seven Steps is etched in our hearts and is in fact part of who we are. The spirit and identity of District Six lives on in its people.

Those seven stone steps in the heart of old District Six holds a special meaning and it is a powerful symbol of the heritage of Cape Town. The Seven Steps speaks of the ‘Seven Roots that inform identity’ in the Cape.

Historical and DNA studies show that a fair number of people of the Cape from all population groups share two or three of seven tributaries to Cape identities, while most have four or more of these roots. Some may even have all of these roots. There is at least one of these roots in everyone in Cape Town and even the most recent to join us in this city and province has a place within the framework of the symbolic seven roots that draws on the imagery of the ’Seven Steps’ of stone.

Everyone had a place in old District Six and the Seven Steps stands out as a powerful symbol of diversity and inclusivity in the Cape. The Seven Steps symbolically illustrate the seven tributaries of our collective or community heritage. In applying the symbolism of the Seven Steps to our heritage, each STEP represents a root tributary to Cape identity as follows:

The first step represents the tributary of the INDIGENES. The people of the Cape have strong African roots. The San, Khoena and amaXhosa of the Cape and the baSotho and baTswana in western and northern reaches of the old demarcated Cape Colony are the first tributary of Cape identity.

The people of the Cape, including those labelled ‘Coloured’, who are sometimes referred to erroneously by some – as being non-African, have deep indigenous African roots with a number of traditional indigene African communities, sharing ancestors and many elements of cultural heritage. A very strong tributary in ‘Coloured’ ancestry are the Khoena and San who are the root peoples of Southern, South Western and Eastern Africa. Despite the devastating smallpox epidemics of the 1700s and the genocide massacres of San, both of which drastically reduced these populations, small communities remain to this day and are proud of their lineage. Like many in communities labelled ‘Coloured’, the baSotho, baTswana and amaZulu also share a part Khoena and San heritage, as do the amaXhosa. The Griqua, Nama, Korana, Cape Khoena and the San however represent the surviving direct indigene heritage.

History shows us that communities such as those referred to as amaXhosa today, share San, Khoena, Asian and even European ancestors with ‘Coloured’ communities. There is a strong cousin-connection across ethno-social boundaries in the Cape. The southern Xhosa groups are in fact mixed Khoena-Nguni people and even way up in the north of the Eastern Cape it is well proven that particularly in royal lineages of the amaXhosa groups, San, Khoena and amaXhosa intermarriage was common-place. A number of amaXhosa groups and clans also intermarried with castaway Europeans and Asians, shipwrecked from the early 1500s through to the early 1800s. Later during the time of Scots, German and English settlement in the Eastern Cape further intermarriages and relationships occurred too. In the 1700s and 1800s escaped slaves, non-conformist Boers and other whites took refuge amongst the Xhosa and assimilated into amaXhosa society. The most famous of these was the Boer Coenrad de Buys who had as his wife amongst his many others, Chief Gaika’s mother. One amaXhosa clan that emerged from a mid-1800s relationship between a Xhosa woman and Scotsman were the Skotjes. The abeLungu and amaMolo amongst other clans have similar roots involving European and Asian shipwreck survivours.

It is also important to note that the San were not simply a people associated with the Western Cape as is often erroneously projected. Evidence of San habitat shows that the San existed in communities all the way up to Tanzania, right through Zimbabwe and Zambia, and right through Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Lesotho and Swaziland. While just a few San communities exist under difficult conditions in some of these countries today, San ancestry exists also within many other population groups of all of these territories and this heritage ought to be celebrated.

Khoena history and heritage is fairly well-recorded, yet few South Africans are familiar with this history and its inspiring historical characters. In the Cape we are challenged to draw away the curtain that has been imposed on our Khoena heritage and embrace its richness. There are many descendants of the Khoena who today are locked into ‘Coloured’, ‘Black’ and ‘White’ race silos which do not celebrate this heritage.

However today there are also many people who are once more expressing their pride in their Khoena, San and other indigene African heritage. Our national coat of arms declares for the world to know, in old Khoena-San script that we pride ourselves in being united in our diversity.

The second step represents the tributary of the SLAVES. We are the descendants of Slaves from other parts of Africa and Madagascar, from India and from the Indonesian Islands, and China. Over the period 1653 – 1808, according to calculations done by Dr Shell, over 63 000 slaves were brought to the Cape from these areas and from 1808 – 1856 around another 12 000 African slaves arrived as Royal Navy ‘prize slaves’ also known as ‘Liberated Africans’..

Over most of the 1700s the slave population recorded in successive census in the colony showed that slaves and Free Blacks, imported and locally born, made up a majority in the Western Cape population. After the smallpox epidemics the Khoena population numbers in the Western Cape dropped drastically.

The breakdown of origins of slaves shows that over the entire slavery period, first generation slaves numbering plus-minus over 45 000 came from Africa, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Mauritius and the Mascarenes; then around 17 000 slaves came from India, and around 13 000 from the Indonesian islands and elsewhere. The locally born children and successive grandchildren of these slaves were all to lead lives of slavery until emancipation in 1834. (* Note that in this rough aggregation with the first numeric the prize captives brought in between 1808 – 1856 are added to the 1808 total of African, Malagasy and island slaves.)

Emancipation announced in 1834 practically took place only in 1838 as a result of a compulsory apprenticeship imposed on slaves for four years. But for many ‘Prize Slaves’ emancipation only came in dribs and drabs right through to 1870 as a result of a compulsory 14 year indentureship that had to be completed before full freedom was attained. The very last slaves, the Oromo from Abysinnia, arrived in the Cape via Yemen, as late as 1890. They were settled at Lovedale mission as they were mainly children. On graduating most of the survivors integrated amongst amaXhosa and Coloured communities while some took advantage of offers to be repatriated to their homeland. These facts should cause people to think carefully before labelling others as ‘Makwerekwere’ as it is highly likely that the people who think they are a ‘pure’ local creation may be of migrant roots themselves.

Slavery accounts for a very large part of Cape ancestral roots. It is primarily a major part of the heritage of those who were labelled ‘Coloured’, but slavery also is a significant part of the family heritage of indigene Africans, Indian South Africans and even of some of European descent.. The historical experience of slavery and struggles within this arena is a major part of what defines the heritage of people who were labelled ‘Coloured’. The historical experience is also a feature of many others. There are many ties that bind us as South Africans within the parameters of this approach to our heritage.

It should be noted that many San children captured after the genocide raids by Cape settler and Khoena commandos were also made de facto slaves on farms. After Adam Tas and Henning Huising’s infamous petition for segregation and control measures to be imposed on the Khoena, thousands of Khoena were forced into becoming apprentices on farms and led lives not too different from that of slaves. As early as 1708, pass laws were introduced to control the freedom of movement of slaves and Khoena and these were tightened up in 1753. The Khoena also integrated into relationships with slaves of which new generations of children with dual roots were born. Evidence also exists of other indigene South African groups, including the amaZulu, being enslaved and brought to the Cape. Our discourse on slavery in the Cape and in South Africa in general has to some extent been straight-jacketed by academic protocols that were deeply influenced by the colonial narrative and are yet to be shaken off. Frontier slavery is generally still disaggregated from the slavery narrative in South Africa. The numbers of slaves that we used in discourse is highly influenced by this disaggregation. Slavery narratives also tend to suggest that slavery was simply a Western Cape practice which is also not true. Slavery existed in the Eastern and Northern Cape and also outside of the Cape Colony in the emerging Boer states. South Africans also, although in modest numbers, ended up as slaves and banished individuals abroad.

The heritage of the slave era is not just that of enslavement, but that of the many cultural tributaries that entered the Cape through slavery. It is also about resistance by slaves to slavery and about the emergence of Creole communities and what I call the Camissa footprint that occurred at the Cape. It is in the words of author, Alan Mountain – An ‘Unsung Heritage’. I would say that it is also often a misunderstood heritage amongst the people of the Cape. It is often a heritage distorted by colonial romanticism and the constructed identity of ‘Malayisation’ to reflect only one small part of the cultural roots of slaves.

Step three represents the tributary of the FREE BLACKS. We are descendants of the Free Blacks of the Cape – a category of people that once were poised to be a socio-economic group to be reckoned with in early Cape development, but later for a number of reasons became powerless. Early Mardijker soldiers from Ambonya in the employ of the VOC, Free Black travellers, soldiers and sailors, the manumitted slaves, and freed black convicts all became part of those referred to as Free Blacks.

Many Khoena people outside of the apprentice system, and particularly those born of relationships with slaves and Europeans were also seen as Free Blacks. The terms ‘Free Black’, ‘Afrikaners’, ‘Hotnot Afrikaners’ and ‘Orlams Afrikaners’ were the first terms used as labels or self-labels for people who the British later labelled as ‘Coloured’. The term ‘Afrikaner’ only much later was adopted by the Dutch Boers when they constructed a coherent social and political identity. Today words like ‘Afrikaner’ and ‘Black’ have a totally different application.

Free Blacks were an important part of the story of the first establishment of the VOC station at the Cape. The van Riebeeck story over time had its own distortions, particularly that of not mentioning the black component of his first settler group. The regiment of soldiers that backed Jan van Riebeeck’s settlement were largely from the island of Ambonya or Ambon in the Indonesian archipelago. Ambonya was an important colonial station in the East Indies and had been first conquered and Catholicised by the Portuguese. Then when the Dutch overthrew the Portuguese, Catholic influence was dissuaded and the Dutch Reformed Church became the church of conversion. Small elements of Islam and larger elements of Shamanism also existed alongside Christian influences. Eastern Shamanism – that of Dukun (later referred to as Doekum) includes elements of Hinduism and of Animism. It was here amongst the Mardijkers that Jan van Riebeeck recruited his trained soldiers loyal to the VOC. A number of Mardijkers were even sent to the Netherlands for education, particularly in Protestant theology.

The Free Black or Vrye Zwarte population in the Cape grew as other free people of colour arrived on ships, including company employees, and banished convicts who were later freed, and economic migrants particularly ‘Passenger Indians’ from the Indian sub-continent. As the practice of manumission of slaves grew, particularly for Christianised slaves, many Free Blacks became pioneering burghers who established some of the famous farms that still exist today. Many intermarried with European settlers. Before the great smallpox epidemic of 1713 some of the wealthiest people at the Cape were Free Blacks. Zwarte Maria Evert, the daughter of two West African slaves was the first title deed owner of land in CampsBay and died a very wealthy woman in that fateful year.

This still poorly studied tributary of our Cape ancestral heritage, which crosses all present day ethnic boundaries, is an important part of the ties that bind us as South Africans. The story of the Free Blacks also paints a very different picture of the first fifty years of the Cape Colony which was a highly integrated society where colour and notions of race played an insignificant role. A strong mixed society characterised the first settlement. It begs the question – what occurred to change this?

Step four represents the tributary of the EUROPEANS. We are descendants of a range of Europeans. These European settlers in the early years of settlement often formally intermarried with, or had children with Indigenes, Slaves and Free Blacks. Many owed no strong allegiance to the VOC nor their countries of origin, nor the Church and were rebels and non-conformists.

The first European settlement did not occur in 1652 as is popularly portrayed, but occurred in 1614 when the British landed a group of Newgate convicts at the Cape and left them to set up a settlement. It was short-lived, but significantly there were no women in Captain Crosse’s group. This settler group soon came into conflict with the Khoena. In fact there was over 180 years of European interaction with the Khoena before the 1652 settlement of the Dutch. These interactions cannot be discounted in evaluating our roots as children would have been born through the interactions particularly during the early 1600s when the maroon Khoena group, the Goringhaicona established the foundations of a trading station at Camissa. This was the true foundation period of the City of Cape Town.

In the early founding years of the CapeSettlement, the mainly German, Dutch, Swiss, Portuguese, French and Scandinavian travelers and settlers were largely male and took partners from amongst people of colour. The early VOC ‘Dutch’ settlement was much less Dutch than what popular historical narratives portray. The VOC was the first multi-national capitalist company in both its make-up and its reach. The Germans stand out from the other Europeans as those who most often intermarried with slaves and indigenes. Many Europeans were also transient and never settled in the colony but left children behind. The earliest European settlers, unlike the stories often projected, were not refined religious gentry but rather were a coarse mercenary rag-tag bunch of people. The strong feature of formal marriages across colour lines in the official records shows that ‘rape and abuse’ of indigenes and slaves cannot be the only yardstick used in evaluating early human relations in the colony. Though van Riebeeck is recorded for a while as promoting an unofficial policy of ‘fructification’ of slaves, according to historian Upham Mansell.

There were always non-conformist Europeans in the colony, across the centuries that had children with black partners and this carried on when the English, Irish, Scots and new generations of Germans arrived in large numbers in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in the 1800s. Missionaries in particular were noted for intermarriages with freed slaves and Khoena. Intermarriages and relationships are often reduced to have occurred only between Khoena indigenes, slaves and Europeans as a result of denialism of Nguni-Sotho roots amongst people categorised as ‘Coloured’. But many children were also born of Europeans and those referred to as ‘Bantu’ peoples.

The Europeans settled and made their homes in Africa as a distinct settler community, but their bloodlines can also be found amongst indigene groups and ‘Coloured’ or communities, as much as indigene and ‘Coloured’ bloodlines can be found in the descendent European communities. This factor has not always been celebrated and was in fact suppressed as something shameful under Apartheid. But with the advent of the new democratic South Africa, post-Apartheid, many who previously denied this heritage are rejecting the race-based paradigm of the crude ‘white’ identity definition and are exploring these other roots. These people find the label ‘White’ to be objectionable as they embrace their African identity with pride. Many are now exploring the history of non-conformist Euro-Africans as their own heritage reference point.

The colonial history script and narrative is a dominating one. But even in the history and heritage of European settlers there is an alternative story of non-conformists. These stories have always had to play second fiddle to that of the dominant classes. European involvement in our history and heritage precedes the settlement of Jan van Riebeeck by 180 years, yet the 1652 date continuously screams out at us. Generations of youth never hear about the settlers who defied the successive colonial administrations and lived their whole lives in indigene controlled areas, intermarried and had children. There are many amazing stories in this muted narrative that are waiting to be brought out into mainstream discourse.

There are also later migrations of Portuguese, Madeirans, Eastern European Jews, and seamen from a host of countries who migrated to the Cape or jumped ship. Many of these were non-conformists who integrated across the colour lines. A number of the so-called ‘Dutch’ from Batavia (Jakarta) were also the product of mixed relationships in that highly integrated society too.

Step five represents the tributary of the MAROONS or DROSTERS. We are descendants of runaway slaves, Free Black rebels, so-called ‘Baster’ descendants of relationships between indigenes and slaves, non-conformist Europeans, escaped convicts, and eccentric missionaries. The local name for Maroons was Drosters, meaning drifters or runaways.

This array of people became the first freedom-trekkers who moved as far away as possible from the reaches of the colonial government, long before the Boer Great Trek. They moved to the long wild territory along the Gariep River in the north-west, and stretching to the lands of the amaXhosa in the east.

Here in South Africa’s ‘Wild West’ these Drosters or Maroons mixed with Khoena, San, Nama, Xhosa and other indigenes and formed new proto national groups such as the Korana, Orlams Afrikaners, the Witboois, the Bergenaar Basters, the Springboks, and the Griquas of the Kok dynasty, Barends dynasty and that of the Waterboer family. Others joined the amaXhosa armies and joined the resistance toward both the Boers and later the British. One Droster, the Boer, Coenrad de Buys, took wives from almost every community from the Cape to the northern reaches of South Africa and built a huge diverse African clan. His grandchildren numbered in the thousands.

Maroon communities were the first forerunner roots of the modern South African nation formation that took place, making up the ‘Unity in Diversity’ theme. The South African history that we learnt at school is preoccupied with the South and East while ignoring the Wild West which has a fascinating history of peoples creating new proto-national groups.

Within this heritage framework the Griquas, Koranas and the Witbooi Namas have fascinating histories which continued up to current times. The Orlams Afrikaners over 150 years also have an amazing history that had impacts in South Africa and Namibia. These heritages simply got dumped under the umbrella label of ‘Coloured’ under Apartheid.

Step six represents the tributary of the EXILES & REFUGEES. We are the descendants of outspoken rebel fighters and political leaders who challenged the Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish in various territories in Indonesia and Polynesia.

Indonesian Muslim resistance leaders were tried and banished into exile at the Cape; Peranakan Chinese, the Creole Chinese of Batavia were banished to the Cape after the Chinese resistance followed the massacres of 5000 Chinese by the Dutch in Batavia; and Philippine refugees from the Philippine Revolution – locally known as the Manillas, landed up at different times in the Cape and integrated into what was later labelled the ‘Coloured’ population. In later years, to this day, new exile and refugee groups would continue to trickle into the Cape, make this place their home and integrate with other communities.

Exiles and refugees made a huge impact on our society as they often were an intelligentsia class of people embracing the cutting-edge ideas of their time.

Those exiles of the Muslim resistance in Indonesia, through their missionary work amongst slaves in the Cape, were the fathers of the Islamic faith which thrives in South Africa today. Most slaves were originally not Muslim and embraced a range of belief systems including Animism, Shamanist Dukun, Hinduism, Bhuddism, Catholicism and syncretic belief systems combining these. The latter is generally known as Vodoun or Santeria in the Caribbean and is found in all slave societies around the world. The Christianising of slaves was unpopular amongst slave owners as it meant that slaves had a right to be free after 20 years, and thus until the advent of emancipation, Christian missionary work amongst slaves was largely dormant. Around 1825 a sudden rush to Christianise slaves occurred and in 1834 there was a mad rush of missionary activity resulting in many mass baptism ceremonies. Although Islam was formally suppressed until 1804, the clandestine missionary work amongst slaves, first initiated by the exiles, bore much fruit, as it offered slaves a sense of identity, dignity and cohesion. Dukun shamanism continued as a subculture and remained small and largely underground hidden amongst Muslims and Christians.

The Chinese presence in the Cape goes way back to the 1600s. The large Creole Chinese population in Batavia resulted in Chinese Free Blacks, Batavia convicts and Chinese slaves trickling into the Cape. In the mid-1700s after the massacre of Peranakan Chinese in Batavia some of these were exiled to the Cape where they left us a record of their lives. The history of Chinese South Africans is often overlooked and Chinese South Africans are presented as aliens – yet are no more alien than others. Much of these early Chinese migrants integrated into the population labelled as ‘Coloured’. There are at least a dozen old Chinese names which were transformed to Dutch or Anglicized versions over time.

Many families can trace back to refugee groups like the Manillas yet this heritage has been erased from our local history. Largely as a result of the string of mini revolts against the Spanish in the Philippines ultimately leading to a full blown revolution, a migration of Filipinos arrived in the Cape from the Filipino refugee diaspora and settled in KalkBay. A man by the name of Felix Florez was the leader of this community who arrived in 1863. Other names some of which exist to this day include Torrez, de Marcio, de la Varcia, de la Cruz, Hermeningildo, Gella, Citto, Granz, Manuel, Santiago, Fernandez, Eripe, Menor, Quimpo, Padua, Croza, Teyarda, Almano, Pasqual, Franco and Almote. Some of these names became Anglicized and Hollandized over time.

Unfortunately anything that was not European just was not allowed to feature in public memory as anything of significance. Thus many rich features of our diverse heritage were blotted out.

Step seven represents the tributary of the INDENTURES & MIGRANTS. We are descendants of a range of people who were brought to the Cape as indentured labourers or who were economic migrants. After slavery was formally ended at the Cape, there was a crisis in the economy and new sources of cheap labour had to be found quickly.

As a stop-gap measure, slaves captured off slaver ships as bounty became the first solution to the labour problem. These first ‘Prize Boys’ and ‘Prize Girls’ or ‘Liberated Africans’ were forced to accept indentureship as labourers for up to 14 years before they would actually have their freedom. For them emancipation and ‘1 December’ had little meaning. Many were just children. White farmers would continue to call them ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ way into their adulthood for the rest of their lives.

Farmers followed up by importing indentured labour from the Congo, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique. Most of these ‘Indentures’ were settled in the Drakenstein and integrated with both the ‘Coloured’ communities and the amaXhosa who were working in the district since the early 1700s. The Indentures together with the African slaves, account for the high sub-Sahara African or Bantu DNA amongst ‘Coloured’ people today. Many of these migrants were in fact trafficked people who served out there lives as exploited labour to replace formal slavery. This kind of trafficking continues to this day and labour brokers replace slave traders. Amongst this category are women trafficked into sex-slavery.

Already many of the freed slaves in the Drakenstein were those from Southern East Africa known locally as the Mazbiekers. The Mazbieker pool grew as indentureship of further labour imported from Mozambique was continually extended over the 19th century. Slaves of Zambian, Congo, Malawian, Zimbabwean, Tanzanian and Mozambique origin were all part of those labelled Mazbiekers. These nationalities are a major part of ‘Coloured’ and ‘amaXhosa’ family trees today.

From the 1840s and increasing in the 1870s right through to 1910 and beyond, large groups of people were brought in as indentured servants from St Helena. The ‘Saints’ as they were known were also descendants of slaves, Chinese and British settlers on the island of St Helena which had previously been uninhabited. The Cape and Natal became an attractive new home when the St Helena economy was under strain. Some of the ‘Saints’ integrated into ‘white’ society, but most merged into the population labelled as ‘Coloured’, and were so classified under Apartheid. Immigrant Saints numbered between 8 000 to 10 000 over a long period.

While distorted South African history tends to project that the first Indians to arrive were the indentured labourers and passenger Indians of Natal in the 1860s, these were the 4th and 5th waves of Indian immigrants. The first Indians were those brought to the Cape as slaves from the 17th century. This was followed by the 18th century Free Black Indians who came to the Cape of their own accord, and then followed by the early 19th century Passenger Indians who came to the Cape as economic migrants before the Natal Colony was even formed. Indian Lascars were also shipwrecked on the Eastern Cape Coast and integrated into the amaXhosa.

In 1890 the Oromo North African slaves (Abyssinia)) seized from a slaver ship were taken to the Royal Navy depot at Yemen and then brought to the Cape. These were 64 children who also integrated into ‘Coloured’ and amaXhosa communities when they graduated from Lovedale mission.

Also amongst the migrants were West Africans of the Kru tribe who had been employed by the Royal Navy in Simonstown for almost a century (1830 – 1930). These Kroomen as they were locally known also integrated into the Coloured community. Their grave markers can still be seen in Simonstown today. In the late 1800s the Royal Navy began recruiting Zanzibari Siddis and other Siddis from displaced African communities scattered along the African and Indian coasts. The Siddis like the Kru also integrated into Cape society. Some settled in District Six after they arrived to supplement the labour crisis of 1884 and were housed in the municipal stables.

Jewish economic migrants and refugees from the East European pogroms also came to Cape Town in large numbers and many settled in and around District Six, making a huge impact. Some intermarried with local ‘Coloured’ partners – a fact suppressed in today’s Jewish Community and also unacknowledged in ‘Coloured’ communities.

Migrants and other infusions into the Cape society carry on to this day. Through our sea ports, relationships between South African women with first Japanese and then Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and other seaman of many nations have produced children who are part of our population. Economic migrants and refugees from other African countries still arrive daily and take their place among us as they always have. Migrants arrive continuously from China, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere to this day. Each of these groups have a story to tell that one day a South African child will want to know when exploring their roots. (I am presently compiling the story of the Thai infusion for future generations). Today the world is divided into sending and receiving countries in terms of migration. Sending countries receive remittances from their nationals abroad and whole countries are often sustained from these remittances. Their nationals are often temporary sojourners in receiving countries such as ours – but most often relationships develop and children are born. It’s natural that this happens and in this manner our genetic enrichment continues.

District Six was a key centre that became a microcosm manifestation of the coming together of all of these tributaries and the creolisation of cultures that gave us the rich and diverse locally born Cape African Creole heritage – the Camissa footprint crudely labelled ‘Coloured’ – that we celebrate today. The Seven Steps is thus a most appropriate symbol for explaining our Cape heritage as it captures symbolically these seven broad tributaries. It is a great pity that many people labelled as ‘Coloured’ are ashamed and in denial about their diverse roots. People are also particularly in denial of their indigenous African root culture – that of the Khoena and the San who were inclusive and embracing as a people (even although it was largely their vulnerability which was exploited).

The Cape Flats and other areas continue to offer a home for new arrivals in our society. This openness is an integral part of our Cape Camissa tradition. Other South Africans from across the length and breadth of the country have also migrated to make their homes in the Western and other areas of the Cape, even as people from the Western Cape have travelled all over South Africa to make their homes elsewhere. Furthermore the people of the Cape have travelled and settled in Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ghana and further afield – taking the Camissa footprint with them. This diaspora is the nature of modern life which was dramatically kick-started by the slave trade.

The Seven Steps explained here celebrates the ‘ties that bind us’ as South Africans and it highlights the complex Creolisation that took place at the Cape to produce a community identity rooted in the indigenous Khoena and the slaves – uprooted from their original homes – that the Khoena took to their bosoms. Instead of us perpetuating the race terminology of ‘Coloured’ we are offered through an understanding of these different threads that make up our collective heritage, a different way of seeing ourselves, no matter which sub-community you affiliate with today. For those labelled ‘Coloured’ we do not have to perpetuate this race term as our identity. We are a locally born African people – a local creation born of the wonderful Camissa footprint in history.

We should be proudly the Camissa. A celebration of this collective heritage goes way beyond understanding the roots of people labelled ‘Coloured’. It shows us how linked we are as South Africans across so-called race and ethnic boundaries. I have used the ‘Seven Steps’ tool successfully in many workshops with young people in Cape Town to promote an understanding of our diversity and the ties that bind us as South Africans. The symbolism of the Seven Steps of District six offers future generations a clear reference point for explaining our community roots.

“En wie is djulle?” “Os is die mense vannie trappe. Os is die Camissa mense.”