HERITAGE DAY 2016: Migrants of Colour who crossed the Cape Shoreline Frontier – Forced or Voluntary

cropped-kaggen-music-culture-trust-e1472116180809HERITAGE DAY 2016 – I have written extensively about our indigene roots in previous posts. Here I want to focus on another dimension of our heritage that receives less attention in public discourse. On Heritage Day 2016 Camissapeople Blogsite has joined in a partnership with THE KAGGEN MUSIC & CULTURE TRUST so that together we can bring and foster greater understanding of our hidden history and heritage. You are able to link through to the trust by clicking on its icon.


Lydia Williams was born to Mazbieker slave parents and was 14 years old when emancipation from slavery was declared. She associated with St Phillips Anglican Church in Chapel Street and with the Cowley fathers and dedicated herself to counseling the many traumatised freed slaves over the rest of her life. She died at the age of 90 at her little home and prayer centre which like everything else in District Six was demolished.

In proceeding let me first say that the best way in which we can celebrate heritage day is to end our pre-occupation with race, colour and ethnicity as pseudo reference-points for identity and to replace this focus with a heritage-experience focus in South Africa and move towards celebrating the ties that bind us. It is about time that the race-paradigm of silos of black, white, and coloured are put behind us. The narrow South Africa segregated ethnic notion of Indian likewise does not reflect the full spectrum of Asian heritage. All of these do not speak of heritage and are fundamental pillars of Apartheid which still govern our society in so many ways.

In saying this, less there be any misinterpretation, I am certainly not saying that we should bury our heads in the sand about the vicious racism in our history, the deeply painful experiences of all people of colour, and our valiant resistance which is also our heritage of rising above adversity. This memory however, must be fashioned into a tool that ensures these aberrations never happen again. In the 21st century, for many, there remains the reality of ‘black lives’, meaning ‘the black experience’ – a global experience and, the lives of people of colour still does not matter to many of our white fellow human beings. But this is no justification for perpetuating the pseudo-science of race, concepts of race-purity, race silos and the continuation of embedding the concept of race as a holy grail in our minds. None but ourselves can free our minds.

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Afro-Europeans have many sub-cultures based on a combination of European lineages – Dutch, British, French, German etc, and a variety experiences of being born and brought up in Africa over generations. Afro-Asians also have had different experiences of Africa over generations mixed with lineages going back to India, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and an array of Southeast Asian countries. This is heritage and not race and, it is within the creolisation experiences between all of these cultures that the South African tapestry emerges and, whereby we can celebrate our unity in diversity – as expressed on our national coat of arms. Ours is a complex modern society and nowhere on this planet has any good come of trying to suppress heritage – it is something to be celebrated. We cannot turn back the clock and, to borrow a distasteful expression – to ethnically purify our past. Indeed none of the modern social constructs in South Africa – and all are born in the modern era, are without the coming together of different streams. Variation in cultural heritage is enhancing and challenges us human beings to understand each other and the many dimensions that make up human complexity in all its beauty. No part of the whole can be cut off and discarded without injury to humankind.

In highlighting this fundamental truth about our society, where I sincerely believe that if we do not embrace it and jettison the race-silo nonsense and narrow ethnic-identity nonsense, my message is that we will never overthrow the racist monster which consumes us.

On this heritage day I want to caution against the twin of race division – an equally dangerous monster threatening to devour us. This is the misguided romanticism and championing of ethnic and tribal nationalism which has become more and more vogue over these unfortunate ‘Jacob Zuma years’ and has brought back some of the worst features of the Apartheid Bantustan era. I particularly caution those of us who celebrate our proud heritage of Khoena and San indigene culture, and those who celebrate our Camissa roots. I do believe that we can and should celebrate this precious heritage of ours, but without entertaining narrow ethnic and tribal nationalism. Along with this pernicious deviation, the Apartheid notion of ‘PURITY OF GROUP’ has again also become vogue. Most absurdly some even talk of being ‘Pure Coloured’ or ‘Pure Bruines’ and sound alarm bells about ‘CONTAMINATION’ and thus pit themselves against others. We can and must reject this approach as being equally destructive to our heritage as colonialism was and those who go down this root are courting further disaster for our heritage for the illusion of short-term gains.

Having said this – today I have chosen to celebrate heritage day to highlight as passionately as I do about our indigene Khoena and San roots – our other roots of ‘THE MIGRANTS OF COLOUR WHO CROSSED OUR SHORELINE FRONTIER UNDER FORCE SOMETIMES AND SOMETIMES VOLUNTARILY’. This is a huge part of who we are and to deny this past or to cut this aspect of our heritage off from ourselves will condemn us to perpetually question ourselves because the spirit and culture of these ancestors are deep within us, and manifest in so many ways.

I here not only talk of the slaves forced to come to our shores from other parts of Africa, India, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and China. I am also talking about those who were called the Mardijkers, the Peranakans, the Saints, the Manillas, the Mazbiekers, the Prize Slaves, the Indentures, the Kroomen, the Siddis, the Oromo, passengers of colour, the black diaspora from the US and the Caribbean – all of whom made their homes in the Cape before the 1910 Act of the Union of South Africa. Most are very ignorant of how big a part of our heritage and identity these tributaries and the numerical significance of the infusion of these tributaries.

The original Cape indigene population of over 100 000 had through a process of forced removal, war, genocide and to a much lesser extent, imported disease, been killed and chased out of the Cape Colony by the end of the 18th century to the north western frontier territories of the Gariep where they had to regroup under very difficult circumstances and integrated often with others. In 1805 the surviving Khoena in the colony, integrated with now grown San children who survived their parents extermination at the hands of commandos, and also with slaves of various origins were now referred to as the ‘Hottentot-Baster’ population and were only 20 000 strong in the census. Devastatingly colonial expansion through force of arms and ethnic cleansing had removed over 80 000 people by killing or by driving them from their traditional lands. Their rich herds of livestock generally regarded to have been in the region of 10 head of cattle to one person and twice as many sheep were stolen along with their grazing grounds.

Along with this clearing process, the Europeans forcibly brought into the Cape over the same period until 1807, a recorded 63 000 slaves, probably much more unrecorded. Then from 1807 to 1856 around 12 000 more prize slaves also probably more unrecorded. During the same period various other migrations of people of colour occurred, further increasing these figures by a probable 15 000 plus. This was followed post 1856 by various other migrations of people of colour going into many thousands. The vast majority of these migrants came from the African continent. This migration far outstripped European migration (even that of the 1820 settlers), in the same period and it clearly impacted dramatically on the people of colour in the Cape Colony and later the Natal Colony with spill-over into the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republic. This is as much an important part of the ancestral and cultural heritage of all people of colour as is that part of our heritage represented by our Indigene forebears. Indeed it was a vital component to the survival of Cape Indigenes that they embraced the migrants of colour, and important to the mental survival of the migrants that they in return embraced the Cape Indigenes.

This discussion in all its variant cameos is, to use a new popular term, the ‘MISSING MIDDLE’ in our story and getting to know this part of our ancestral continuum would certainly cause us to want to halt in our tracks on these dubious roads that some are trying to lead us down – in embracing Ethno-Nationalism.

The story is too long to handle in this short piece so I will just have to set aside going down too many cameo stories and stick to the main descriptions of the different migrant groupings. I encourage all to delve into their family trees and into the histories of each of these tributaries to our heritage make-up.

The story of slavery in our heritage involves three streams of people who were enslaved in far off lands and forcibly dragged across our shoreline-frontier to labour and use their skills under cruel conditions to develop this country – as did their generations of children and grandchildren. Within these three streams – African (approx. 58%), Indian (approx. 24%) and Southeast Asian (approx. 18%) there were people from a wide array of the modern countries we know today. Those from Africa initially came from two regions in West Africa and then largely from a range of East African countries and parts of some southern central African African countries and Madagascar. Those from the Indian sub-continent included India, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Those from Southeast Asia included people from Indonesia, Borneo, Formosa, Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Myanmar. These peoples, their creole descendants and cultures are a major part of our heritage. (creole simply means a new-creation or localy-born)

From before the time of Jan van Riebeeck and through the colonial years Mardijkers from Ambon and other sailors, soldiers, adventurers and economic migrants of colour who were then called ‘Free Blacks’ and largely came from Asia and other parts of Africa also voluntarily crossed the shoreline-frontier. These too became a tributary into our heritage. The year 1652 was not a magical date for engagement between our indigene forebears and external visitors including the Europeans. In the 52 years prior to van Riebeecks arrival over 1071 ships dropped anchor and more than 215 000 visitors passed through Table Bay. Like in all ports there was certainly human interaction and children were born from relationships of various sorts. From 1488 until 1600 there were also visitations. Prior to this indicators exist to show Phoenician and Indonesian visitations hundreds of years previously and Chinese visitations at least by 1421. Our heritage is not as cut and dried as some believe. (a word of caution however – recognition of this interaction does not mean support for supremacist ideas that attribute all signs of ‘civilisation’ in Africa being brought here by superior Dravidians or others).

Because of the huge impact of the Europeans, particularly the Dutch, across East Asia, and the wars they waged, they found it convenient to use the Cape of Good Hope as a place of banishment and punishment particularly for resisters and convicts. Two groups of resisters were targeted in the main. These were the Indonesian Muslim religious leaders and the Peranakan Chinese resisters from Batavia where the Dutch had carried out a huge massacre of middle-class creole Chinese. These exiles made a huge impact on our heritage. For instance the Indonesian exiles through their missionary work among local slaves laid the foundations of today’s Muslim community in South Africa.

St Helena Island shares a long history with South Africa through connections that go back to the 1620s. Like the Cape Colony the majority of its population were made up of slaves and indentured labour, alongside the European settlers – mainly English. There were no indigenes on the island. The slaves and indentured workers were from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and many from China. Significant numbers of St Helenians first came as part of the English armed forces in the two invasions at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Then later in the last decades of the 19th century and into the 20th century over a period of time the Saints, as they were to become known, came to the Cape and Natal as indentured labour. Many families share a heritage with the Saints.

The Mazbieker heritage stands out as the least talked about element of our heritage, yet it is one of the strongest in our lineages affecting many more people than want to acknowledge it. Mazbiekers flowed across our shoreline frontier into the embrace of Camissa both as slaves and as indentured labourers from the 1780s well into the 1880s. These were slaves and indentured labourers who came to the Cape largely as agricultural labour in the rural areas of the Colony and as dock-labour. They came via Mozambique – thus the name Mazbieker, but these included Mozambicans, Malawians, Zimbabweans, Zambians, Tanzanians as well as people from the norther areas of KZN. They integrated with other slaves and with surviving Khoena and San. Communities in the Swartland, Paarl, Worcester, the Karoo, Overberg today labelled ‘Coloured’ have as part of their heritage – a strong Mazbieker infusion. So do many of those in Cape Town where Mazbieker influence was strong in District Six and Bokaap and across the Cape Flats. Mazbiekers were used extensively for the most back-breaking work in public works and the docks.

Another large infusion of African people in our heritage in the Cape were those called ‘Liberated Slaves’ or ‘Prize Slaves’ also called ‘Prize boys and girls’. These were both West African and East African slaves seized by the Royal Navy after the abolition of slavery from slave-trader ships on the high seas. The ‘Prize Slaves’ were then taken to Royal Navy bases at St Helena, Zanzibar, Aden and of course Simonstown. Among these were also slaves who survived shipwrecks on our coast at Woodstock and Clifton. ‘Prize Slaves’ were not really liberated if they were brought to the Cape. Here they were forced to undergo a 14 year indentured labour period which most often lasted much longer than slavery did, into the 1870s, and was no different to slavery. The ‘Prize Slaves’ are also part of our family trees. Long after 1856 when most of the last ‘Prize Slaves’ were brought to the Cape an event occurred that was linked to the ‘Prize Slave’ phenomenon. In 1890 a shipload of children were transferred to the Cape from the Royal Navy base at Aden.
These children were seized from a slave-trader ship by the Royal Navy off the high seas of North Africa. The slavers had captured these children from the Oromo in Somalia. When the children were brought to the Cape, the enforced indentureship era was over and instead the children were sent to further their education at the Lovedale Mission in the Eastern Cape. After this some at their request were repatriated but most stayed on and integrated into the South African population. Our great outstanding intellectual and fighter for liberation, the late Dr Neville Alexander’s grandmother was one of those Oromo children.

Also linked to the ‘Prize Slave’ story is the fact that the vast majority of Royal Navy sailors making up those patrolling the high seas along the African coastline, were in fact African sailors – either Kroomen or Siddis from West Africa and East Africa respectively. They were based at the Simonstown dockyard for almost 100 years. These sailors lived here and they died here and they married and had children with local women. Their gravestones remain as markers in Simonstown boldly emblazoned with the word KROOMAN denoting that they were from the Kru tribe. Some helped to build the Royal Observatory. Our late great professional dancer and choreographer Christopher Kindo was a descendent of the Kroomen. Many in Cape Town share this heritage.

Then there are those we call the Manillas – the refugees from the revolutionary uprisings in the Philippines in the latter half of the 19th century who were part of a global diaspora spanning 30 years of upheaval in that part of the world. They largely settled in Kalk Bay but as time passed their descendants spread across Cape Town. Many today carry their surnames such as Fernandes, de la Cruz, Flores, Manuel, Padua etc. Filipinos themselves were of mixed ancestry including Chinese, Indian, Spanish and Indigenes and here in South Africa they inter-married with descendants of an array of indigene Africans, and with diverse slaves, indentured labourers, Kroomen et al.

Post the emancipation from slavery in 1834 a labour crises developed in the Cape so that in addition to ‘Prize Slaves’ being used as cheap indentured labour, Cape farmers were assisted to bring in in indentured labourers from Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Huge numbers of these economic migrants settled in the rural areas and farmlands and largely integrated into the populations labelled ‘Coloured’ in those areas. As migrations from the Eastern Cape to meet the need for both farm and urban labour also grew, so new locations sprung up and over time the African indentured labourers integrated with amaXhosa labourers in the Western Cape as well as with Sotho, Tswana, Korana and Xhosa communities elsewhere. The amaXhosa relationships with the Khoena in the Western Cape go back in time to before European explorers set foot on the shoreline-frontier, and the stronger presence in the Western Cape goes back to around 1700 when European cattle raiders first engaged the Khoena-Xhosa communities. Since then ama-Xhosa made their way into the Cape colony and this picked up during the so-called frontier wars when prisoners of war were interred in Cape Town and labour gangs were brought to the docks. They too inter-married and had children across the ethnic lines demarcated by officialdom. There had also always been inter-marriage between Khoena, San and ama-Xhosa as attested by dna studies and by isiduko records. Indentured labour, followed by migrant labour systems, resulted in much crossing of tribal and clan lines and Camissa was embraced and Camissa embraced in return.

Over the entire 18th and 19th centuries there was a constant trickle of passengers of colour who migrated to the Cape to start new lives. Those that stood out the most were passenger Indians and Bengalis who came to the Cape and applied themselves to all sorts of trades from shoe-making, tailoring and barbering to running fruiterers and general dealerships. By the 1860s indentured labour became the greatest lure to South Africa from the Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka and thousands of labourers were brought to work on the sugarcane plantations of KZN.

In the late 19th century and the early 20th century Africans in diaspora as a result of slavery and now in the USA, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe made their way by sea to the Cape Colony as part of their voyage of self-discovery. Many settled and got married and engaged in the exciting world of politics of that period. Henry Sylvester Williams from Trinidad and Tobago comes to mind and the larger than life flamboyant Zacharia Perigrino too – strong Pan-Africanists.

With all of these rich threads in our heritage we would be fools to not want to trace the cultural contributions to who were are today. Our base in the indigene Khoena and San, and in other indigene Africans too, is enhanced by these different tributaries that resulted in a new creation in Africa and of Africa. Not to be forgotten were the many non-conformist and rebel Europeans who crossed the boundaries of race and colour and chose to assimilate into the Camissa Footprint. While many children were born of violence and abuse towards women of colour, there were many, many, wholesome relationships of love and care across the boundaries of colour where couples paid a huge price in social stigma and aggression. We should not be one-sided in our view of our past. Already by the time of the two governors van der Stel, who were of slave and European lineage, the ugly face of racism had began to be entrenched at the Cape – whereas prior to this the most of relationships at the Cape crossed the colour-line.

The Camissa embraced all of these and we are challenged to rediscover the Camissa in us and to celebrate our wholeness at this time of the year when we focus on our rich heritage. Our Indigene forebears at a time of assault and all sorts of pressures reached out to these other victims of colonialization and the slave trade and the integration processes became part of the strategy for survival. Our lack of acknowledgement of this part of our heritage needs to be addressed in our heritage discourse as does many more elements lost between the cracks and noise.

Migrations forced and voluntary, by people of colour, still flow across our shoreline frontier and continue to enhance our society. Camissa will embrace these too and in time these will embrace Camissa. We need to be careful of bigotry, xenophobia, racism, tribalism and ethno-nationalism and nativism. This is all cut from the same poisonous cloth. This is not heritage and the difference between these and heritage should never be confused. We have many pathologies that play out among us in antagonisms between various groups – the artificial black and bruin arguments are a part of these. Most often when closely examined, one finds ideologically skewed understanding of history and false social constructs that are revived over and over again.

(For those who have not read my other work on the Camissa Footprint and want to understand what is meant by this term…. Please consult www.camissapeople.wordpress.com )
May all on this heritage weekend stop awhile and think about the ties that bind us, and celebrate your heritage / our heritage – whether African in all its diversity from amaXhosa, Khoena, San and Camissa to Venda, Lembe and Korana – or Afro-European celebrating the best of European diversity and the Africa that you and yours embrace – or Afro-Asian celebrating the meeting of the deep ancient values of eastern diversity and the equally deep spirit of Ngoma and Ubuntu of Africa. Have a great Heritage Day.



The Camissa foundation of the Port City of Cape Town

Patric Tariq Mellet (Sept 2016)

camissa-2For a long time there has been an unbalanced approach to recalling the past in which the indigene experience has been but a footnote in an otherwise European dominated narrative. Even the critical view of many European commentators of the time had been marginalised. Effectively the indigenes are simply presented as incidental to the founding of the port settlement of Cape Town and presented as playing no significant part in the founding of one of Africa’s most important cities. Indeed not only were the Dutch responsible for dispossessing them of their land and livelihoods but indigene people also found themselves robbed of their history as the true founders of the City of Cape Town.

Much amplification is given to the many traveller texts and to Jan van Riebeeck’s narrative that are quite disparaging of the indigenes of Table Bay. These refer to the indigene Khoena as temporal inhabitants, dirty, smelly, lazy, good-for-nothing, thieves, scavengers unaware of the broader world beyond their shores and, they are likened to beasts.

This unfortunate view is deeply embedded in the minds of scholars and generally of South Africans in particular. However, there are other accounts of seafarers and scribes which tell a different story of an enterprising and helpful indigene people, some of whom had travelled abroad and, of trading and port operations in a busy port that precede the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck by at least 52 years and effectively constituted a settled proto port trading community.

Even the better historical accounts present the maroon Goringhaicona community as a kind of mystery phenomenon without ‘joining the dots’ between increased shipping and its impacts on indigene modes of living and economy. Entrepreneurship is simply brushed off as scavenging and begging practices by primitives.

Also deeply embedded in social history enquiry is the notion that the story of people of the Cape people’s mixed ancestral heritage starts in 1652, whereas the circumstances of the 52 years prior to the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck, and the dynamics of any port settlement globally suggests otherwise.

Further consideration of the first fifty two years of the 17th century is that it offers an alternative version of the foundation of the port, the city of Cape Town and its people. All of the considerations taken together also provide a positive and non-racial ‘heritage anchor’ for those labelled ‘Coloured’ and indeed all who cherish what can be referred to as the ‘Camissa footprint’. Passing scribes, Tavernier and Mundy, make clear references to indigene children who in their eyes are described ‘white and beautiful’, ‘European looking’ but with both indigene African as well as European features and in reference to appearance as ‘some well-favoured as it could not be expected’.

For example, the accounts also show that Europeans consistently spent lengthy stays at Table Bay from as early as 1601 during which time they interacted extensively with the indigenes. McCall Theal in his ’History of SA 1486-1691’ tells us that Spilbergen makes mention in 1601 that their sick were conveyed to land where a hospital was established. He also talks of ships ‘wintering in’ at Table Bay. Raven Hart in his book ‘Before van Riebeeck (1967) provides the figures of 1,839 sheep and 149 cattle being traded to 4 ships between 1601-1608. Jean Baptista Tavernier in ‘The Six Travels…’ tells us “So soon as the ship arrives, they (the indigenes) bring their beasts to the shore with what other commodities they have, to barter….” After being shipwrecked with 62 men in 1647 and remaining at Table Bay for almost a year, Leendert Janzsen in his ‘Remonstrance’ to the VOC states “the natives came with all friendliness to trade with us….bringing cattle and sheep in numbers.”

Richard Elphick in ‘The Khoikhoi and the founding of white South Africa’ emphasises “In a sense, the VOC Company’s frontier had reached the Peninsulars (indigenes) fifty years before the Colony was established.” This statement was a great leap forward on a previous blanking-out of any perspective prior to 1652 that cast indigenes in a favourable light or gave any credence to what may be called modern social organisation or ‘civilisation’.

In contrast to Elphick’s cautious but advanced exploration, most studies still do not draw all of the many elements together that stand out during this period and none make the conclusion drawn about the indigene founding of Cape Town and the heritage roots of those who can refer to themselves as the ‘people of Camissa’ or descendants of ‘the Camissa footprint’.

To arrive at different perspectives or conclusions, a combination of the perspectives and experiences of both sides of the ‘shoreline frontier’ – looking from inside outwards and outside inwards, is required. While we are challenged by the fact that there is no written record by indigenes, in the absence of any written record from within, there is a greater onus to look at overlooked texts, the omissions, contradictions, obvious embellishments, and ideological overlay in the many views and records of the time. Then there is a need to listen more carefully to the voices recorded and raised in opposition among the indigenes at the time of initial dispossession – even though recorded by the beneficiaries of dispossession. Empowering the eye or perspectives of the marginalised and those denied their own self-determination of heritage and identity in our time is a further factor that motivates a fresh view of this period.

Lengthy stayovers at the Cape increasingly became the norm from 1600. This is not shown in the general historical narrative to the degree that it ought to be shown, because it is in fact much larger and had greater impacts than previously acknowledged. Historical narratives often deliberately give an impression that the trading activity in Table Bay was there but minimally so and largely sans real indigene interaction. In other words they suggest only opportunistic individual trading took place and that only now and then was there very limited interaction between Europeans and indigenes and that the latter were child-like primitives if not noble beasts.

Records however show that stayovers could be anything from a week to six months and in the last decade prior to 1652 arrivals of ships were up to 3 per month. This would substantially alter the narrative of the state of the situation on the arrival of van Riebeeck, himself a much more controversial figure than is acknowledged. Contradictory perspectives among the Europeans allow us opportunity to question dominant narratives. Overall it is almost as though in the two decades before European settlement that European presence was semi-permanent with few gaps in between.

In 1644, 250 men survived the wrecking of the Dutch Ship Mauritius Eylant and remained at Table Bay until rescued by a ship, the Tijger, which according to Thomas Aldsworth, “had to be despatched to rescue them.” They remained camped at Salt River for four months before being picked up and the number of people were almost twice as many as Van Riebeeck’s later 1652 settlement party.

Earlier than this, it is noted that as early as in 1611, another account by Aldsworth states “the climate is very healthy, insomuch that, arriving there with many of our people sick, they all regained their health and strength within 20 days”. Furthermore he says that a report to the directors of the English East India Company says – “we found the natives of the country to be very courteous and tractable folk, and they did not give us the least annoyance during the time we were there.” As a result of the frequent stayovers many make-shift forts and redoubts were built over decades. Indigenes became quite accustomed to the European and other visitors.

The anecdotal accounts are backed by maritime records showing that from 1590 until 1700 there were 2632 ships that called at the Cape, involving 5 nationalities, and of these 1071 ships dropped anchor in Table Bay between 1600 and 1652. Stay-overs could be anything between a few days and a couple of weeks.

In reading works such as Robin Knox-Johnston’s “The Cape of Good Hope – A Maritime History” and “The Dutch East India Company’s Shipping 1602 – 1795 in a comparative perspective” by FS Gaastra and JR Bruijn from Leiden University, one is also able to glean other facts that call into question the traditional amplified narrative on the beginnings of the port of Cape Town, the depth of services rendered before 1652 and, the negative characterisation of the indigene people of Table Bay.

The latter provides a full list of sea-traffic broken down per nationality for each decade of the 17th century and interrogates what they were carrying, and shipping attrition rates. While the Dutch dominated the numbers of ships doing lay-overs, from the first decade of the 17th century England followed with significant numbers of vessels, followed by  France, Portugal, Denmark – all dropping anchor and having lengthy stay-overs in Table Bay.

In the period 1610 to 1620, English ships increased to ten times the number of the previous decade and this strongly indicates why the English considered colonization at this point in time and then later opted to support local development of indigene support infrastructure after their attempt at colonisation with Newgate convicts in 1614 – 1616 failed. In 1619 they even formally explored a joint English-Dutch presence at the Cape and in 1620 England formally annexed the Cape of Good Hope but nothing came of this venture.

When one looks at the comparative maritime records of that time one gets a good picture of the competitiveness between the different European powers, the dominance of the Dutch, the size and shape of their vessels and changes over time to this technology due to the cargoes carried. One further needs to examine the attrition rate that faced vessels and the dire need for passengers especially the sick to have breaks ashore. What nobody really interrogates is the effect of all of this on the local population at the Cape and on their way of life. Indeed it is projected that for two centuries the indigenes dozily and idly sat and watched all of what was happening at the Cape since 1488 when the Europeans first entered their space, or 1421 when the Chinese fleet of Zeng He passed by. Indigene social history has been overwhelmed by purely anthropological and archaeological approaches until Elphick dared to present his work outlining a pre-1652 meeting of indigenes and Europeans at the shoreline frontier of South Africa.

One needs to examine not just what the huge shipping traffic carried from the east, but what they carried to India and Southeast Asia. Likewise, one needs to understand the powerful dynamics in that region which lent strategic importance to the Cape. One also sees a dramatic and striking attrition rate of ships by examining the number of ships that made the return journeys. The attrition rate through wrecks and wear and tear on vessels shows in that only around 50% of these vessels returned to Europe. It spurred on the development of shipbuilding technology and the need for advanced stop-over repair stations en route. The attrition rate of 50% of the ships being unable to do the return voyage was one of the chief drivers for the need for sophisticated stop-over points starting with refreshment posts and graduating to ship repair facilities. It also became the chief driver to replace the indigene proto-port operations with a more sophisticated port operation.

The international records show an almost studious omission in our South African history books to mention that the main outward bound role of the shipping from Europe was to carry company officials and huge loads of troops to supply the wars in South and South East Asia with soldiers. When we look at the numbers surviving the wrecks and multiply this with the number of ships that stopped at Table Bay, as many as 215 000 people travelled through the Port over half a century. In the east the Dutch were fighting the English, French and Portuguese, indigenes and Muslim Sultanates at different times and they needed to fortify their factories and huge bases in India, Sri Lanka and at Batavia.

Factories stretched across the long Indian and Bengal Coast and from Arakan (Rakhine State) in Myanmar, to Thailand (Siam), Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, through to Formosa, and Japan and then throughout Indonesia. This was a scenario thirsty for thousands of armed troops.

The United Dutch East India Company had all the powers of state ceded to them by the Dutch States General. These troops, to be deployed in active combat in the east, needed time ashore at strategic stops. After a stop-over at St Helena, the voyages were long and arduous with the soldiers and officials getting sick and dying on board. They also grew grumpy and fights broke out. It was most certain that by 1615 already that the ships masters were complaining that troops had to have time ashore at the Cape of Good Hope. The VOC then formally took a decision that in 1616 it would be compulsory for all Dutch shipping to lay-over at Table Bay. This raises the fact that the contact with indigenes at the Cape must have been greater than many historical accounts project and that the impacts on indigene way of life in Table Bay must have been great. It is this that is the most likely factor to result in two Khoena groups splitting from the Cochouqua (≠Ōxōkhoena) and later the split from the Goringhaiqua (!Uri//aekhoena) all of whom permanently lodged themselves on the Cape Peninsula.

This kind of sea traffic through a port creates stowaways and stay-behinds; shore-leave by men leads to sexual encounters and relations becoming a norm of port; ship repairs would have needed the gathering of repair materials and therefore negotiation of terrain, cutting and gathering timber and this would have led to job creation and further trade. The ships themselves required supplies of fresh water, meat, salt and other edibles and the indigenes, particularly inland were well known to have large stocks of cattle and sheep. Over half a century trade and service patterns grew and grew. There are a number of records of long-term stays by substantial numbers of stranded as well as sick Europeans at the Cape. On the whole, given the recorded numbers involved, (much larger than van Riebeeck’s initial compliment) living in much more rudimentary conditions, shows that conflict with indigenes was not the order of the day. The few incidents of conflict are easily explained as was done ably in Leendert Janzsen’s ‘Remonstrantie’ to the VOC Chamber of Seventeen.

All indications, and a number of seafarers accounts, show that there was a major impact on locals through the influence of large numbers of ships stopping at the Cape, the frequency of these ships long stayovers, the different nationalities involved, the need for repairs during stop overs, the need for soldiers and officials to go ashore in large numbers, the need for diverse supplies, probable occasional need to leave the sick behind, the required postal and news communication services required and so on?

The impact on the people of the Cape Peninsular (//Hui !Gaeb) was so great that we see the emergence first of an indigene clan with the name Gorachouqua (!Ora//khaukhoena) and then an offshoot of this clan called the Goringhaiqua (!Uri//aekhoena) who become permanently settled in the areas later named Liesbeeck, Mowbray and Rondebosch, and then a maroon clan which established themselves in a trading village first on Robben Island and then on the banks of the Camissa River (//ammi ssa) in Table Bay, called the Goringhaicona (!Uri//ae/goena). Interestingly the name Gorinhaiqua (!Uri//aekhoena) means ‘white coming together with (indigene) people’ when you linguistically break down the three components in the name. The Goringhaicona means ‘the children of the Goringhaiqua’. These even seemed to have stopped keeping their own cattle, supplementing their food intake with fish, shellfish and birds, when not partaking in surplus bartered livestock provided for shipping. Much social history may be hidden in these giveaway clan names and by the acquired practices that set them apart from other indigene communities. The indicators of proto-urbanisation are clear to be seen.

It would in fact seem that originally there was just the Cochoqua (≠Ōxōkhoena) who visited the Cape Peninsula in a transhumance pattern moving along the West Coast to the Penisular and back cyclically according to weather patterns and herding their livestock. The impact of European visitation changed both the way of life and the economy of the indigenes and a permanent presence emerged at the Cape Peninsular with first the Gorachouqua and the Chariguriqua (Xririkhoena) emerging as breakaways and then the Goringhaiqua and the Goringhaicona. Signs suggest that the emergence of the latter two coincide with the engagement of Xhore (Coree 1613) and Autshumao (Haddah 1631) by the English and the trade relations with European ships that follow those events. With these changes also saw the development of rivalries and conflict and records show that the different clans were not averse to seeking superiority in their conflicts by asking Europeans to back them up.

The English in particular made interventions that catapulted changes in modes of living and economy for the indigenes by taking key personalities abroad to London and Bantam and Jakarta. This practice was then copied by the Dutch. Written accounts show that at least five verifiable Khoena had been taken abroad to gain experience and training, if not more, between 1613 and 1655. With these interventions new commodities became available and a chain of value attached itself to those commodities – skillets, knives, spoons, iron, copper, brass, tobacco, clothes, and alcohol. The commodities themselves introduced new social problems and they skewed the trade in and ownership of livestock.

Xhore and a companion were kidnapped and taken to London aboard the Hector in 1613 but only Xhore survived the trip. Sir Thomas Smythe of the English East India Company had hoped that after requisite training Xhore may facilitate his other plans for Table Bay. This involved establishing a colony initially using ten Newgate convicts under Captains Peyton and Crosse after they returned the kidnapped Xhore (Caree), to Table Bay. After three disastrous years for those earliest of European settlers, the colony experiment was abandoned.

The English fell back on a ‘plan-B’ and Xhore became the first of the formal traders used as trade and service facilitator by European shipping. He thus became an authority figure or Chief of a clan which amassed wealth as a result. He is said to have been murdered by the Dutch for non-cooperation in 1626 and thereafter according to Elphick there was an immediate down-swing in economic relations at the Cape as a result.

Even although Xhore served other European nationalities too, with Xhore gone, the English suffered the most, as they enjoyed the best relations with Xhore and his people. It is clearly too, that because of this loss, the English made a second major intervention in taking Autshumao to Bantam in Java and to Jakarta in Southeast Asia for observations, training and orientation. Thirdly, and most importantly, on returning him to Table Bay, they to the unprecedented step to set him with his followers on Robben Island to run a formal supply and postal station. He did this ably, engaged with other nationalities and even with authority once directed the French away from what he called an English station. But after a few years the Robben Island station proved inefficient and too restricting for Autshumao and, by request of the indigenes, this community was assisted to move back to the mainland.

Peter Mundy travelling on the English ship Mary refers to Autshumao (Haddah) on Robben Island noting that he even wore European clothing, “Here the said Haddah lives with his kindred and allies numbering about 60 persons – men, women and children. They come all about us very merrily rejoicing at our coming, better apparelled than those on the mainland, though after the same manner. Except for Haddah who on that day wore English clothes from head to toe.” There is another text where an observer again notes that Haddah (Autshumao) was wearing English clothes.

The English then re-established Autshumao and his 60 followers on the mainland approximately in 1638 where they established their settlement alongside the Camissa River where it flowed over the beach into the sea. So about 20 years before Jan van Riebeeck settled at the Cape in 1652, it is thus undisputable that Autshumao and the Goringhaicona ran a proto-trading and servicing community which interacted with European shipping. This was the true foundation of Cape Town.

There are many signs that Autshumao performed his trader and port master role ably, was a proficient linguist, was shrewd and astute and, also knew the value of playing off the English and their enemies, the Dutch and French. The large formations of Khoena also knew to keep their main herds of thousands of cattle and sheep cattle, and their families far inland away from the Europeans so Autshumao was not simply an opportunist go-between trader but served a very useful defensive buffer role. Regardless of the basic nature of the services provided Authshumao offered post and communications, stevedoring, ship’s chandeliers, and trader services.

Robin Knox-Johnston notes “ the Dutch and the English also had their own trusted native who would keep letters and hand them over to the Captains of home-going ships. A ship on arriving in the bay would fire a cannon and this would bring the ‘Postman’ down to the beach…. A ship’s boat would be sent to fetch him and he would exchange mail and report any other useful information for a small reward.”

Jodocus Hondius III (1622–1655) in a work ‘A clear description of the Cape of Good Hope’ published in Amsterdam in 1652 describes the Table Bay site and river as follows – “A short distance beyond the tail of the Lion Mountain is the little Fresh River which is a stream rising in the foothills of Table Mountain, or in its higher slopes. The river usually flows quite strongly, but in most parts the water does not reach above the knees. In the year 1644 the crew of the wrecked ship Mauritius Eiland marked out a fort with 4 bastions across this Fresh River in order to protect the fresh water, but no building took place until this present year, 1652, when a fortress was begun on the eastern side of the same streamlet.” Here he refers to Van Riebeeck’s appropriation of the Camissa, the exact spot being around the backside of the Golden Acre Centre, Strand Street, Plein Street and the upper end of the Grand Parade.

It was at this spot alongside the river known in the local language simply as Fresh Water – Camissa (//ammi ssa), that the indigenes established the foundation village and port operation that would become the City of Cape Town. The Goringhaicona themselves were dubbed ‘Watermen’ by the Dutch. This was about 14 years prior to the European settlement in 1652.

When van Riebeeck arrived in 1652, over the first 8 months he built a fort right on top of Autshumao’s village at the Camissa which had hosted him and his men. Van Riebeeck notes that after he had moved into the fort he could still see the forlorn Autshumao encamped by the river. According to Hondius Jan van Riebeeck was to act on a clear instruction in this regard made by the VOC Chamber of Seventeen, “The skippers were directed to proceed to Table Bay, and to construct close to the Fresh River, a wooden building, the materials for which they were to take with them. They were then to select a suitable site for a fort, to contain space for the accommodation of seventy or eighty men, and to this fort when finished they were to give the name Good Hope.”

The term //ammis or gammis or kamis or kamma which is the root for ‘Camissa’ is the old indigene language of the Nama and !Ora as per Haacke & Eiseb (2002: 246) and Krὃnlein & Rust (1969: 80) is the term for any fresh-water river as noted by Portuguese cartographer Lazaro Luis in 1563 on his map as – ‘de Camis’ alongside the name ‘Aguada de Saldanha’ for the same river flowing through Cape Town. The Khoena did not have affectionate or honorary names as in the European tradition of naming places. Words used were utilitarian and simply descriptive or for verbal route-mapping.

Hence the name gammi, kamis or kamma or cumis (water) pops up at many other places too, meaning the same thing – fresh water. For example – Tsistsikamma = tse-tsesa + kamma referring to the river means ‘clear water’ or ‘place of much water’ or the ‘place where water begins’. (Dictionary of Southern African Place Names – P E Raper, Head, Onomastic Research Centre, HSRC and Tsitistsikamma National Park). In cross-referencing the cartographic reference of Lazaro Luis we can also look at an entry on 24 April 1682 by Governor-General van Goens captured in Moodie’s Record (1959) page 387 which notes the inland Khoena people referring to a fresh-water river as ‘Camissa’ or ‘Cumissa’. In Cape Town the main fresh water tributary – kamis or kamma – that ran from the mountain Hoerikwaggo to the sea was given many names by the Europeans and three of these coincided with that of the indigenes – Camis on Luis’ map, Agua de Saldhana (water of Saldhnana – the original Portuguese name for Table Bay) and Soetwater Rivieren (Sweetwater) – freshwater as distinguishing this from Zouten Rivieren.

It should be noted that although in 1644 the survivors of the Mauritius Eiland had mapped out a fort plan at the same spot, when in 1647 a shipwreck occurred at Table Bay the Dutch did not build their fort at this spot where the Goringhaicona were settled but rather did so near the Salt River and dug and well for fresh water. The Dutch ship Nieuwe Haarlem on its way back to Holland was wrecked in the vicinity of Woodstock beach.

The 62 survivors under Leendert Janszen built a small wood and sand fort called Sandenburg at Salt River and built a deep well to access underground fresh water. They remained at the Cape for the best part of a year until 1648. Leendert Janszen, Matthijs Proot and Jodocus Hondius III (a scientist) used their time to gather intelligence on the terrain, its vegetation and animal life, the indigenes, their cattle and sheep herds, and their trading practices, as well as the visitations of other vessels and the mapping of the Table Bay peninsula.

What Janzsen and Proot had to say about the indigenes and about how relations with them should be conducted would later be contradicted by Jan van Riebeeck. They note – “the indigenes came with all friendliness to trade with us….bringing cattle and sheep in numbers…. Yes it is true that some of our soldiers and sailors have been beaten to death by them, but that happened with good cause so as to exonerate such actions by the indigenes where the cause resulting in retaliation is as always being concealed by our people; for we firmly believe, that if the farmers in this country – Dutch States General – were to experience their cattle being shot or taken away without payment, and had no protection from an organised justice system, they would not by one hair’s difference act in any other manner than these indigenes had acted.   The indigenes are a people without such institutions or forms of government as those of India, but they are peaceably disposed and capable of being taught. There was no doubt that the indigenes could learn the Dutch language, and in course of time could be educated in the Christian religion.”

In 1648 a fleet of 12 ships that stopped over for 18 days, under the command of Admiral GW de Jong, took Janzsen and his men back to Holland. On board the same ship carrying Captain Janzsen was the disgraced VOC merchant from the Dutch Factory at Tonkin in Vietnam that had been caught out stealing from the VOC – Jan van Riebeeck. The disgraced official showed a huge interest in Janzsen’s proposition that the Dutch should establish a permanent base at Table Bay. During the three weeks sojourn at Table Bay, Jan van Riebeeck also got a good feel for the place and talked to the other survivors. In the process he developed a contrary view to those expressed by Janzsens and Proot in their report. It was on board the return voyage that Janzsen and his five senior men had prepared a proposal for a permanent Dutch presence at Table Bay  – known as “remonstrantie”. It  found favour with the VOC Chamber of Seventeen.

Van Riebeeck, described as having that dangerous cocktail of characteristics – a fiery temper, resoluteness, untiring energy, unbounded zeal and needing to redeem himself with the VOC offered to lead a settlement expedition to establish Dutch control at the Cape when Matthijs Proot took a decision to not avail himself for the post.

The Dutch needed to maintain their dominance in the east and hence the control of the strategically positioned Cape was seen as vital and that there needed to be a more technologically advanced port operation to achieve the much needed ship repair and servicing required so as to halt the huge attrition rate experienced by shipping.

Janzsen and de Jong’s views of the indigenes projected highly favourable and respectful in comparison to that of Jan van Riebeeck’s approach and also of many of the disparaging views that painted the indigees a liitle more than beasts, or at best in the later words of Jean Jacques Roussouw – ‘nobel savages’.  Janzsen’s approach notably mirrored that of the English, who built a system of cooperative relations with indigenes. Janzsen spoke glowingly of the Khoena in Table Bay who were of great assistance to him during his long sojourn. He recommended that the VOC accept and respect the existing trading and servicing role of the indigenes by ensuring that any settlement is based on cooperation rather than conquest.

Van Riebeeck however was bent on conquest and dislodging any form of intermediary trading by indigenes. He wanted a simple direct cost-effective trading relationship as a stepping stone for ultimate company control over resources. As such, the Camissa community’s entrepreneurial approach as a proto trading class of local people of colour was out of the question for van Riebeeck. He was also wary of the fact that the local kingpin, Autshumao had a very strong relationship with the English and was not shy in projecting veiled threats to call for assistance from his English friends.

The report to the VOC presented the statistics of how many vessels were stopping over, how many people going ashore, the trade that was being done and importantly that no European power had established themselves at the Port where trading was only organised by the indigenes under an English trained and sympathetic Autshumao and a relatively small settled group of indigene ‘Watermans’ next to the Camissa which they called the Soetwater Stroom (also known as Rio Dolce, Rio de Camis and Platteklipstroom). Van Riebeeck saw this scenario as a push-over and thus the die was cast. Although instructed by the VOC to tread carefully and show respect to the local operations of the indigenes, he believed that while the VOC and Captain Janzsen had their ideas, he was his own man. Effectively van Riebeeck went head to head with Autshumao, treated his trading practices as thievery, undercut his business and made a hostile take-over of Autshumao’s business and modest settlement at Camissa. The maroon Goringhaicona were totally disrupted. Van Riebeeck took Autshumao’s 10 year old niece Krotoa and a number of other indigenes as servants. They would live and work in the Fort de Goede Hoop alongside the Asian slaves imported to serve the VOC officials.

History has been most unfair to Autshumao and the Goringhaicona trading mission at Camissa and has never properly analysed what happened in the 52 years prior to van Riebeeck’s arrival or the 20 year old human trading settlement at Camissa and the impacts of the large scale visitations of ships, sailors, officials and troops who were adequately catered for by locals. The social history of this port has never been properly recorded as a village community with its sizable yet relatively small population. This community was born of a people who had changed their mode of living, economic and social habits as had happened in every other port across the African coastline and globally. Why should the Cape indigenes and their ‘Tavern of the Seas’ settlement be viewed any differently?

In a paper by David Johnson in 2007 published in ‘18th century studies Vol 40’ by John Hopkins University Press, entitled ‘Representing the Cape Hottentots –  from the French Enlightenment to Post-Apartheid South Africa’, two French traveller-writers, Levaillant and Grandprè, comment on the dispossession of the indigenes of the Cape by the Dutch.

Levaillant levels a similar critique to that of Janzsens in 1648 – “ It is without reason that he (the Cape indigene) is accused of being cruel. . . . Can anything be more sensible than to repel force by force?. . . Wherever we have sought fit to establish ourselves, we have reduced the unhappy nations to slavery or flight; we have appropriated to our own use, without scruple, whatever appeared to answer our purpose”.  Grandpré’s description of the colonial encounter moves on to describe the genocide of the ‘Bushmen’,  arguing that the Dutch exceeded the cruelties of Cortés and Pizarro in the Americas, as “they have hunted the Boschis as one would hunt hares; their dogs have been  trained for it. Hunting packs of dogs, horses, slaves, children, women, men; all are put to this dreadful purpose.” He goes on to say – “The Dutch will always be to blame for the ruin of the Hottentot nation in the eyes of sensitive men; they have repeated at the tip of Africa the same bloodied scenes as the Spaniards first enacted in America. Perhaps they only lacked a Las Casas to make a formal complaint against them before the tribunal of the whole of Europe. When they did not slit the throats of these people by the thousand, they wiped them out one at a time. If they did not train their dogs to hunt them down initially, they did so in due course. . . . The Dutch government failed its obligations to these destitute people. . .”

We know that across the Peninsula and Cape Flats there were up to 40,000 indigene inhabitants, mainly Khoena and over the broader Western Cape up to 50,000 more, both Khoena and San. These made up around 16 Khoena clan groupings and at least five San or /Xam groupings of different strengths, and they were very rich in livestock. After the 1713 smallpox epidemic and as a result of forced removals, war, pass laws, genocide and forced apprenticeship on farms only some 15, 000 Khoena and San indigenes were scattered across the Cape Colony, mainly in servitude by the second half of the 18th century –  about 16,74% of the original population. From the 1670s already many indigenes began fleeing in the direction of Namaqualand and the Gariep River. Many try to paper over the ethnic cleansing of the Western Cape by blaming the Smallpox epidemic, which although being a contributor to the loss of numbers, was only one small factor.

Van Riebeeck left a record of lesser known correspondence, other than his famous diaries. While the latter tended to portray him favourably by his own hand a wider view of his correspondence and the views of others, sheds a different light on the man. It was he and his cavalier attitude towards the indigenes that laid the foundations for the 160 years of wars that lead to the flight of the Cape Khoena to the northwestern Gariep district and to the mass genocide of the San despite their valiant wars of resistance.

Elphick notes that shortly after arriving at the Cape, Van Riebeeck in 1653 wrote to the VOC imploring them to allow him to round up all the Peninsula Khoena, put them in chains and force them into labour. The VOC refused his request. Then in 1657 he again wrote to the VOC outlining a plan and seeking approval to build 5 ‘redoubts’ in Hout Bay to form concentration camps into which he would lure the Peninsula Khoena and their cattle and then keep them so imprisoned so that they may continuously be forced to supply cattle to the company.

This concept was initially considered by the VOC but was rejected only because it would have cost too much and required many soldiers. This was the complete opposite of the approach that Captain Janzsen had promoted. Van Riebeeck’s ideas set the paradigm of European-Indigene relations that has remained to this day. Forced removals and the “redoubt” concept which essentially translated into group-areas and reservations lasted well after Jan van Riebeeck, right up to the imposition of the Group Areas Act under Apartheid. From these initial concepts of visiting aberration on the indigenes, a 160 year war lasting into the second decade of the 19th century against the Khoena and San ensued and dovetailed with the 100 years’ war against the amaXhosa in the Eastern Cape. Nigel Penn in some detail in his book ‘The Forgotten Frontier’ how this ethnic cleansing process included well-recorded genocide campaigns by Khoena conscripts in European led Commandos.

Record of the early foundational human endeavour of a Khoena settled trading community which embraced visitors and whom no doubt some visitors embraced and remained and assimilated into deserves more recognition. Certainly the first children to have been born from relations between the indigenes and  sea-travelling Europeans, free-black travellers and slaves occurred in those 52 years prior to European settlement and requires much, much more research and evaluation attention. This Camissa (//aami ssa) village where the Grand Parade, Castle and District Six stands today on the Cape Peninsula known to the Khoena as //Hui Gaeb! can give us all a whole new take on our past. It is this Camissa Footprint and all that was born from it pre-1652 and post-1652 that informs our sense of identity.

It is also of importance to note that the earliest organised and persistent resistance to the machinations of the European settlement actually was led by Camissa indigenes that had to some degree embraced change, new economies and new modes of living. Each had engaged intimately with the Europeans and had to a great extent broken with tradition. It was unfortunate that it was these people who had learnt the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the Europeans, when entering their social order, to the extent that they could craft oppositional strategies, had at the same time become alienated from their broader kinfolk. Their very engagement with the Europeans led to suspicion, envy and antagonism between each other and between them collectively and the people from whom they had become marooned. Xhore, Autshumao, Krotoa, Nommoa and Das each developed their own resistance strategy and each experienced defeat on the one hand and alienation on the other. All found themselves between the wire and the wall. These interlocutors knew that their world was changing and that change could not be held back and tried to navigate the tide as best they could. They tried to alert the other indigenes around them to this new reality and in vain tried to show leadership but the powerful force of ‘divide and rule’ came to overpower them during a time of a great paradigm shift.

We certainly cannot ignore this overwhelming evidence that 1652 was not a magical date of Khoena and European interaction….. nor can we ignore the vast numbers of vessels and people from abroad who came here and interacted with locals…. Nor can we ignore that key notable indigene figures had travelled abroad and returned and engaged with new technology and trading and new ways of living and were not merely ignorant ‘primitive’ beach scavengers. With all of this information at our fingertips we cannot accept uncritically the European writings that have marginalised and robbed South Africans of a fair view of their forebears.

Genetic enhancement in South Africa continued after 1652 when the heritage of the Camissa footprint continued to be weaved as indigenes, slaves, Free Blacks and European non-conformists continued to embrace each other and their struggles to overcome adversity. Historian Mansell Upham tells us that while formally Jan van Riebeeck forbade European company officials for having “carnal conversation” (sexual intercourse) with slaves and indigenes, privately he is on record as telling officials to go forth and “fruitify” them. This injunction too is a part of the story of the Camissa heritage as is the over four centuries of experiences of the children of Camissa in rising above various forms of adversity including Apartheid.

Today the Camissa River still flows vibrantly underground through Cape Town and into the see just as it always did. But now it is hidden from view, covered over by layer after layer of superstructure that makes up the City of Cape Town. So too has layer upon layer of obscuring overlays, been placed on the identity of those labelled ‘Coloured’ by successive administrative regimes. Both the river and the people have been covered over. The first step in uncovering these layers is to acknowledged that once, long ago before colonial settlement, a people who had set up on the banks of the Camissa River formed a trading and service community and in so doing they lay the foundations of a city and a creole people.

There are much more complexities in our past than many care to acknowledge, but also a wonderful focal point arises for us to move away from racial terminology and exclusive terminology in anchoring our local identities alongside our national, regional and pan African identities. An understanding of this early heritage should encourage us to move away from race terminology of using terms like – Coloured, White, and Black as a reference. There are three broad heritage streams that flow through people in South Africa and no rigid walls separating us – African, Afro-European and Afro-Asian. This is heritage and not race. The African family of communities is diverse as much as is the Afro-European and Afro-Asian heritages. As part of African identity, Camissa people (not ‘coloured’) have a heritage that incorporates the embrace between indigenes, slaves from India, Southeast Asia and Africa, as well as Free Black travellers, indentured labourers, exiles, refugees, economic-migrants and non-conformist Europeans. The Camissa heritage brings all of these wonderful tributaries together and the Camissa people can take rightful place alongside other African communities – Zulu, Xhosa, Cape Khoena, San (/Xam), Sotho, Korana, Tswana, Venda, Pedi, Nama, Griqua, Shangaan, Ndebele, Lembe, Swazi and others. All three heritage streams – African, Afro-European and Afro-Asian have many sub-community identities in the diverse South African family of peoples. Thus the story and the heritage of the original founders of the port and the people that they embraced gave birth to the creole descendants who were labelled ‘Coloured’.

On a personal level when explaining my heritage I express that I am born of a people who over successive generations rose above adversity. I go on to say that I am an African from Southern Africa and I have a Camissa heritage. I am Camissa and am a citizen of South Africa which embraces a diversity of heritages. The Camissa people and village at the fresh water river flowing from the mountain to the sea in Table Bay was the foundation of Cape Town in the first half of the 17th Century. Indigenes with a new mode of living shaped through their trading with passing ships over time embraced a diversity of peoples who crossed their shoreline threshold. Later through resistance to colonialism and the adversity visited upon them the indigenes and the Camissa footprint also embraced other resisters – slaves from India, Africa and Southeast Asia; Free Black travellers, non-conformist Europeans, various maroons, exiles, refugees and economic migrants. These tributaries and their interactions is what shaped me as an African. This and the many stories within this frame is my proud heritage. This is more powerful that the race label – ‘Coloured’.


In addition to works noted and sited in the text, the following works were also consulted:

John Cope- King of the Hottentots, Howard Timmins, Cape Town (1967); ML Wilson – The Strandlooper concept and its relevance to the study of the past inhabitants of the Southern African Coastal Region, Annals of the South African Museum – vol 103 – Part 6 (Dec 1993); Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Y. Andaya – A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia 1400 – 1830, Cambridge UP (2015); Kerry Ward – Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company, Cambridge Up, (2009); Richard B. Allen – European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850, Ohio UP (2014); Donald Moodie; The Record (May 1888), AA Balkema, Cape Town (1959) HB Thom edt;  Journal of Jan van Riebeeck 1652 – 1662; Van Riebeeck Society, AA Balkema, Cape Town / Amsterdam (1958); Karel Schoeman; Seven Khoi lives – Cape biographies of the seventeenth century, Protea, Pretoria (2009); Dictionary of Southern African Place Names – P E Raper, Head, Onomastic Research Centre, HSRC and Tsitistsikamma National; Mansell Upham; Made or Marred by Time; www.e-family.co.za/remarkablewriting/MadeorMarred.pdf;  Adrien Delmas & Nigel Penn  –  Written culture in a Colonial context: Africa and the Americas 1500 – 1900, UCT Press (2011);; Nigel Penn – The Forgotten Frontier:Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century , Ohio UP (2009); Written culture and the Cape Khoihhoi – From travel writing to ‘full description; UCT Press (2011);   William Crooke edt –  Tavanier -Travels in India, transl V Ball (1925); – Sir Richard Carnac-Temple; The travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia 1608 – 1667; (1967) – JP Cortemünde; Adventures at the Cape of Good Hope (1962); HCV Leibbrandt- Precis of the archives of the Cape of Good Hope, Journal 1662-70, 1671-74, WA Richards & Sons (1901, 1902);  Henry Trotter – Sailors as Scribes; Travel as discourse and the (con) textualisation of the Khoihoi at the Cape of Good Hope 1649 – 90,  http://www.henrytrotter.com/publications/downloads/trotter-sailors-as-scribes.pdf ; The early Cape Hottentots, Olfert Dapper, Willem ten Rhyne en Johannes Gulielmus de Grevenbroek Editie I.Schapera en vertaler B. Farrington (1933);

KROTOA – Drawing the Longbow in the Fort 1642 – 1674


On Friday 19 August 2016 a strange and erroneously founded ceremony took place to ‘rebury’ the remains and spirit of Krotoa at the Castle de Goede Hoop in Cape Town. While it is to be welcomed that people which to honour Krotoa there was something amiss about this ceremony. Krotoa had no direct connection to this Castle, the building of which was only completed 5 years after her death. It is most unlikely that in 1674 that she would have been buried at a very messy building site. At that time the Fort de Goede Hoop was still in operation as the centre of authority. The Fort was situated at the other end of today’s Grand Parade near the Golden Acre Centre and was alongside the Camissa River. When the Fort was demolished and power shifted to the Castle, the remains in the small Christian graveyard would have been moved to the consecrated ground between the Grote Kerk and the old Slave Lodge both also alongside the Camissa.

Krotoa of the Goringhaicona was born around 1642 at the Khoena trading settlement on the banks of the Camissa River which flowed from the great Hoerikwaggo Mountain to the sea. The VOC Commander Jan van Riebeeck named her Eva and after her marriage to a Danish-surgeon she was known as Eva van Meerhof. During the period that she served as an interpreter, Commander van Riebeeck often accused her of “Drawing the Longbow”. Read on to see why.

Krotoa who was well connected to the elders of different Khoena clans, lived a most extraordinary but short life, spanning only three decades. She died in 1674. (The Khoena is the plural for Khoe, also referred to as Khoi peoples who consisted of many clans with a range of wonderful names. The word similarly to the word ‘Bantu’ and the more accurate word for San – /Xam, simply means ‘people’ and in its singular form – ‘person’)

The Goringhaicona (children of the Goringhaiqua), were a relatively settled offshoot clan of maroons who had drifted away from the other Khoena groups – the Gorachoqua, Goringhaiqua, Chainoqua, Chariguriqua and the Cochoqua clans of the Western Cape of South Africa. They are described by historian Richard Elphick, as runaways, outcasts, refugees, orphans and other persons ‘whose parents and husbands were dead’. While this may well have applied to some, I believe that a different social history research lens shows that as a result of over 200 years of shipping around Table Bay and particularly the huge number of ships that visited Table Bay for stop-overs between 1600 and 1652, numbering 1071, great impacts occurred as a result of new economic activities arising from change. Numerous sources give us a good idea of the frequency of shipping visits and length of stayovers and the various levels of interaction with indigenes, the economic relationships and the fact that a number of indigenes travelled abroad and back with the different European powers that visited. Much of this debunks the 1652 story of the state of indigenes at the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck. It was not just the land that was stolen from the indigenes but also their social and economic progress as a settled trading port community. Everything also points to the likelihood that over the 20 to 50 years prior to Jan van Riebeeck’s occupation, children would have been born from relationships of various types between travellers and women in the trading-port village community. People among the Goringhaicona are described by some accounts as including persons with a near European appearance. We know nothing about Krotoa’s father and she was very much her Uncle Autshumao’s charge. Krotoa herself may have been born of or descended from a relationship between a transient traveller and an indigene woman.

The Camissa people were the root people for what can be called the ‘Camissa footprint’ which spread across South Africa over time. With European settlement and the arrival of slaves from other parts of Africa, Madagascar, India, Southeast Asia and China, and they also impacted on the people of Camissa. Resistance wars in and around Camissa resulted in a diaspora of scatterlings. The slaves who worked and lived alongside the Goringhaicona, sometimes even receiving refuge from them were embraced by the indigenes and children were born of these relationships. In the diaspora resulting from forced removals and enserfment of Khoena on European farms, further relationships developed across slave and indigene communities. In the genocide drives against the San by European and Khoena commandos, adult San or /Xam were slaughtered en masse and their children taken as apprentices on farms. When these grew up they had relationships too with slaves on those farms and children were born. Non-conformist European rebels ran away from the authorities in the colony and teamed up with fleeing indigene maroons and inter-married into those communities. The Camissa footprint grew and grew.

By the mid 19th century when the Camissa roots were much layered and the Goringhaicona forgotten, the colonial authorities in an act of de-indigenisation labelled the Camissa descendants as ‘Coloured’ people.

With her Goringhaicona people already quickly disrupted and her once powerful uncle often on the run, during her years with Jan van Riebeeck as an interpreter, emissary and negotiator, Krotoa adopted the Cochoqua as her people and by all accounts they adopted her. Krotoa’s sister was the wife of the elder-leader Oudasoa of the Cochoqua. Krotoa also had a second ‘mother’ among the Cochoqua. She further had kinship ties with the Goringhaiqua and the Chainoqua. Simultaneously Kratoa maintained her ties with her uncle Autshumao and his remaining followers.

One of the greatest misrepresentations in South African colonial history narratives is that of the status of relations with the indigenes of Table Bay particularly in the 50 years prior to, and at the time of the landing of Commander Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. The inaccurate depiction of Autshumao of the Goringhaicona as an ignorant vagabond leader of a bunch of good-for-nothing beachcombers (Strandloopers) runs counter to much reliable historical information that has always been available but most often ignored or even suppressed. It is only in understanding Krotoa in the context of the four decades prior to 1652 that one can better understand who she was, how she met various challenges in her youthful years and what were the social circumstances of her time. Only then can her legacy fully be appreciated. It is unfortunate that many have bought into what I call a ‘primitivistic’ paradigm when looking at who Krotoa was, where there is an over-emphasised shock-factor suggesting that an absolutely traditional community were knocked backwards by a sudden influx of European invaders. There certainly was a paradigm shift in terms of van Riebeeck imposing what I call his ‘redoubt mentality’ with war, dispossession and forced removals, but the paradigm shift from traditional nomadic herding life, at least for the Goringhaicona had happened decades before van Riebeeck’s arrival.

According to European history, the Europeans had been passing through Table Bay since 1488 and, according to the Chinese accounts the Chinese passed through Table Bay in 1421.   From the time of that Chinese voyage around the Cape by Admiral Zheng He, until 1652 when the first Dutch settlement occurred, there had been two centuries of interaction by the indigene Khoena people with a wide range of foreign visitors.

An introduction on the trading links, the communication and the cooperative relations of the Gorachoqua, Goringhaiqua and then the Goringhaicona with the passing Europeans was first provided to a mass readership in some detail by historian Richard Elphick in his book ‘The KhoiKhoi and the Founding of White South Africa (1975). Much of the source material is to be found in the journals of Commander Jan van Riebeeck and he in turn was able to record this largely from the stories of Krotoa and other interpreters. But Elphick only really scrapes the surface. When one goes into maritime history many more questions arise and the impacts are not dealt with nor explored by South African historians. The impact of thousands of troops being shipped to the east for the Dutch wars and their stopping at the Cape gets no comment. Even although cognisance is taken of a range of big clues as to what was going on at Table Bay, historians just do not connect the dots in any significant manner. It is from this neglect that even many of the Khoisan mythologies arise.

The initial informal though brisk trading relationships that took root between passing ships and the Khoena people in the latter 1500s began to take a more formal form under  Xhore of the Gorachoqua after he was kidnapped to England in 1613 and returned a year later. Elder-leader Xhore had later led the resistance to the English attempt to settle Newgate convicts at Camissa in 1615 under Captain Crosse, but nonetheless maintained relations as a trader with the Europeans until his death.

After Xhore’s death (at the hands of the Dutch) Elphick notes that trade relations with the Khoena took a nose-dive.   But a short while later this gap was filled after Autshumao, the uncle of Krotoa, was taken on a visit to Batavia (Jakarta) in 1631.

A new and intricate relationship was developed with Autshumao’s clan, the Goringhaicona, involving a range of services including a postal service to passing ships. This first involved establishing a service station for ships on Robben Island served by more than 60 Khoena under Autshumao and later by 1638 this service-community relocated back to the mainland where they continued to provide services. Under the entrepreneurial Autshumao an interlocutor bartering service relationship developed which slowly resulted in rebuilding the supply lines for the European travellers for the acquisition of meat, fresh water, salt, hides and timber in exchange for a commission on transactions.

The Khoena name of the fresh water river running down from the sacred mountain known as Hoerikwaggo (TableMountain) was ‘Camissa’ or the ‘Sweet Waters’ (soetwater).  The Dutch referred to the Goringhaicona as the ‘Watermen’ because of their association with the Camissa River and the seashore. It was from Camissa that foreign ships were supplied with the vital commodity – fresh water, by the Goringhaicona. All the hallmarks were in place to regard this as the first proto-refreshment station at the Cape and thus the true foundation of Cape Town.

The settlement of his people around Camissa was a strategic move on the part of Chief Autshumao. When there were no ships in the Bay his people lived off fish and other seafood. By camping at the Camissa, Autshumao controlled a constant fresh-water supply, giving him a strategic advantage right on the beach. By all accounts the Goringhaicona were typical ‘survivors’ and highly entrepreneurial.  Although a much smaller group, (minuscule in comparison) than the other Khoena groups they initially dominated relations between the Khoena livestock herders and the Dutch by setting themselves up as the negotiators at a fair commission. It was because of this, as can be seen in the Dutch Commander’s journaL that Jan van Riebeeck was so antagonistic to Autshumao. Commander van Riebeeck believed that he was being over-charged for the services. From Autshumao’s point of view the Dutch Commander had just come along and taken over his trading settlement and business. This essentially was at the heart of the conflict.

Autshumao and another of the Camissa people, Isaac (of whom little is known), had through their travels to Batavia (Jakarta) returned with much linguistic and other knowledge about the Europeans and this was used to their own advantage. Twenty years later, after much interaction with the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British, the Camissa community – the Goringhaicona as a group, would have been well acquainted with European languages enough to get by with general communication and protocols.

Authsumao, with his 10 year old niece Krotoa at his side, stands out as playing a major role in all of the initial interactions with the Dutch Commander of the Cape – Jan van Riebeeck, due to his reliance on their linguistic skills and Autshumao’s control of the community interactions with the Europeans. Even when van Riebeeck moved from the tent camp into the north wing of the partially built Fort five months after his arrival, he noted that Autshumao remained camped on the opposite bank of the Camissa River running below the north wing. The Fort alongside the Camissa was more or less partially at the top end of today’s Grand Parade and the back end of the Golden Acre Centre.

Although van Riebeeck is recognised as the colonial ‘founding father’ of Cape Town (and South Africa), he only actually resided in South Africa for 10 years and none of his immediate family remained in South Africa. Notably Krotoa’s descendants however are today to be found among thousands of South Africans of all national groups. The one thing that Jan van Riebeeck ought to be remembered for is actually in very few narratives. It is what he bequeathed to South Africa – the trajectory over 3 centuries of the concept of the ‘redoubt’ which I have written about elsewhere in detail. He is the father of ‘forced removals’ and ‘Group Areas’..

Commander van Riebeeck first provides a note on Krotoa in his journal in 1654 by referring to  – ‘a girl living with us’. He mentions too that she was taken away by her uncle Autshumao and his group of followers after he had made off with a large number of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) cattle herd. The Commander writes that he pursued Autshumao to wrest her back. So important was she to his plans.

From this first mention in the record, the Commander went on to mention her name over 200 times in 65 entries in the journal. Krotoa was a dominant factor in Jan van Riebeeck’s entire time at the Cape of Good Hope. Further light is shed on her status in the household when the Commander notes that she was taken into the service of his wife from the beginning (1652).  Van Riebeeck also notes that Krotoa perfected the Dutch language and came to a full understanding of religion and Dutch culture under the tutorship of his wife. Some have interpreted this as meaning that Krotoa was part of Jan van Riebeecks Christian family but throughout this time she was never baptised nor received into the Church. From the age of 15 years, Krotoa’s service to the VOC transformed to become that of interpreter, emissary and negotiator.

The Commander studied Krotoa like a hawk as she was manipulated to provide the VOC with intelligence and as much strategic advantage as possible. He also cultivated back up interpreters as distrust towards her later set in. He used the other interpreters to try and catch her out. Interpreting became a terrain of struggle and Krotoa turned diplomacy into an art. From the pages of the van Riebeeck journal one gets the impression that she played a chess game with van Riebeeck and his journal shows that he suspected her of this and he does not camouflage his feelings.

Commander van Riebeeck started with some muted paternalistic statements about Krotoa in the beginning of his journal and proceeded to describe the advantages and pitfalls of her contribution. As time marches on, distrust is espoused and he sounds warnings about Krotoa. He uses a particular phrase which I believe does more justice to evaluating her role in history than many of the things that is said by others – Krotoa is accused  by Jan van Riebeeck of ‘drawing the long bow’. This expression carries much meaning. It means that she stood accused of exaggerating, embellishing, lying or deliberately misleading Jan van Riebeeck. He also explicitly suggests that she is playing him at his own game. He says “she knows well by now how to introduce a little flattery and say the sort of thing she imagines you want to hear”.

By the third part of his journal, Eva, as she is referred to, pre-occupies van Riebeeck and dominates the journal as much as the struggle between the Khoena and the Dutch intensified. Different patterns of struggle with the colonists emerged and these were not in sync with each other. Indeed they were competitive and conflictual. Krotoa clearly came down on the side of the Cochoqua, her sister’s people and perhaps her adopted people. In his journal van Riebeeck identified a strong sense of loyalty in her for her own kin and distrusted her for having this trait.

Krotoa’s role as interpreter, emissary and negotiator continued over seven years. It is remarkable that this crucial role was carried out by a teenager and a woman who not only rose to the challenge, but was also able to subtly turn the tables on her master so as to advantage her own people. She comes across as having grown into her own person rather than anyone else’s go between – whether among the Dutch or the Khoena.

Who was this extraordinary young woman who lived for only just over three decades? Why was the 10 year old Krotoa chosen by Jan van Riebeeck out of all the other children of the Camissa settlement which hosted the early Dutch fort?

The Europeans literally established their tent camp right in the midst of the existing Camissa settlement for convenience, protection and to begin to assert control. The Cape was still a place teaming with wildlife. It was an inhospitable place in winter and winter was fast approaching. For the first five months in the heart of a terrible Cape winter, the Europeans and the Goringhaicona lived cheek by jowl on the banks of the Camissa River while the Fort was being built. Krotoa was a curious ten year old who along with her peers would have been running around inquisitively among the Europeans and the Ambonyese soldiers as they busied themselves fortifying their beachhead at Camissa. When she was not running around with the other children she would be at her uncle Autshumao’s side. Krotoa was the closest to Autshumao and Jan van Riebeeck needed to be as close to his rival as possible. Jan van Riebeeck took advantage of this vulnerability by exploiting the vulnerability of the child.

At this stage maintaining a good relationship with the Khoena at Camissa was the key to the survival of this Dutch settlement project. The local people of the Camissa settlement right down to the children, already had enough understanding of various European languages and customs through years of interaction by passing ships with which they traded. Krotoa clearly stood out as her ‘uncle’s child’ who probably was more conversant with rudimentary Dutch, English, French and Portuguese than the others. She was a prime candidate for further instruction.

By the written accounts of her appearance, she further stood out as having both Khoena and some physical features that allowed for her to fit into the European company more easily.  Krotoa had no father and one picks up that she had a strained relationship with her mother. Her appearance suggested that somewhere down the line it was likely that there was some European forebear or even paternity. Her family connections with the inland Cochoqua and the fact that she was related to the ‘elder-leader’s wife was a strategic issue for Jan van Riebeeck. Control of such a young person who could walk into the kraals of leaders, gave van Riebeeck a strategic advantage. She could carry information back and forth and positively influence key role-players if she could be trained and moulded.

Historian Richard Elphick makes the point that we should be careful not to overlay the traditional European concept of kinship or nuclear family on the Khoena people. Words such as ‘uncle’ or ‘mother’or ‘sister’ and ‘niece,’ ill-fit the Khoena kinship connections. Likewise there were no rigid kinship walls standing between Goringhaicona, Goringhaiqua, Cochoqua and the Gorachoqua, even although with the latest arrival of the Europeans, tensions and conflicts evolved between these groups and also with others such as the Chainouqua. Elphick shows us that Krotoa had a complex set of family relationships across these clans, and that these included persons of influence and power.   Historian Mansell Upham also sounds a loud alarm bell that when exploring perspectives on the life of Krotoa we should be careful about coating her with our own subjective overlays and angst to the point that we imprison her memory and abuse her to gain political ground seized for temporal gains.

Some writers have chosen to project Krotoa’s place in the van Riebeeck household as though she were a foster child taken into the bosom of the Commander’s family. There is very little facts to support such assumptions. The living arrangements too would not have allowed for Krotoa to be part of the nuclear family of the Commander. When the early rudimentary Fort was complete, the van Riebeecks only had three tiny rooms for a household of 12 persons – his immediate family, slaves and Khoena servants. Krotoa was not the only Khoe person working in the fort. This was hardly the intimate family environment where a fostered Khoe child was taken into the bosom of the Commander’s wife.  Kratoa’s world was also shared by two ‘Abyssinian’ slave girls of her own age from Madagascar – Lijsbeth Arabus and Cornelia Arabus, given to Maria de la Quellerie, the Commanders wife by a visiting French Admiral.

Karel Schoeman in his chapter on Krotoa in ‘Seven Khoi Lives’ gives us a much more comprehensive picture of Krotoa’s upbringing between the ages of 12 and 17. It shows a teenager who was as much, if not more so, a part of her traditional Khoena society as she was a fringe member of the Commander’s household. For strategic reasons it was in the interest of Commander van Riebeeck to also nurture the relationship between Krotoa and the Cochoqua and thus the contact was facilitated. Schoeman refers to this as ‘promising contact’ in van Riebeeck’s eyes.

Krotoa’s pre-teen and teenage years must have been very difficult. The child entering puberty was prone to abuse by any of the 140 roughneck men in the 146 strong (female depleted) European and Ambonyese community where protection was hardly able to be guaranteed. Van Riebeeck himself was not always in full control. For instance, two years after entering service at the Fort, Krotoa had absconded with her uncle and she had to be brought back to the Fort after Van Riebeeck had pursued them.

Between the age of 12 and 15 Krotoa was further instructed in language, religion and culture of the Dutch, not for philanthropic reasons, nor for purposes of conversion, but to act as an interpreter and diplomat. Why? She had been found to have both an aptitude and a flare for the work when the Commander tried her out in this role on a few occasions. At 15 already the Commander indicated in his journal that she was doing interpretation work. She clearly emerges from the pages of the Commander’s journal as quite a character.

A clear indication that she was not fostered nor truly accepted into Dutch society in the traditional sense was that she remained un-baptised, a sign of non-integration into the European community, until the age of 22 and then the baptism was by her own request. Again this too shows how much of an independent character that she was. Baptism was the true measure of acceptance into the European community.  Her dress amongst the Europeans is also noted as not that of the European women and children, but that of the Asian slaves.  This was symbolic of her servitude status at the Fort. However as an interpreter with a strategic role she was sure to have been able to navigate her way within the fort society with some success and status. No mean feat for a youngster.

From 15 years to 22 years old Krotoa was set to work as the official interpreter, emissary and negotiator. She was initially prized by Jan Van Riebeeck and commended for her service.

Increasingly as Krotoa entered her post-teens, the tone in the Commander’s journal changed to view her more disparagingly and with suspicion.   She was suspected of aiding her people with strategic information and advice, particularly during the first Khoena-Dutch war of 1659 – 1660. Krotoa was both a clever and wise young person. She too must have recognised that she was in a powerful position to carry useful information, warnings and good counsel to her people. Many historical and even activist commentators project Krotoa either as a humble servant, or as a collaborator or as a helpless victim. I reject all three of these dominant projections.

Commander van Riebeeck notes that the child, the teen and the young adult over a 12 year period regularly stripped off her Asian dress- kabaka, sarong and kaparangs, and donned her traditional Khoena clothes (skins) and adornments to engage in rituals and communion with her people. By all accounts she took great pleasure and pride in doing so.

Krotoa clearly also experienced a tug-o-war of emotions and mental conflict, as well as conflicts of loyalty. She was under great pressure. Krotoa was torn between being Eva and Krotoa; between being part of the European world yet not part of it and part of the Khoena, yet not part of it. She was after all from of a maroon community of Goringhaiqua who already had broken with many indigene traditions and developed a new way of life. Krotoa who was from a free and easy community not governed either by her traditional society nor by the Eurpopean intruders found herself being marshalled, briefed and de-briefed by her handler, the Commander. She was asked to go among her people and to report back. She would also at times be asked to go among her people and possibly mislead them even although the religion taught to her said that lying was wrong.

Krotoa saw the ruthless and manipulating side of the Commander – a hard-nut VOC official with a dodgy background protecting the interests of a powerful company one day and the gentleman singing her praises the next. Contradictions surely jumped out at her. Jan van Riebeeck had a criminal record and was not the nicest of people.

Already within a year of arrival he was begging the VOC to give him permission to round up all of the Peninsula Khoena, put them in chains and drive them into forced labour. Later in 1657 he again pleaded with the VOC to allow them to turn the Peninsula into an island cut off from Africa and to put into action a most dastardly scheme. He pleaded to be allowed to drive all Khoena into five ‘redoubts’ to be built in Hout Bay, together with their livestock. There in these guarded concentration camps the Khoena would exist simply to breed livestock for the VOC. As Krotoa matured she was more ably to understand the ruthlessness of Jan van Riebeeck and she was clearly less able to be manipulated by van Riebeeck. If you read between the lines of his journal van Riebeeck suspects that Krotoa was split in her loyalties between the VOC and her sister’s people, the Cochoqua.

Krotoa’s entire life was filled with trauma heaped upon trauma. It was a life full of danger. She was distrusted by the Dutch and also by various persons with differing interests among her own people. At the same time she most likely would have also seen tremendous opportunities around her and surely would have big dreams of her own. Signs are there that she had her uncle Autshumao’s entrepreneurial spirit. She was trying to make her own trading fortune too.

One day Krotoa was journeying in a caravan of cattle atop a prized beast – happy with her own people and treated like a princess; another day she was travelling with European men who may have plied her with alcohol and crept into her bed at night; and yet another day being waylaid and robbed by a rival Khoena band. The inner turmoil must have been great and like any person who has been in such situations she will have become resourceful and streetwise.

Her skills as a diplomat and linguist also had a lot riding on it. The wrong word in the wrong company could result in reprisals and even death. What a responsibility for a young girl. The lives of the people you loved would have been at stake. There were also intense periods of violent conflict and war. Krotoa navigated it all and it must have exacted traumatic impacts. The course of her life bears this out.

Krotoa’s experience would have been one of longing for some kind of normality which she must have also seen around her with others of her age. On top of all of these experiences she was a young unmarried mother with two small children.

It was in her mid-teens that Krotoa had her first child and later had her second child, both born to a single girl at the Fort, indicating that she could have been abused as a female teen in this overwhelmingly male environment or alternatively had a secret love liaison. The signs are there that there was likely to have been abuse and that would have gone hand in hand with the introduction of alcohol into her life. This latter aspect of her experience – alcohol, was to have a devastating effect on her future. An indicator of what ruled the sexual culture at the Fort during a time when there literally was no European women around is a record provided in Mansell Upham’s work. He indicates that while formally the Commander’s position was that he frowned upon ‘carnal conversation’ (sexual relations) with slaves and indigenes he informally gave licence to such relations saying that officials should ‘fruitify’ the slaves and servants.

Krotoa was able to delight in returning to her people on visits. Tell-tale signs of a yearning for love, and to be settled emerges even from the observations of the Commander in his journal.  The teenager had been thrust into a political world of intrigue, drama and tension with little chance of delighting in simple childish things. There was also little chance to follow in the path of the other women around her as she was thrust into a male world. There was little chance to enjoy love and motherhood. She was outstanding at the same time as a woman at this point in history, as no other female contemporary is to be found engaged in a role that was otherwise exclusively a male domain.

All of these factors together amounted to a cocktail of pain and joys and must have resulted in much inner conflict. It is no wonder that with all of these things piling up inside of her that in the last decade of her life, Krotoa was pushed over the edge.

Krotoa frequently went off to live among her people, most particularly to her sister and brother-in-law among the Cochoqua. Van Riebeeck tolerated and even encouraged this because it opened up a rewarding trade relationship and resulted in intelligence gathering. For Jan van Riebeeck, Krotoa was the source of a wealth of knowledge.

But it was not a one-way street. Krotoa was enterprising and was able to discharge her own loyalties to her people. She was able to provide intelligence and to position her people to gain strategic advantages. Among her people she blossomed and showed an enterprising streak. Her Uncle Autshumao’s skills for being an adept trader and entrepreneur came to the fore in her. She had experienced his mentorship too.

Krotoa particularly between 1658 and 1661 blossomed and found herself. She turned a situation of being used and manipulated into an advantage for herself and the Cochoqua people. She was not going to be anyone’s victim, is how I read the situation.  It would seem that she made her unique position both work for her and contribute to her people. Krotoa’s chief critic was her competitor, the fellow interpreter and an open resister of the Dutch, Nommoa (Doman). He criticized her and implied that she was a sell-out. But was she?  Doman himself did everything that Krotoa did and he was a grown man when he did so. Both acted as could be expected under those circumstances – they both bobbed and weaved like a boxer.

Some have only too readily jumped to a conclusion that Krotoa was a collaborator and Doman was a radical revolutionary. This is to simplistic a paradigm in which to view both of these characters. Both had their strengths and weaknesses and Krotoa lasted longer than Doman at the game of cat and mouse.

Krotoa certainly gave excellent interpretation and diplomatic service to the Dutch, but equally she provided the same for Oudasoa and the Cochoqua. Such is the nature of being an interpreter and diplomat – you get opportunity to look at both sides and in the process you are self-empowered and can if you are adept, influence the course of the future. In looking at the information available, one is indeed sometimes left wondering whether Kratoa worked for Oudasoa rather than Commander van Riebeeck. It also emerges from Van Riebeeck’s journal that she could have been quietly providing intelligence to the Cochoqua in their more subtle struggles with the Dutch. Her information from Oudasoa conveyed to the Dutch during the Khoena-Dutch war was nuanced in favour of the Cochoqua’s stance.

She further showed great loyalty to her uncle Autshumao when he increasingly became persona non grata to the Dutch. All of this was noticed and commented upon by Commander van Riebeeck.

A key part of van Riebeeck’s journal is his final testimony before leaving the Cape, where Commander van Riebeeck established that Krotoa mainly worked as an interpreter with the Cochoqua and other inland Khoena clans. He also states that not all of her information could be dependable as well as referring to other facts relating to her ‘dependability’ which were ‘verbally conveyed’ but ‘because of its nature must remain unknown’.  The Commander provided his successors with advice to keep her on a short leash. This bit of the journal is often completely overlooked, as with her ‘drawing the longbow’, by those who assess Krotoa’s role and modus operandi.

To understand Krotoa’s resistance role one needs to look at the Khoena’s overall resistance strategy – one that ultimately failed after the second Khoena-Dutch war of resistance. The Khoena strategy was one of containment. That is to keep the Dutch isolated from the interior by means of a blockade and, to keep them economically dependent on the Peninsula Khoena. Jan van Riebeeck’s counter-strategy was to break out of any blockade and to open direct contact with the interior by means of divide and rule tactics. If possible he also would have directly enslaved the indigenes or forced them into highly controlled group areas or ‘redoubts’ – concentration camps.

The Khoena’s Achilles’ heal was their own divisions. There were three different tactical approaches to dealing with the Dutch and these were unfortunately competitive. Krotoa played her crucial part in the third approach in my opinion as an ally of Chief Oudosoa.

Autshumao’s tactic was to pressurize the Dutch to stay locked in to the Table Bay area and to remain dependent on the Goringhaicona trading settlement as go-betweens for all trading with the interior. He went to great lengths to ensure that direct contact between the Dutch and the other Khoena clans were kept to a minimum. Autshumao also resorted to trying to play up the English threat to the Dutch which he knew to be their fear. The Goringhaicon were vulnerable because they were a modern formation of traders whose culture and way of life had substantially changed over a few decades in a scenario which would have solicited a degree of envy and distrust among other indigenes too. Autshumao and his small Goringhaicona clan were soon overwhelmed by the Dutch and the entire game-plan shifted from his grasp. He had little back-up to call upon for assistance. Krotoa was Autshumao’s eyes and ears in the Fort – but for Commander van Riebeeck she was his eyes and ears on his opponent too. It is this competative circumstance that took the ten year old girl into the VOC Fort in the first place.

The second tactician was Nommoa also known as Doman, who had learnt much about the Dutch weaknesses after he had travelled to Batavia (Jakarta) and back to the Cape. He followed a similar tactic to that of Autshumao, but with significant differences. He saw Authshumao’s Goringhaicona as insignificant in numbers, not militant enough, too removed from Khoena traditions and undisciplined. Nommoa sought to replace the Dutch dependency on Autshumao and also on Krotoa with himself. This in fact was one of his weaknesses. In turn he also attempted to develop a united front between the Goringhaiqua and Gorachoqua to stand up against the Dutch and flex their muscles. Ultimately his solution was a military one in which he felt that by going to war, the Dutch would capitulate. Being a bit of a loner, having travel abroad for a long period of absence also resulted in Nommoa possible being regarded to some degree also as a maroon, and this was another weakness.

Nommoa really believed that the Khoena had the strategic advantage at that point and to wait to take action would result in the foe becoming more formidable. Under Nommoa the Peninsula Khoena went to war in the first Khoena-Dutch war of resistance from 1659 – 1660. The indigenes handled themselves well and Nommoa utilised his intelligence gatherning while with the Europeans, to his advantage. He chose the terrain and weather condition to engage in battles that were a disadvantage to the Europeans. The result of the conflict was a stalemate, but Nommoa’s power and influence was reduced and the Dutch made significant gains. The Dutch by default won the peace in that they had an endgame whilst Nommoa did not.

The third tactic was employed by Oudasoa of the Cochoqua and I suggest with the aid of ally Krotoa. The containment strategy took a completely different approach through what was essentially a diplomacy and brinkmanship tactic. Oudasoa had large herds of cattle outside of the immediate reach of the Dutch as well as the numerical strength to oppose the Dutch and isolate them to the Peninsula. But he needed to bring his entire operation nearer to effect both a blockade and open up direct trade. He also faced the hostility of all of the Peninsula Khoena clans. Oudasoa needed to tread carefully and played his approach very carefully. He needed to either subject the Peninsula Khoena to his rule or he needed to win them over to a united front. He thus operated in a manner which kept both options open, but ultimately did not succeed largely because he waited too long and also succumbed to Dutch ‘divide and rule’ tactics.

Oudasoa knew that if he entered the territory being occupied by the Dutch in a piecemeal manner, and if small groups of Cochoqua were constantly attacked by Peninsula Khoena, the Dutch would eventually get the upper hand. Oudasoa utilizing the skills of his wife’s sister Krotoa, attempted to present the Dutch with an offer he believed that they could not refuse. He offered to bring his cattle and people into the Peninsula where he would keep order among all of the Khoena as long as the Dutch assisted him in such a move and extended a sole and direct trading relationship with the Cochoqua. Effectively this would have made the Cochoqua the sole Khoena authority in the region and a large and economically powerful enough Khoena presence surrounding the Dutch would in his belief have effectively contained them.

Krotoa played a crucial part to realize this strategy. She first did her rounds raising enough cattle to provide van Riebeeck with a taster for the economic gains that he could make. She then set up meetings at the highest levels between Jan van Riebeeck and the Cochoqua. And finally as interpreter she passionately argued the case for the Cochoqua.

But van Riebeeck smelt a rat. He began to distrust where Krotoa’s loyalties lay. He refused to go along with Oudosoa and first wanted the Cochoqua to demonstrate loyalty to the Dutch by allying with the Dutch against the Peninsula Khoena. This would have amounted to removing the thorn in the side of the Dutch without any immediate gain for Oudosoa. The elder-leader was no fool and decided to walk away, telling van Riebeeck that he would have no part in his war against his fellow Khoena.

The diplomatic brinkmanship of the Cochoqua through Krotoa did not win the day and Oudosoa’s struggle would continue for another decade. Krotoa I believe had however exposed herself and her loyalties to her people and she was to pay a heavy price for this. Her role as interpreter and emissary came to an abrupt end and her relationship with her protector, Jan van Riebeeck, soured and this threatened her place in Dutch society at the Fort.

I put forward that an assessment such as I have made here though with a bit of speculative license offers the only possible answer to the clear and rapid breakdown in Krotoa’s relationship with the Commander. It also explains his reference to that which can only be ‘verbally conveyed’ and that ‘because of its nature must remain unknown’. The only other alternative would be something of a scandalous personal nature between her and someone very high up among the officials, possibly the Commander himself.

There were few entries about Krotoa in the Commander’s journal from this point onwards and the last entry showing Krotoa as interpreter was in 1661.  By 1662 the Commander and his family were also about to leave the Cape. Over the next decade after the Peninsula Khoena had been subdued, the Dutch and the Cochoqua were on a collision path that ultimately resulted in the second Khoena-Dutch war of resistance leading to the defeat of the Cochoqua and the Khoena strategy of containment. The importation of horses (cavalry), more soldiers and guns gave the Dutch the strategic advantage in war. Mobility and fire-power was his key to success as was his divide and rule strategy.

Krotoa’s life underwent a new dramatic change in 1662 when Commander van Riebeeck left the Cape. It coincided with the death of her uncle Autshumao, her mother’s death and the death of her sister, the wife of Oudasoa.

Faced with her uncle, mother and sister’s deaths, and with the growing distrust in her by the Dutch, the deaths of the few Dutch friends that she still had and, the fact that her main patrons the van Riebeeck’s were about to leave the Cape, Krotoa needed to find some security. She had to use all that she had learnt to make her next moves. I do not believe that there is any evidence for her to have been forced to be baptised or to be forced to marry. This was a strong and astute young woman who knew that she was at a crossroads and took charge of her her own way forward using the only options open to her.

She found her tenuous security in requesting to be baptized as a Christian and by entering a marriage which could be characterized as one of convenience with a VOC official. While some Europeans opposed this marriage as scandalous it was a convenience not only for Kratoa but also for the VOC as it provided a means to spirit Krotoa away from the public gaze without too much ado. The VOC could manipulate its official’s lives in whichever way they desired. Krotoa took her own action but in this there was also a degree of manipulation by the VOC.

The man that she married was a Danish man, Peter Havgardt who by a custom enforced by the VOC adopted the Dutch persona of Pieter van Meerhof. Known as the VOC surgeon, he worked as a barber and had responsibility too for amputations. A surgeon in those days was not what we would call a surgeon today. The marriage allowed the company to quickly dispatch Krotoa and van Meerhof to company duties on Robben Island – a kind of exile.

This did two things – it cut off Krotoa from supplying information to her people and it took her out of circulation among the emerging gentry where the presence of the young Camissa indigene woman was an embarrassment, particularly because of the prior dalliances of their husbands during the time when women were in short supply. Krotoa would also have to get used to being a more stereotypical woman by making home, being a good wife and making babies without any distractions. She over the next few years gave birth to 5 more children. From all accounts the confined and boring life after her interesting and active life at the fort and across the Cape drove her quite potty. I believe that the combination of earlier trauma and the exciting life of interpreter and emissary certainly were ingredients for her mental anguish.

The years of sexual dalliances between Khoena and slaves with the VOC officials, which Van Riebeeck referred as ‘fruitification’, to which Kratoa seemed to have been exposed, now needed to be forgotten as the Company men and their new European wives wished to look respectable. ‘Carnal conversation” the formal term of those times referring to sex was now to be well and truly tucked away from view especially in the confines of the fort .The Fort itself was about to be destroyed as a new large and more developed Castle de Goede Hoop was being built and transformed into a seat of governance. The van Riebeeck project and experiment with her life which had offered her so much dreams had by now deeply traumatised Krotoa, who in the last decade of her life stepped over the edge.

Pieter van Meerhof grew tired of Robben Island, even although unlike Krotoa he was away from the island periodically on expeditions. After having another child with Krotoa on Robben Island, he seized an opportunity to go on a slaving operation to Madagascar and in the course of the expedition he lost his life. His role of ‘taming’ Krotoa had lost steam and there is evidence that the VOC had plans to establish him in a senior position in Mauritius. The marriage between Pieter and Krotoa had come apart at the seams.

Their marriage had only lasted three years. After her husband was killed, Krotoa was temporarily allowed back on the mainland and she tried to fit into the very different European world to that of her teens. Krotoa had two more surviving children viewed as ‘illegitimate’. She was rejected by the new gentry and forced to ‘know her place’ among the transient lower classes, mainly men, who only wanted her as a drinking companion and to satisfy their sexual urges.

With van Meerhof’s death, Krotoa’s only security was gone and the full weight of the years of trauma and displacement weighed heavily on her. Her ever deepening dependency on alcohol, probably first introduced to her in her childhood, took her right over the edge. Her children were removed from her, she was hunted down, thrown into the dungeon and then she was banished to Robben Island.

During this time on Robben island, in 1673, a certain Willem ten Rhijne, a Dutch visitor to the Cape, described Krotoa as:

“…. a masterpiece of nature. She had embraced Christianity, spoke fluent English, Dutch, French and Portuguese and was conversant with the Holy Scriptures…. in short, she was most commendable, being trained in all womanly crafts and had been married to one of the surgeons serving the company.”

This description contrasts sharply with the figure painted by the Church Council and the VOC authorities at the time.

Historian Karel Schoeman points out how this version by Willem ten Rhijne and another positive note in 1672 by JP Cortemunde contrasts sharply with the accounts in Commander Wagenaer’s Journal for 1671 – 74 wherein he refers to Krotoa as ‘drinking herself to death’ and to her ‘vile unchastity’.

Krotoa had walked a thin line that determined her relations with her own people and the Dutch. When it mattered most, in the time of war, I believe that she truly found herself caught in the middle. I believe that she played an important role in choosing to provide her people with strategic information and navigating a place for herself. Had she succeeded she may well have become as wealthy and as leading a personality as the later Free Black entrepreneur Swart Maria Evert had become.

She also became the advocate for the Cochoqua strategy to isolate the Dutch settlement and develop an equitable trading relationship. Had the Khoena succeeded under the Cochoqua, Cape Town and indeed South Africa may have had a different history. For her asserted independence and experimental approaches she was scorned by the Dutch, rejected and treated as one who had betrayed them. She also did not deliver to her people, or to herself and her time had come and gone.

As she found herself more and more of an outcast she turned to alcohol and it took her closer towards her tragic end. She was called a deceitful whore and a vixen by the people who once embraced her. Karel Schoeman says that on her death the new Commander’s Journal talks of her ‘irregular life’ and says that ‘she finally quenched the fire of her lust by the passive acceptance of death’. It would seem that the Journal tells us more about the writer than about Krotoa.

The last decade of her life when she was clearly suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome after a decade of upheavals, disappointments and abuses often is projected in an amplified and judgmental manner without due analysis of the other two decades and its impacts.

Krotoa who was a carefree child in the exciting world of the Camissa settlement experienced the whirlwind of changes brought about by the Dutch settlement on the doorstep of her village. She got swept up by the forces and experiences of the time but began to get an understanding of her times and had developed her own form of resistance to colonialism after having found herself in the extraordinary circumstances of her teenage years. She sought out and followed the potential opportunities that beckoned. She was no ordinary lass. I believe that she followed her dreams which became dreams deferred and that exploded in the latter years of her life. Right up to her death she refused to be down at heal and cursed the society in which she had felt used and abused.

It was only in death that Krotoa found a place of her own. After being buried with the rest of the Christian dead at the Fort, when these graves were removed to the consecrated grounds at the Groote Kerk alongside the Camissa, Krotoa finally rested at her traditional home by the river. Across from where she lay was the old Hippo pool where she accompanied her uncle in those days before settlement. It is a pity the political opportunism sought to disturb her rest and drag her to the Castle. At the same time in a way she had also crossed a border of finally being accepted into a status in death that had never been hers in life – acceptance by the Church authorities. this makes it more peculiarly in 2016 officialdom decided that she be removed from the church burial ground near Camissa, her home, and to be taken to the Castle of Good Hope for reburial yet again. In death Krotoa remains contested in a tug-o-war not of her making.

Her descendants crossed every group, ethnic and class boundary, but they were largely oblivious to her and her story – and oblivious to the Camissa footprint and legacy.. Perhaps it was only much later that her spirit found peace when her remains were moved to a plot at the Groote Kerk built alongside the then still visible Camissa stream. Camissa received back her own. Krotoa truly can be regarded as the founding mother of many. I believe we owe it to her to restore her dignity and give her the pride of place in a different narrative of what happened in the past. Krotoa is one of my 9th great grandmothers.

What is the legacy that Krotoa left? The first thing that must be acknowledged is that without Krotoa and the information she provided, Jan Van Riebeeck would never have been able to pass on such a rich wealth of information on the local indigene people to us as recorded in his journal. Nobody else dominates its pages as does Krotoa. Krotoa provided the information even although she was not the writer. Van Riebeeck, in a sense, was the scribe and she – the ghost-writer. In his journal, regardless of the flaws and bias, there is a result available for posterity of the peculiar teamwork which paints a picture of all of the Khoena clans named and describes details which may never have been conveyed for the future. It also tells us about so many Khoena characters who may otherwise have been lost in the sands of time. This is a great legacy which makes Krotoa much more than an interpreter and diplomat. She was also a chronicle.

Krotoa’s life is bound up with the hidden story of the people and events on the banks of the Camissa River of the 1640s to the 1660s. By looking at the life and times of Krotoa and her other indigene and slave contemporaries such as another of my 9th great grandmother’s Lijsbet Arabus, we are able to discover something of ourselves that has been lost in time. Like the Camissa River which still flows hidden beneath the City of Cape Town, so is it with the descendants of the Camissa people. Connecting with Krotoa is one of the keys to unlocking the heritage of many South Africans and rediscovering the strength symbolised by this ancestor.

By understanding Krotoa, what she was up against and how she handled herself regardless of what was thrown at her we can have a better sense of who we are as a people, not so much in narrow terms of ethnicity and so-called race or ‘nation’ but as people who can rise up above adversity. Krotoa was a linguist, a diplomat and emissary and a powerful woman in her own right. Faced with incredibly difficult circumstances, she walked among the landmines of her day and found her own way to make her mark for her people. While adversity dragged her down she refused to live her life down at heal. Adversity took its toll and took her to an early grave but she remained unbroken into the social conformity that had been thrust upon her. At times thinking about Krotoa and the adversity she faced makes me very sad and emotional but then I remember her differently. Victim is not the way I think of her. Though a broken woman in death, the best part of her life she was a strong woman.

Linguistically Krotoa was a pioneer of the Afrikaans language. Afrikaans is a Creole language with strong Seaman’s Dutch at its roots. But it also has German, Portuguese and French roots too. However, Afrikaans itself largely emerged among two streams of people who had European languages as their 2nd or 3rd languages – the Khoena and the slaves of the Cape. Today there are more people of colour across many ethnic groups in South Africa who speak Afrikaans, often as their first language, than white people who so. This language also provides an opportunity for Africans and Afro-Europeans to unite around something that is dear to both. Krotoa offers the hope that the narrow and race besotted definition of Afrikaans and Afrikaner can give way to something more universally embraced. Here there is much in the history of people of colour and the Camissa Footprint regarding the roots of both the language and the term.

The Khoena of the Camissa Settlement and the slaves of the Camissa Settlement were exposed to all of the European languages and likewise had their own Khoena and Melayu dialects which were also introduced into daily discourse. Thus the languages of the Khoena and slaves influenced the emergence of Afrikaans in an indelible manner.

But perhaps more importantly Xhore, Autshumao, Krotoa and Doman as interpreters were the earliest midwives in the birthing of Afrikaans as a language. They were the first to cross the borderline of suiwer-Nederlands into the world of the patois Cape low-Dutch or the Creole Afrikaans language. The first 12 slaves mainly from India, and the new waves of slaves from West Africa and Southeast Asia and Madagascar all also contributed to the emergence of this new language. It was vital for communication that boundaries in language needed to be crossed. This is an important sub-story of the Camissa Footprint.

Krotoa was the first indigene African to convert to Christianity in South Africa and she was the first indigene African to formally marry a European. Whatever we now may think of that marriage it was a pioneering step that ought to be remembered.

It is with Xhore, Krotoa, Austhumao, and Nommoa and the Camissa settlement that the people today labeled as ‘Coloured’ have their roots. The indigenes of Camissa and the slaves who were forcibly brought to Camissa from other parts of Africa, Madagascar, India, Southeast Asia and China, gave birth to the many people throughout South Africa today who can share a pride in being the children of Camissa…… and this too can be embraced beyond the confines of the label ‘Coloured’.

If it was not for the tenacious and passionate work of historian Mansell Upham we would still be labouring under a very distorted picture of the last days of Krotoa and about what happened to her children. South Africa owes a great debt to this historian.

Mansell Upham briefly touches on the last years of Krotoa’s life in a work on her slave contemporaries. He elaborates on the fate of Krotoa’s children and explains how Krotoa was accused by the Dutch Reformed Church Council of being a drunk and “playing the beast at night” and reverting to her ‘native habits’.

His research tells us that on the 8 February 1669 a new Church Council of the Dutch Reformed Church was elected and at the first sitting of this Church Council a decision was taken to remove Krotoa’s three children from her care. The church councillors having taken this decision pulled the wool over the eyes of Krotoa to lull her into a sense of false security. They simply conveyed a reprimand and suggested that only if she did not mend her ways that her children might be removed from her care. The decision to remove the children had however already been taken and they were about to execute their decision.

Krotoa, then known as the widow van Meerhof lived in the old pottery, then a make-shift abode. Krotoa got wind that all was not right and feared for what may be done to herself. She fled when her children were seized and her house was sealed up to keep her away. The children were put into the temporary care of the outgoing Church Deacon Jan Reijniers and his wife in February 1669. They passed the responsibility on to associate Barbara Geems. The Reijniers were considered to be ‘honest and godly people’ and had already been made the adopted parents of another infant Khoe child by the name of Florida. This child died a short while later.

The three children of Krotoa were formally committed to the care of Jan Reijniers and his wife in 1669.In reality far from being pious, Jan Reijneiers was a notorious cattle rustler and sheep thief who had been caught at it by elder-leader Gogosoa of the Goringhaiqua. Reijniers was also convicted thief. Barbara Geems ran a notorious brothel.

On 10 February 1669 Krotoa was apprehended, arrested and imprisoned and later in March was banished without trial Robben Island where she was to remain until her death on 29 July 1674. Krotoa’s children were shipped off to Mauritius in 1677. Theirs is another story. My forebear, Pieternella, Krotoa’s daughter was to return to the Cape with her husband Daniel Saayman after the Dutch East India Company (VOC) abandoned Mauritius. Pieternella died aged 50 in that fateful year of 1713 when smallpox ravaged the colony.

Krotoa was banished to Robben Island and her children tucked away in Mauritius to get rid of the embarrassment of the Camisaa mark on society. Leading figures in Cape Society in the early 1700s – Adam Tas and Henning Huysing scornfully referred to ‘the Black Brood among us’ referring to persons of colour in the free citizenry of Cape Town and the two van der Stels, considered to be people of colour. An almighty attempt was made to airbrush the Krotoa legacy from the Cape Heritage. But in returning from Mauritius, Pieternella (Petronella) and her children ensured that the footprint of Krotoa proliferated throughout South Africa.

BIBLIOGRAPHYHB Thom edt; Journal of Jan van Riebeeck 1652 – 1662; Van Riebeeck Society; AA Balkema, Cape Town / Amsterdam (1958) – Anna Jacoba BöesekenDie dagregister en briewe van Zacharias Wagenaer 1662 – 1666; (1973) –Anna Jacoba Böeseken; Memoriën en instruction 1657 – 1699; (1966) – Robin Knox-Johnston; The Cape of Good hope – A Maritime History (1989) – FS Gaastra and JR Bruijn;  The Dutch East India Company’s Shipping 1602 – 1795 in a comparative perspective;  Mansell Upham; Made or Marred by Time; www.e-family.co.za/remarkablewriting/MadeorMarred.pdf – Karel SchoemanSeven Khoi lives; – Cape biographies of the seventeenth century; Protea; Pretoria (2009) –Alan MountainFirst People of the Cape; David Philip; Cape Town (2003) – Riaan Vosterand Alan HallThe Waters of Table mountain;  http://dev.webdesignbytanya.com/hike-tm/the-waters-of-table-mountain/ – Nicolaas Vergunst; Hoerikwaggo – Images of Table mountain; SA National gallery Iziko Museums; Cape town (2000) – Nigel Worden, Elizabeth van Heningen, Vivian Bickford-SmithCape Town Making of a City; David Philip; Cape   Town (1998) – Adrien Delmas & Nigel Penn; Written culture in a Colonial context: Africa and the Americas 1500 – 1900Written culture and the Cape KhoiKhoi – From travel writing to ‘full description; UCT Press (2011) – William Crooke edt; Tavanier: Travels in India; transl V Ball; (1925) – Sir Richard Carnac-Temple; The travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia 1608 – 1667; (1967) – JP Cortemünde;Adventures at the Cape of Good Hope; (1962) – HCV Leibbrandt; Precis of the archives of the Cape of Good Hope; Journal 1662-70, 1671-74; WA Richards & Sons (1901, 1902) – John Cope; King of the Hottentots; Howard Timmins; Cape   Town (1967) – Richard Elphick; KhoiKhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press; Johannesburg (1985) – O Schapera edtDictionary of South African Biography: The Early Cape Hottentots – Willem ten Rhijne; (1933)

The SEVEN STEPS OF CAPE IDENTITY – Exploring heritage through the Camissa Footprint


Seven Steps of Cape Identity – PP Presentation

For those following this blog or my posts on Facebook and have requested the Power Point Presentation on The Seven Steps of Cape Identity – The Heritage of the Cammissa Footprint – here it is. I have tried posting the video version here but unfortunately this free wordpress blogsite requires me to pay a lot of money in US dollars to post videos.

You can however access the Video Version through the following Dropbox link:




The OTHER story of the founding of the City of Cape Town – The Camissa Footprint

The other day I was browsing through some old books at a good second-hand bookstore near where I live and found a very interesting statistic in a maritime history book, “THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE – A MARITIME HISTORY by Robin Knox-Johnston, concerning the fact that over the full span of the1600s over 1770 Dutch ships alone had called at the Cape. Although I have done much research and writing on alternative Cape history -it again hit me like a thunderbolt as to how much we were fed a load of bull-dust as history during Apartheid times, and I will explain why.

Now I have always been interested in maritime affairs. I went on a working trip to sea for a couple of weeks as an engine-room boy when I was 14 and a number of my family were seamen all their lives. It was one way of getting away from Apartheid South Africa for many men of colour and a means of seeing the world. For 18 months of my five years as a senior officer in the Immigration and Border Control services I was put in charge of a transformation programme involving modernisation and security upgrade of all SA harbours. I was responsible for pushing for the re-building of a cruise-liner terminal and inter-agency security command centre in Duncan Dock as a pilot to be rolled out for each of our 8 harbours. At the time by vision and intervention was opposed by all and sundry and most vociferously by the Democratic Alliance controlled City and Province. The narrow view held of preserving the then current business interests within the waterfront made them myopic to my vision of taking Cape Town harbour forward as a secure and dynamic gateway into South Africa. The manner in which my then opponents talk now has opportunistically changed – they all want to claim responsibility for what they now see as a great addition to Cape Town’s offerings. Such is life and so too is our past often skewed. I love the sea and Cape Town harbour and the maritime trade has a long and fascinating history. So what has all this maritime stuff got to do with the warping of history you might justifiably ask?

I came home after my jaunt at the bookshop and did some quick research by consulting a work – “The Dutch East India Company’s Shipping 1602 – 1795 in a comparative perspective” by FS Gaastra and JR Bruijn from Leiden University. I wanted to verify the statistic that I found and to interrogate it some more.This work considers all the variables at play for each decade of two centuries and provides the statistics for six European powers merchant fleets during the 1600s and 1700s between Europe and South and Southeast Asia. It shows us that just over the period 1590 until 1700 there were 2632 ships that had to call at the Cape and here is the thing, before van Riebeeck arrived in 1652, the figure of ships that called at the Cape was 1071.

This represented a rise from around 8 ships a year in the last decade of the 1500s to around 30 in a year with layovers of 2 days to 8 days by the time Van Riebeeck arrived. So hey, wait a minute. Table Bay was quite a busy port for at least four decades before van Riebeeck arrived. Why then did he and historians looking back at his contribution give us a scenario that said the rather ignorant and good-for-nothing locals were awestruck at van Riebeeck’s arrival and that he set up the first refreshment operations, no thanks to the locals?

The Dutch dominated the numbers of ships doing lay-overs and then England followed with France, Portugal, Denmark also regularly coming to the Cape. Interestingly in the period 1610 to 1620 English ships increased to ten times the number of the previous decade. This strongly indicates why the English considered colonization at this point in time and then later opted to support local development of indigene support infrastructure.

Indicators of the progression of the English approach is to study their actions of first taking Chief Xhore of the Goringhaiqua to London for training and orientation in 1613; the failure of their Newgate convict settlement at the Cape in 1614 – 17; the taking of Chief Autshumao to Jakarta (Batavia) in 1630; the subsequent establishment of an indigene refreshment station on Robben Island in 1632; and the subsequent move of this project to the Camissa River on the Table Bay Mainland by 1638.

This English sponsored relationship with Autshumao and his 60-strong Goringhaicona permanently settled alongside the Camissa (//Gam i Ssa) river and beach continued over 20 years before the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck and represents the true foundation of the town which would become the City of Cape Town.

Autshumao was dealing with 2 to 3 ships per month at this stage and their stay-overs would be anything between two days and more than a week. Effectively it was an almost daily presence of European visitors. This represents a very different picture to one of Jan van Riebeeck arriving to greet a desolate Cape and just a bunch of beach scavenging ignorant indigenous people awestruck at seeing Europeans. In fact, the fleet that brought Jan van Riebeeck back to the Netherlands from Vietnam had stayed over in Table Bay for 18 days.

As I looked through more maritime texts I found fairly glowing accounts of his services and that of other Khoena. Each European power seemed to have had their own trusted man who performed a range of tasks including keeping mail and passing it on to other ships. Ships had even developed a gun-signal protocol for summonsing their hired hands.

But let’s stop and look at some of the dynamics of the Dutch and other European shipping of this magnitude. Let’s also look at the probable impact on the Khoena and then lets also keep in mind the improbability of the cock ‘n bull history that has been handed down to us over the years, with the collaboration of our academic institutions.

When one looks at the comparative maritime records of that time one gets a good picture of the competitiveness of the European/English powers, the dominance of the Dutch, the size and shape of their vessels and changes over time to this technology due to the cargoes carried. One also has to look at what was driving the increase in shipping to South and Southeast Asia and the dynamics of that region. What were these ships carrying to that part of the world and why so frequently? One also sees a dramatic and striking attrition rate of ships by examining the return journeys. The attrition rate through wrecks and wear and tear on vessels shows in that only around 50% of these vessels returned to Europe. It spurred on the development of shipbuilding technology and the need for advanced stop-over stations en route.

The attrition rate was the driver for the need for sophisticated stop-over points starting with refreshment posts and graduating to ship repair facilities. The records also show an almost studious omission in our history books to mention that the main outward bound role of the shipping was to take company officials and huge loads of troops to supply the wars in South and South East Asia with soldiers. There the Dutch were fighting the English and Portuguese and Muslim Sultanates and they needed to fortify their factories and huge bases in India, Sri Lanka and at Batavia. Factories stretched across the long Indian and Bengal Coast and from Arakan (Rhakine) in Myanmar, to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, through to Formosa, and Japan and then throughout Indonesia. This was a scenario thirsty for thousands of armed troops. The United Dutch East India Company had all the powers of state ceded to them by the Dutch States General. Now here’s another thing – these troops needed time ashore at strategic stops. The voyages were long and soldiers and officials got sick and died but also grew grumpy and fights broke out. It was most certain that by 1615 already the troops had to have had time ashore at the Cape of Good Hope.

The English took the lead in trying to find a solution to further developing the port. The English East India Company under Lord Thomas Smythe came up with an elaborate plan to establish a small trading colony using freed convicts from Newgate prison. They also knew that it would need to co-operate with the indigene population and took Chief Xhore of the Goringhaiqua to London, Pocohontas style, so that he could be orientated to their requirements. Chief Xhore was returned to Table Bay and 10 convicts under Captains Peyton and Crosse came out to start up a settlement.

The whole thing fell apart in three years. But then the English followed plan B – by using the services of Xhore as a point man who served the French, Portuguese and Danes as well. He ably facilitated trade and the other needs of the Europeans. He was more reluctant to serve the Dutch and at one time refused to serve them because of they had behaved abusively to his people. For this Xhore lost his life at Dutch hands around 1626. The English had so come to rely on Xhore (whom they called Cary) that they found the need to establish a new point person. This is how in around 1630/31 Autshumao (whom they called Harry) was taken for orientation to Jakarta and returned to the Cape. The English assisted Autshumao on two occasions to first establish himself formally as a trader facilitator for passing shipping, initially on Robben Island and then later at the Camissa River on the mainland – roughly near the end of the Grand Parade where the Golden Acre Centre now stands.

There are many signs that Autshumao performed his trader and port master role ably, was a proficient linguist, was shrewd and astute and, also knew the value of playing off English and their enemies the Dutch. The large formations of Khoena also knew to keep their main herds of thousands of cattle and sheep cattle, and their families far inland away from the Europeans so Autshumao was not simply an opportunist go-between trader but served a very useful defensive buffer role.

Now what is the impact of the big numbers of ships, the frequency of these ships visiting the Cape, the different nationalities involved, the need for repairs stop overs, the need for soldiers and officials to go ashore in large numbers, the problems on the ships, the need for supplies, probable occasional need to leave the sick behind, the required postal and news services and so on?

The first thing that it should tell one is that Table Bay at the Cape was already a Port before 1652. Secondly it was already a trading and layover station.

Then secondly from my own experience of working in harbours and resolving the problems that arise, this kind of sea traffic creates stowaways and stay-behinds; shore-leave by men leads to sexual encounters and relations becoming a norm of port; ship repairs would have needed the gathering of repair materials and therefore negotiation of terrain, cutting and gathering timber and this would have led to job creation and further trade.

This huge amount of sea-transport and human traffic must have had a huge impact on the local population living at the small Camissa settlement. The people in this indigene settlement were a recent phenomenon of maroons from other clans coming together – most probably as result of social impacts brought about through the visiting ships. All of the historical materials that I have read together with the size of the shipping stop-overs at the Cape and the vast numbers on board those ships and the poor state of those vessels when put alongside the information that we know of the social history of the Khoena between 1590 and 1652 suggest that we have all been taken for a ride by historians of the colonial and Apartheid eras. Vigorous or robust engagement had already become a norm by 1652 and did not start on that date and neither was Cape Town founded at this time.

Pause now for a minute.

In 1647 a shipwreck occurred at Table Bay. The Dutch ship Nieuwe Haarlem on its way back to Holland was wrecked at Woodstock beach. The survivors under Captain Leendert Janszen built a small wood and sand fort called Sandenburg at Salt River and built a deep well for underground fresh water. They remained at the Cape for a year until 1648. Leendert Janszen, Matthew Proot and Jodocus Hondius III (a scientist) used their time to gather intelligence on the terrain, the indigenes and the other visiting vessels as well as mapping Table Bay.

A fleet of 12 ships that stopped over for 18 days, under the command of Admiral GW de Jong, took Janzsen and his 62 men back to Holland. On board the same ship carrying Captain Janzsen was a certain disgraced VOC merchant – Jan van Riebeeck, who showed a huge interest in Janzsen’s proposition that the Dutch should establish a permanent base at Table Bay.

Van Riebeeck had been fired from his job in Hanoi (Tonkin) in Vietnam because he was cheating the VOC by insider trading. He was ordered to return to Holland and this was his voyage of disgrace. On board this return voyage Janzsen and his five senior men prepared a proposal – “remonstrantie” to the VOC.

Van Riebeeck to redeem himself with the VOC offered to lead a settlement expedition to establish Dutch control at the Cape. The Dutch needed to maintain their dominance in the east and hence the control of the strategically positioned Cape was seen as vital and that there needed to be a more technologically advanced port operation to achieve the much needed ship repair and servicing required.

Janzsen and de Jong’s views of the indigenes was a lot more favourable and respectful that that of Jan van Riebeeck and his later approach. Their approach mirrored that of the English of establishing cooperative relations. Janzsen spoke glowingly of the Khoena in Table Bay who were of great assistance to him during his long sojourn. He recommended that the VOC accept and respect the trading and servicing role of the indigenes by ensuring that any settlement is based on cooperation rather than conquest. Van Riebeeck however was bent on conquest and dislodging any form of intermediary trading by indigenes. He wanted a simple direct trading relationship as a stepping stone for company control over resources. As such the Camissa community’s entrepreneurial approach of a proto-trading class of local people of colour was out of the question for van Riebeeck. He was also wary of the fact that the local kingpin, Autshumao had a very strong relationship with the English.

The report to the VOC presented the statistics of how many vessels were stopping over, how many people going ashore, the trade that was being done and importantly that no European power had established themselves at the Port where trading was only organised by the indigenes under an English trained and sympathetic Autshumao and a relatively small settled group of indigene ‘Watermans’ next to the Camissa which they called the Soetwater Stroom (also known as Rio Dolce, Rio de Camis and Platteklipstroom). Van Riebeeck saw this scenario as a push-over and thus the die was cast. The VOC and Captain Janzsen had their ideas, but van Riebeeck had his own. The imfamous ‘Skelm of Vietnam’ was not about to change his old habits.

History has been most unfair to Autshumao and the Goringhaicona trading mission at Camissa and has never properly analysed what happened in the 50 years prior to van Riebeeck’s arrival or the 20 year old human trading settlement at Camissa and the impacts of the large scale visitations of ships, sailors, officials and troops who were adequately catered for by locals. The social history of this port village with its sizable yet relatively small population had changed their mode of living, economic and social habits as happened in every other port across the African coastline.

This criminal negligence in academia which continues to this day has to be challenged. Indigenes are treated as anthropological and archaeological subjects in the paradigm of stone-age and iron-age peoples, rather than as subjects of social history enquiry by our museums and educational institutions. This has both robbed us of the ability to properly assess our past but has also fed into a primitivistic paradigm in terms of how many who seek to revive the memory of and understanding of our forebears think about and represent our forebears today in an equally skewed manner. European historical evaluation which is highly skewed sets the edges of discourse today and all sorts of European overlays from feudal monarchies to modern nation concepts are placed on our past and then misinforms our present.

Today we have people who claim to be indigene kings seeking recognition for numerous kingdoms or as a nation or nations. From what I can gather, there were no hereditary chiefs or kings but rather elders recognised by their communities as such because of leadership and achievement. Both Xhore and Autshumao became recognised as chiefs or leaders because of their achievements and their people’s recognition thereof rather than were born to be such. Autshumao’s niece Krotoa is one of my 9th great grandmother’s and if I were to believe some of today’s overlays of royalty on our past then I would be a prince. I harbour no such desire to covet an erroneous royal persona, but I do have a pride in the achievements of both Autshumao and Krotoa.

The early foundational human endeavour of a Khoena settled trading community which embraced visitors and whom no doubt some visitors embraced and remained and assimilated into, certainly which would have had offspring, as occurs in all ports. This element of children born from relations between the sea-travelling Europeans requires much, much more research and evaluation attention. This Camissa (//Gam i Ssa) village where the Grand Parade, Castle and District Six stands today on the Cape Peninsula known to the Khoena as //Hui Gaeb! can give us all a whole new take on our past. It is the Camissa Footprint and all that was born out of this pre1652 and post 1652 that informs our sense of identity.

We certainly cannot ignore this overwhelming evidence that 1652 was not a magical date of Khoena and European interaction….. nor can we ignore the vast numbers of vessels and people from abroad who came here and interacted with locals…. Nor can we ignore that key notable indigene figures had travelled abroad and returned and engaged with new technology and trading and new ways of living and were not merely ignorant beach scavengers. With all of this information at our fingertips we cannot accept uncritically the European writings that have marginalised and robbed us of a fair view of our forebears. Many of the basic assumptions that we make about the past are called into question. We are the descendants of this Camissa footprint as much as we are of the older Khoena modes of living and of slaves brought to this port from elsewhere in Africa, India and Southeast Asia and including all the interactions and resistance proceeding from this site.

We know that across the Peninsula there were up to 40,000 indigene inhabitants, mainly Khoena and over the broader Western Cape up to 50,000 more, both Khoena and San, making up around 16 Khoena clan groupings and at least five San or /Xam groupings of different strengths, and the they were very rich in livestock. Van Riebeeck left a record of less known correspondence, other than his famous diaries. While the latter tended to portray him favourably by his own hand a more wider view of his correspondence and the views of others sheds a different light on the man. It also shows that he laid the foundations for the 160 years of wars that lead to the flight of the Cape Khoena to the northwestern Gariep district and to the mass genocide of the San despite their valiant wars of resistance.

Shortly after arriving at the Cape, Van Riebeeck in 1653 wrote to the VOC imploring them to allow him to round up all the Peninsula Khoena, put them in chains and force them into labour. The VOC refused his request. Then in 1657 he again wrote to the VOC outlining a plan and seeking approval to build 5 ‘redoubts’ in Hout Bay to form concentration camps into which he would lure the Peninsula Khoena and their cattle and then keep them so imprisoned so that they may continuously be forced to supply cattle to the company. This concept initially considered by the VOC but was rejected only because it would have cost too much and required many soldiers. This however was the complete opposite of the approach that Captain Janzsen had promoted. Van Riebeeck’s ideas set the paradigm of European- Indigene relations that has remained to this day. Forced removals and the “redoubt” concept which was group-areas and reservations lasted well after Jan van Riebeeck, right up to the imposition of the Group Areas Act under Apartheid.

There was much that was phony about the “skelm from Vietnam” and perhaps it all came together in the biggest con-trick pulled on all South Africans in the 20th century. The political ideological skewing of history came full circle when an image of van Riebeeck and his wife was popularised. This image of a handsome, wavy-haired and immaculately groomed Dutch gentleman was presented to us as statues, images on coins and banknotes, stamps and in pageants. It was as plastic as the historical yarn that we were fed. In the 1990s we learnt that this was not van Riebeeck at all, nor was the image of van Riebeeck’s wife genuine – that of Maria de la Quellerie. The original paintings are in a museum in the Netherlands and are of a certain Mr Vermuyden and his mistress Ms Kettering. A real painting was found of the aging Jan van Riebeeck who just did not have the looks for a romantic founder. The plagiarised images ae deeply embedded in the minds of South Africans and mirrors the skewed history and heritage that many still hold dear. This stymies our ability to move on as people in the South afria of today.

Likewise the “Skelm from Vietnam” was not quite the pious man either. Historian Mansell Upham tells us that while formally he forbade European company officials for having “carnal conversation” (sexual intercourse) with slaves and indigenes, privately he is on record as telling officials to go forth and “fruitify” them.

There are much more complexities in our past than many care to acknowledge, but also a wonderful focal point arises for us to move away from racial terminology and exclusive terminology in anchoring our local identities alongside our national, regional and pan African identities. My inquiry and studies looking at that first Goringhaicona port community at Camissa, make me proud to call myself Camissa, and proudly African before anything else. My 9th great-grandmother Krotoa, Autshumao’s niece, and another of my 9th great-grandmother’s was a young slave Lijsbeth Arabus. Both worked for the van Riebeeck family. I live in a place called South Africa within borders made by imperialism and colonialism. I am passionate about Southern Africa and Africa and I am proudly African. I am driven in this by my local heritage rooted in all that arises out of the Camissa footprint founded on the indigene experience at the river village and further enhanced by generations of indigenes, enslaved peoples and non-conformist Europeans who had children together.

The people of Camissa embraced and assisted the enslaved brought to our shores and these enslaved peoples embraced Camissa. In my family tree there are 24 slaves, 4 Khoena including Krotoa from the Goringhaicona at Camissa as well as an array of European and Afro-Europeans. Camissa  is meaningful….not the racial tag of ‘Coloured’ that was forced on us as an Apartheid badge of identity and says nothing. Indeed it is high time too that we stopped racialising our terminology. The state and all of us need to drop using terms like – Coloured, White, and Black to refer to our people.  There are three broad heritages that flow through people in South Africa an no rigid walls separating us – African, Afro-European and Afro-Asian. This is heritage and not race. The African family of communities is diverse as much as is the Afro-European and Afro-Asian heritages.

As Africans we as Camissa (not Coloured) take our rightful place alongside Zulu, Xhosa, Khoena, San (/Xam), Sotho, Korana, Tswana, Venda, Pedi, Nama, Griqua, Shangaan, Ndebele, Lembe, Swazi and others. We have many sub-community identities in the South African family of African diversity. Imposed ‘race’ identities are nonsense and divisive.

I have always been amazed that all writings on the early people of the Cape only look at the Khoena (Khoi) people through a lens of primitivism as stone and early iron age people. Very little effort is made to present a social history of these our African forebears or their civilisation.

Over the last 30 years or so, as an amateur historian and heritage activist, I have sought to shed a bit of light on some of the pointers that make up what can be called the history and heritage that falls between the cracks….. most especially in terms of both indigene history and that of Cape Slavery.

From just little bits of information, such as the statistic that I happened upon in the bookshop, over these last 30 years, a very different scenario presented itself to me about the founding of Cape Town as a port. None of the information that I put out there is really new. Very little is primary research. Much of the information lays buried, or even not so buried in the research of others. The information is just being viewed with different eyes and written up with a different perspective and then brought out for view by a non-academic audience.

Also most of our history is about the outside gaze on Africa and the Cape and its indigenous people…. I am presenting a perspective which dares to look at what happens when you start to look from the Cape shore –from the inside looking outward.

For many years now I have pointed out a number of things that should get us thinking differently about this past. We need to factor into our thinking that there was European and other visitation for at least 200 years before 1652 and, also numerous historical accounts show us that Phoenicians, Arabs, Javanese and Chinese were on our shores as visitors from 600BC in a continuum to 1421 when the Chinese rounded the Cape and circumnavigated the world.  Now here is some other exploration just waiting to be done – and what impacts did these have in the shaping of local social history? Some things too may well remain a mystery.


.When going over a historical account there is always just a little overlooked fact that will be the dead give-away tell-tale fact that will suggest that behind what is being served up as a historical “truth” is a much more interesting story.

Die Afrikaners

Jan Jonker Afrikaner and a group of the Orlams Afrikaners

So is the case of an organisation established in 1875 by Boer intellectuals in Paarl called “Die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners” (GRA -The Association of Real Afrikaners…. or True Afrikaners).

Their starting point was that they recognised that what was referred to as Cape Low Dutch had emerged as the lingua franca of most Boers who could no longer speak pure Dutch and they christened their observation of this language variant – Afrikaans. Shortly after, they launched their newspaper “The Patriot” which made it clear that their mission was not just a language claim but that they were also founded on a claim to a “God-given land”.

The Association and their newspaper was deeply rooted in three things – language, land and people (language, country and nation) and thus became the early standard bearer of Afrikaner Nationalism. In 1881 a Boer protest movement known as the Zuid Afrikaansche Boeren Beschermings Vereeniging (South African Farmers’ Protection Association) of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr emerged as a proto political party and joined with the GRA and formed a political party called the Afrikaner Bond which took its place in the Cape Parliament.

So why in seeking a more inclusive and respectful term as an aspirant and emergent national group did they not just call themselves “The Association of Afrikaners”. The answer lies in the tell-tale use of the term “regte” meaning “real” or “true”. In asking why they needed to do this, the obvious answer is that there must have already been people that called themselves “Afrikaners” and a language ‘Afrikaans’ that the new association wanted to both distinguish themselves from and lay claim to the term and language for themselves. It is this political usurping of the term “Afrikaner” or “African” and the language of “Afrikaans” that is the more interesting story than what became the dominant narrative.

There were immediately opponents of the announcement of this “new language” and use of the term “Afrikaander” later modified to “Afrikaner” and it came from within the Boer constituency from those who wanted to maintain High Dutch as their language despite the fact that youth were more and more taken by English or spoke the Cape Low Dutch. The reason that they gave for their opposition spells out why they were so opposed. They said that the adoption of this “Afrikaans patois” was nothing but an adoption of the “Hotnotstaaltjie”. Afrikaans was regarded as the language of those regarded as Khoena and ‘Coloured’….. the people derogatorily called “Hotnot-Basters” were those who called themselves Afrikaners and everyone knew it.

A popular story was partially related by the Afrikaans language movement to try to track the genesis of the term Afrikander to European settlers by referring to an utterance by a 16 year old boy, Henrik Biebouw. Detlef Biebouw was a German labourer (knegt) who had a child with a slave, Diana van Madagascar, belonging to Cornelis Linnes. Detlef then later bought Diana when their daughter Susanna was around 6 years old but he married an orphan girl Wilhelmina de Wit shipped from Rotterdam and they lived on the fringe with the mixed Khoena, slave and knegt lower class of Stellenbosch.

In 1694 Wilhelmina bore Detlef a son, Hendrik who grew up in this mixed community shunned by the settler mainstream. In 1710 the 16 year old Hendrik was brought to court after a drunk and rowdy disturbance of the peace the night before. Hendrik basically told the magistrate where to get off by implying that as a foreigner the magistrate had no right to be telling him how to behave in public – “because I am an African (Afrikaander)”, in reference to the locally born in his mixed community. The term was quite clear at that time and no respected European settlers would allow themselves to be referred to us such. The fact of the matter is also that by the time Hendrik was 20 he got on a ship and left the Cape for good.

Before 1710 the term was already well used by people of colour at the Cape as can here be illustrated. There were already a proto national group called the Orlam Afrikaners who were descendants of Khoena and Slaves who had trekked up from the Roodezand (Tulbagh) to the Gariep region and had left an indelible mark on the Southern African landscape. This Afrikaner dynasty had been using this term “Afrikaner” as their surname going back to their progenitor Oude Ram Afrikaner since the late 1600s. From a surname the term broadened to mean all of the followers of Jager Afrikaner – the fighter in the Gariep district. His cousin Jonker Afrikaner was the man who founded the city of Windhoek. Jager’s brother Afrikaner Afrikaner died in incarceration on Robben Island.

Some of my own forbears in the Roodezand (Tulbagh) were from this community of “Afrikaners of colour”. One of my 6th great grandmothers (paternal) had the inscription in her baptismal record – Kaatje Hottentotin. Her name was Johanna Catharina Voortman van de Caab. She had a long marriage with Heinrich Voortman, a German, and two of their daughters married two sons of French Hugenot settlers, the le Cordiers. Both sisters make up different lines in my family tree up to my paternal grandmother Elsie Petronella le Cordier who married my grandfather Pieter Francois Mellet in District Six in the 1920s where my father and his siblings were born. Many of today’s le Cordiers, le Codeurs and Kortjes all descend from these three mixed relationships at the Roodezand.

The term “Afrikaner” goes back to the early use of toponyms to denote where slaves were taken from…. Eg: Anthonie van Angola, Angela van Bengal etc. First generation slaves born in the Cape Colony were referred to as Eg…. Catherina van de Caab (Kaap). Persons born out of unions of slaves and indigene Khoena were given the toponym Eg…. Klaas van Afrika which then simply became Klaas Afrika or Klaas Afrikaander. It was thus that the old progenitor of the Afrikaner clan, born circa 1690, became known as Oude Ram Afrikaner whose son was Klaas Afrikaner. Around that time it became common to also refer to people born of mixed Khoena, slave and European relationships as Afrikaanders also known as Free Blacks. But it was considered a term for the low class labourers of colour.

Thus in the Cape as had occurred elsewhere in the colonial world the term “African” was used in the context of slavery. It had never been used within Africa as a term of identity except in North Africa in the town of Afariqa by the Afars. If one thinks through this it makes common sense. Why would anyone in Africa even know the term or think of a continental land mass until people were forcibly taken away and could look back to from where they had been taken into slavery. Each slave had their own locality from which they had been taken to coastal towns and then loaded onto ships and taken to new places. Collectively they began to refer to themselves by the continental name used by their captors – Africans. In the Cape which was the only place on Africa to which the Europeans had brought slaves, the terms van de Caab and van Afrika took its own unique twist. Afrikaner was a term denoting class, colour and mixing.

Afrikaans too, as a written language, predates the translation of the Bible into Afrikaans by a century and the publishing efforts of the Association of True Afrikaners by at least a half century. Texts from the Koran and Madrassa lessons written in phonetic Afrikaans using Arabic script exist to prove this assertion that the earliest written Afrikaans emerged from among the slaves at the Cape.

The first usage of the term Africa and African in South Africa as self-identifying terms for people and language is rooted amongst the Khoena, San and the slaves. Thus the term “Regte” meaning “True or Real” was an unfortunate subterfuge when adopted by the Association of True Afrikaners. Perhaps one day the children of the “Afrikaners of Colour” and the children of those who saw themselves as “Regte Afrikaners” may reconcile and “AfriKaaps” and “Regte Afrikaans” may reconcile too. Perhaps this approach to our history and the tense ties that bind us may hold the key for the resolution of the vexing issues of the future of both the Afrikaans language and those who still see themselves as “Regte Afrikaners”. It is wonderful to see that many young white Afrikaans speakers are exploring those aspects of history that have as Elna Boesak once put it ….fallen “tussen die kraake” and in so doing, finding liberation and connectedness with Africa and the Africans their forebears once rejected.

Where have all the Cape Khoena gone?

What happened to the more than 16 Cape-based Khoena clans  and where have the four large concentrations of San gone? Is it true to say that it is simply a case of the majority of today’s people labelled ‘Coloured’ are the only true descendants of the Khoe and the San? The complex answer to the former is the subject of this article and the answer to the second question is that this formulation is both simplistic and incorrect.

Khoe JJ

Notwithstanding the fact that probably around 35 – 40% of those that the Apartheid regime had classified as ‘Coloured’ are descended from the Khoena and the San in the Western Cape, the historic and scientific demographic of the Western Cape shows that the impact of slavery more than anything else has fashioned identity along with indigene heritage, imported indentured labour and the European/Eurasian tributary.

Indeed in the rural districts of the West Coast region as well as in the Northern Cape the figures may be as high as 70% among those labelled ‘Coloured’ and in the urban and peri-urban sprawl of the Cape Peninsula, and the rural districts of Boland and Overberg as low as 20% of people labelled ‘Coloured’ are of Khoena and San descent.

These assumptions are based on a large DNA study (The Living History Project that have been done on self-identifying individuals where 30% of those labelled ‘Coloured’ had Khoe and San mtdna (and 2% Y-Chromesome dna). The same studies interestingly showed that 17% of those labelled ‘Black’ also had Khoena and San mtdna (6% Y-Chromosome dna) and, those classified as ‘White’ and those classified as ‘Asian’ had 8,5% (0% Y-C dna) and 16% (0% Y-C dna)  Khoe and San mtdna. Notably those labelled ‘Coloured’ had 32% Bantu mtdna (22% Y-C dna); 22% Asian mtdna (16% Y-C dna); 13% Eurasian mtdna (48% Y-C dna); and 2,5% European mtdna (12% Y-C dna).

The question then is whether there is a historical explanation for why science shows us this evidence? Resoundingly, YES there is an explanation if we set aside the traditional propaganda history books and the racist ideas of ‘pure’ and ‘uncontaminated’ peoples as propagated by the Apartheid National Party ideologues. It is unfortunate that some today still tout these false notions as fact.

In the Western Cape we have 7 main historical tributaries into our ‘peopling’ identity today. The indigenes (Khoena, San and Bantu); the slaves (African, Indian and South East Asian); the Free Blacks (freed slaves, mixed Slave/Khoena and free black travelers; Europeans (from a range of countries); Maroons (runaways or drosters from the previous 4 groups); Exiles and Refugees; and Indentures and Migrants. By studying the interaction of these and the historical events involved, we are able through scientific dna studies show the relationship of history and science that underpins understanding of identity in the Cape. Along with this we have fairly advanced genealogical studies that also provide un-challengeable facts that record actual marriages, unions, births, deaths and descent that underpin the scientific evidence and the historical evidence that underpins the unraveling of ‘Coloured’ identity in the Western Cape as well as other identities. Purity of ‘race’ is totally debunked by these inter-related studies.

To understand what happened to the Khoena clans and the San of the Western Cape we have to go on a journey of persecution, war and resistance. It has been the covering over of this tragic story and fabrication of myths that has both insulted the memory of these our forebears and has denied us an proper understanding of this important element of our identity. For some who are the surviving direct descendants of the Khoena and the San it has denied them restitution and the opportunity to rebuild their social and clan identities. For those of us who have a strong affinity based partially on descent and wish to revive a broad sense of identity rooted in both our Khoena and San roots, the lack of clarity on the past is an impediment of how we move forward. And for those of us who simply wish to celebrate our Khoena and San ancestral roots as part of a tapestry of origins, likewise it is an impediment for us in moving forward, not to have all of the pieces of this puzzle.

Historical researcher Nigel Penn in his devoted work towards understanding what he calls the FORGOTTEN FRONTIER has provided us with the most useful and comprehensive  account of the hidden history of the ethnic cleansing of the Khoena and San of the Western Cape.

Four of my favourite characters in history were freedom fighter contemporaries in the closing years of a 160 year series of wars of resistance by the Khoena, San and Slaves to Dutch and subsequent British colonial land grabs and genocide. Khoena Chief David Stuurman, the enslaved Louis of Maritius, the rebellious priest Dr Johannes van der Kemp and the Itola warrior prophet Makana whose mother was Khoe and father was amaXhosa. They all died between 1807 and 1825 and each has an amazing story.

It is not their stories that I will relate here but rather the story of a 160 year conflict in which they were just the closing players. As the 160 years of war came to an end it over lapped with another 100 years war in the eastern Cape where Khoena, Slave Drosters and amaXhosa often also stood together. That war is fairly well covered by historians, albeit with terrible slants, while the 160 year war is not. In understanding this period we can better understand a complex process from which our identity rises like a phoenix. The story addresses the question of WHERE HAVE ALL THE CAPE KHOENA GONE?

Our history books give a distorted impression as to what happened to the Khoena (Khoi) and the San in the Cape Colony and writes out their resistance and survival strategies. Because of these deficiencies, distortions continue to this day. But thanks to ground-breaking research by people like Nigel Penn in his comprehensive work – ‘The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century’ ((2005) we have a much better picture of the facts. I draw heavily on this work for this article

Is the Khoena and San story just a matter of understanding two wars of resistance ending in 1677 and then along came two devastating Smallpox epidemics in 1713 and 1755 and “poof” there were no more Khoena and San from that time onwards? That story ranks as taking joint first-prise as an absurd untruthful account alongside that other myth that Chief Autshumao the trader who had travelled to Jakarta and back and, ran a successful trading post at the Cape for just over 22 years, was just an ignorant thieving beach-bum called Harry the Strandlooper.

What actually happened and the scale of what happened is a really horrible story that cannot be swept under the carpet.

When the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) set up its fort right next Autshumao’s settlement at the Camissa in Table Bay on the Cape Peninsula (//Hui !Gaeb) there were 16 or more Khoena clans in the Western and Central Cape reaching to the lower reaches of the Eastern Cape. Likewise at least 5 large San communities were also living across the same territory. The Khoena and San living within the boundaries of the then mapped Cape up to the Piketberg in the West and to outskirts of Swellendam district in the East was estimated at 50,000 and with further later estimates of 40 – 50,000 more beyond and up to the Gariep River on the North West and the Fish River in the Keiskamma in the East.

What then actually happened to result in the figure for Khoena and so-called Bastard-Hottentots together being given as 14,883 in 1798 in the census of all within the Cape Colony? WHERE HAD ALL THE CAPE KHOENA GONE?

The white population in 1658 was 166 and the slave population was 187 and 146 years later in 1798 the white population had grown to 21,300 while slaves were at 25,754. (In the period 1653 to 1807 63,000 slaves were imported and between 1808 and 1856 another 8000 Prize Salves arrived. Both the European and the Slave populations had grown dramatically but Khoena together with mixed Khoena-Slave were drastically down to under 15,000 from 50,000 and many were now the offspring of mixed relationships between male slaves and captured Khoena and San women after being taken by commandos in raids where their male partners were slaughtered. It is this puzzle that remains hidden in various histories. (Ref:AT Brenner 2006 –Appendix A ‘Slavery and Khoisan Indentured Servitude in 18th Century Dutch Cape Colony)

The starting point of course is the two anti-colonial wars of resistance by the Khoena ending in 1660 and 1677 respectively. While the first war ended in a stalemate the second war had grave consequences when the Cochoqua were defeated and faced economic, political and social disintegration. Loss of life, restrictions on land and confiscation of livestock (1765 cattle and 4930 sheep) was a huge blow. By the time that Chiefs Gonnema and Oedosoa died in 1685 and 1689 respectively, the Cochoqua were pushed back towards Roodezand (Tulbagh) and their fragmentation had accelerated.

In 1686 when other groups of Khoena were also under pressure from the colonists the San and the Grigriqua also clashed with the Cochouqua further weakening them. Other Peninsula Khoena such as the Goringhaiqua, the Gorachouqua and the remnants of the Goringhaicona migrated northwards, staying for a while with the Namaqua and eventually making new formations at the Gariep such as the Korana, Witboois, Griquas and Orlam Afrikaners. By the time of the expansion to Stellenbosch and the Drakenstein, the Khoena Klapmats were moved on while remaining Peninsula Khoena went into servitude alongside slaves on white farms or in the case of the males many were forcibly conscripted into informal commandos which rode out under white command to raid cattle from Khoena groups deep in the interior.

The pressure mounted on the Khoena in the Tulbagh, Ceres, Waveren, Riebeeck Kasteel, Piketberg, Sandveld areas as well as to Cedarberg, Kouebokkeveld and Saldanha. The colonists wanted their cattle and would do anything to rustle cattle from the Khoena. The two Governors van der Stel at first tried their best to stop cattle rustling and murderous attacks on the Khoena and San and introduced harsh punishments and even death sentences to put an end to this state of affairs. The errant colonists did their utmost to opposed particularly Willem Adrian van der Stel, but the VOC in Europe decided that he was being too harsh on the colonists and that they should legally be able to trade with the Khoena. This was a de facto license to go and do as they please. The company officials also now had to compete with the colonists in the bartering and they were no saints either. The besieged Khoena and San faced with ruin had no option but to retaliate and a 7 year period of war broke out from 1701 – 1708. In the wake of the war came further expansion when grazing permits were introduced for colonists to enter the Khoena areas of retreat. By 1714 this was followed by a loan farm system that was introduced. This in fact ran rough shod over the peace treaty with the Khoena signed in 1705.

It was in the aftermath of the war and during the time of the granting of grazing rights to trekboers, that in 1713 a visiting Danish ship that had arrived in Table Bay brought a devastating epidemic of smallpox. By all accounts it killed off settlers, slaves, Free Blacks and Khoena. The growing and increasingly more powerful Free Black community was decimated and never really recovered. The Khoena were hardest hit with reports of hundreds laying at roadsides as far as Saldanha Bay and the Drakenstein and beyond. While this tragic event, repeated again in 1755, does not account for the huge decline of Khoena and San by 1798, it is acknowledged that it was a significant contributing factor, along with cattle theft, war, land appropriation after forced removals and genocide.

Between 1714 and 1717 more surviving Khoena now without leaders and clans became ‘contract’ or ‘indentured’ labourers alongside slaves and were really treat not too differently than slaves.

The Khoena and San who bordered on Waveren, Piketberg and Roodezand (Tulbagh) at this stage still maintained their strength and coherenance and a resistance war again flared up from 1715 -1716. Hundreds of Khoena and San men were killed in battles and raids by commandos. Women and children were then taken off deep into the colony and scattered about farms as ‘indentured’ servants and labourers. Young boys were brought up to serve in militia as conscripts. Nominally the Khoena labourers and servants were not enslaved but formally were free people under contract. As children of slave men by slave women would also become slaves that could be bought and sold, Slave men had relationships with Khoena and San women, who were often widowed by war, knowing that their children would be born free and were likely to grow up around them. Khoena women also knew that the terrible things that inevitably awaited their Khoena and particularly male San male children were less likely to befall them if they were regarded as Baster-Khoena. It was a survival tactic and it did work for them. Khoena, San and slaves co-operated as oppressed people, under the same oppressor at a range of levels and often innovatively. This included fighting alongside each other as resistance fighters. Many slaves ran away to join the Khoena and Orlams resistance groups in the north across the frontier and across the frontier in the east.

From 1717 – 1725 a combination of illness among livestock affecting both the indigene communities and the colonists resulted in a retreat by Khoena inland particularly after the 1716 war. This did not stop the Europeans pursuing the Khoena because they were after livestock due to their own perishing. The stolen livestock of the indigenes who were now also in inhospitable territory further disrupted communities, who in turn fled northwards. Even the VOC could now see that the license given to colonists to trade was having a devastating effect on those whom the VOC too had to trade with. So in 1727 the VOC returned to the practice that they had condemned the van der Stels for implementing and instituted a new ban on colonists from trading with the Khoena. Of course the VOC was also short of meat and found that regardless of the new ban the Khoena stocks could no longer yield for anyone. The state of war however did subside for a while. But by this time the colonial held territory under the VOC had literally been ethnically cleansed of free organised Khoena through the brutality of war and the Khoena on the borders of the Colony were facing impoverishment.

By 1732 colonists now had farms all along the entire Olifants River territory. From 1738 to 1740 a war of resistance again broke out as colonist trekboers moved beyond Piketberg to Namaqualand and from the Westcoast to beyond the Bokkeveld. The defeat of the Khoena and the San and the resultant peace treaty, which everyone knew was not worth anything opened up further expansion into the north east. But now the settlers were on their own as the VOC was too weak to extend its support so far. The trekboers and farmers became a law to themselves and their commandos had free reign. From 1740 through to 1770 settlement continued but the settlers were few in number in relation to the Khoena so far inland and things were relatively peaceful in the latter years and the scene for conflict shifted to the Roggeveld in the 1750s and the nature of the conflict changed. The Khoena and trekboers now cut off from the VOC found common ground and created joint commandos and attacked the San. The records show that these raids against the San were vicious and genocidal in nature. Single attacks resulted in deaths of between 50 to 90 San. But these, bad as they were, were just a precursor to what was to happen next.

In 1774 the VOC decided to formally adopt the commando system as part of its military apparatus and thereby give it further reach. While all of this expansion through killing and raiding had been going on in the west and central regions of the Colony, there had been gradual encroachment and pushing of the Khoena eastwards as well. In the east the Khoena had strong and friendly networks with the amaXhosa and there was strong familial relationships and mixed clans too. The san too were also very strong in the mountainous areas such as the Sneeuberg and the Bruintjieshoogte. The settler expansion was halted at the Fish River, the Sneeuberg and Bruintjieshoogte. The most formidable resistance came from the San and the colonists were not doing very well. With the trouble in the Nieuweveld and Roggeveld intensifying too, the new formal commandos were dispatched by the VOC. This was imperative for the VOC because it had granted almost 200 new farms to settlers stretching from the west to the east so as to consolidate the Cape Colony. The Commandos despatched against the San and the Khoena Resisters were literally extermination machines. They were under white command but were roughly made up of 50% whites and 50% Khoena conscripts brought up on farms and trained while still young. The San were referred to as Vermin and the kill rate increased more than three-fold from 1773 to 1774 to figures like 260 deaths in a single attack.

The San unlike the Khoena did not entertain peace treaties and fought to the bitter end. Commandos killed all adults taking no prisoners but young women and children. These too increased the labour pool alongside the slaves as ‘indetured’ labourers. The Sneeuberg Camdeboo and Swart Ruggens saw the greatest indigene resistance of all time. It became the killing fields of the Cape Colony that went beyond any definition of war. This carnage is what gave birth to the Western Cape and its trauma has been passed on from generation to generation. The resisting Khoena faced the same fate in which civil war elements entered to fray. The same genocide would later be adopted against the southern amaXhosa where all adults were shot and all crops and livestock burnt in a scorched earth approach adopted by the British in the early 1800s.

The Eastern Frontier and the North Eastern mountain people saw a brave and defiant fight to the last man and woman. In the 1780s a resistance history played out in the Cape like nowhere else in South Africa, before or after. Those who say that the Khoena and the San gave up the fight without resistance are just displaying their own ignorance. The history books have remained silence on how the Western Cape was won by the colonists and about the brave resistance. White settlement only occurred as a result of the wanton murder of indigene inhabitants across the Western Cape. The people and clans that occupied this territory did not simply get whipped out by disease, or magically disappear in a peaceful migration elsewhere. They were decimated by force in a colonial holocaust. Though the smallpox epidemics played their part these paled against the slaughter. By 1798 the now mixed Khoena / Khoena-Baster population was 14,883 and no longer had land, cattle or freedom. These survived with the assistance of their enslaved comrades and still fought and resisted in different ways. In the Roggeveld in December 1801 a combined force of Khoena and Slaves involving 70 resisters rose up against their oppressive farmer. In 1808 over 340 slaves and Khoena under the leadership of Louis of Mauritius rose up in the biggest slave rebellion ever. These events, and many of them, is what built a very special resistance relationship between two groups of people who by now share familial ties of ancestry.

The slavery and Khoena interface gradually merged over the next 50 years when after the proclamation of Ordinance 50 giving Khoena freedom of movement and land tenure and, emancipation of slaves from slavery, together the survivors formed new communities alongside every white town. Along the migration routes Khoena and mixed Khoena heritage survived on farms and in small towns.

But many exiles from the Colony also would become new resisters fighting other battles for survival as they fled from the South to the West to the northern Gariep territory also joined by those who fled from the East to join them. Migrants poured into the Gariep territory and after years of struggle formed new communities with a solid Khoena base but also took in resisters from other groups including slave drosters and a few non-conformist Europeans. Just north of the main Namaqua groups along the Gariep river from Pella to Prieska a number of San and Khoena groups lived side by side, sometimes peacefully and sometimes in conflict. They had brought many traditions from different parts of the South with them.

The Gariep communities running from Pella eastwards were the Nanningai San, Naugaap Khoena, various Eis San groups, Kaukoa Khoena, Gyzikou Khoena, Au Nameikoa San, Koow Einas San, Naw Keis San, Hoekeikoa San, Noueikoa San, Moncoboo San, and Khoena groups – Kouringeis Korana (or Gora), Husingais Korana (Gora), Kay Kora Korana (Gora).

They were joined by the Kok and Barends descendants of the Grigriqua and Bergenaar Basters who also entered the Gariep territory, followed by the Witboois who had found refuge with the Namaqua, and the Orlam Afrikaners. The Korana (Gora) largely are said to be from the fragmented maroon Khoena from the South such as the Gorachouqua and Goringhaiqua who also regrouped at the Gariep.

By 1800 the largest groups of Khoena now resided far away from the VOC rule and the Cape colony frontier. At the Gariep the Khoena were to thrive until the next major upheavals came. British rule, missionaries, the Boers from the Great Trek and the discovery of diamonds as well as Mfecane all would impact negatively and violently on these Khoena and San communities which had found temporary sanctuary. Many would migrate west into Nambia, North into the Free State, across the Drakensburg to the East and elsewhere. A few of those from Griqualand East followed their leader De Kneg, AAS le Fleur to the Western Cape and scattered to Mamre, Goodwood, Touws River and Plettenberg Bay. A few gravitated over a long period back to the Western Cape in search of work but had to compete with new indentured labourers from St Helena, Asia and other African countries as from 1856 the Prize Slave indentured labour stream that had continued after slaver was abolished now dried up. Mostly the Khoena exiled to the Gariep remained frozen in small rural communities in the Northern Cape.

Post liberation from Apartheid Khoena and San survivor communities often against great odds in rural communities and a few in cities have struggled to reclaim their past. Some others have created KhoiSan revivalist movements to do the same. Yet others celebrate with pride their Khoena, San and Slave Heritage and the heroic resistance of their forebears as a tapestry part of who they are today. All call has been made for recognition of the historic injustice against San, Khoena and enslaved forebears, land reparation and restitution of the memory of our forebears particularly in the Western Cape which has been stripped of all acknowledgements of the Khoena and San. Others look at us incredulously and say “What on earth are they talking about. They are making up history.” In the face of hostility on the one hand and very confused and inaccurate narratives on the other hand, there is an urgent need to develop a simple popular narrative on this history so that even kids can articulate this free from ridicule.

Our children should be learning about these atrocities and about the amazing resistance in schools. Our public places should have exhibits and names that speak to this heritage. South Africa as a country should acknowledge this stolen past and put a stop to the stunted and covered over histories from whatever quarter they emanate. From the 1510 first victorious military engagement with the then world super-power military force under Portuguese General d’Almeide to the 160 years war and beyond…. through to such modern liberation heroes as Basil February, Ashely Kriel, Anton Fransch, Coleen Williams and Dulcie September…… the sons and daughters of the Khoena, San and enslaved…. we can really be proud…. They rose up above adversity.

To read a more in-depth account please reference – – ‘The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century’ ((2005) by Nigel Penn.