Today, Women’s Day – 9 August 2017, I went to see the Movie KROTOA (!Goro/gõas) the story of a young woman who lived just over three decades straddling the pre-colonial period and the period during which the first Dutch VOC colony was established.
I was sorely disappointed at an opportunity lost for communicating an amazing story of our past to audiences in 21st century South Africa. Back in 1985 an amazing source book was produced by Richard Elphick that stands out from all other literature of the period, but in a less severe way, it makes the same mistake that this movie makes. The title of the book actually says it all. It was entitled – “The KhoiKhoi and the making of White South Africa”. It was a filter-lens of looking at the Khoena or (Khoi) through the preoccupation with “White settlement”.
The movie largely looks at Krotoa or (!Goro/gõas) through the ‘White” filter-lens of an absolutely unauthentic romanticised Commander Jan van Riebeeck and adds into the mix a peculiar scenario projecting her rape by van Riebeeck wherein it projects her as being partly to blame and wanting his carnal attention in a yes-no manner. There is no factual basis that Krotoa was raped by van Riebeeck or had an intimate relationship with him. This storyline is based on speculation in the work of Julia Wells as a source. I believe that Krotoa did suffer abuse and rape probably by a number of officials and one cannot rule out van Riebeeck being one of these but I refuse to accept that her life was shaped by an ambiguous speculative relationship with van Riebeeck in the manner portrayed by the movie. This does not do her justice.
The real obvious child-abuse is papered over by the movie presenting Krotoa older than the years at the beginning of her teens and being ambiguous about her feelings around an artificially “young van Riebeeck” in artificially private spaces in the fort.
As a descendent of the woman identified as Krotoa and well versed in the abuse she suffered in her lifetime this movie was an self-indulgent abuse in itself and misrepresentation of her memory in the present on the part of the director, producers and scripters following the same tired old distortions. Effectively it came across as the same framework of Disney’s Pochontas.
The real facts are so accessible that there is no excuse for the gross non-authenticity. I am well acquainted with artistic license, but what I saw was not artistic license but a very similar approach that the Apartheid Regime took in presenting Jan van Riebeeck and Maria van Riebeeck by using the images from a Netherlands museum. Mr Vermuyden and his mistress Ms Kettering, were cast as Van Riebeeck and wife instead of the real Jan van Riebeeck’s image on our banknotes, schoolbooks, coins and umpteen other uses. This is not okay.
The movie as a low-budget production done in a similar vein and on a similar budget to ”Twelve Years a Slave” is greatly lacking as a professional production, but with one redeeming point – an excellent performance by the actress Crystal-Donna Roberts. Deon Lotz in the role of Roelof de Man in fact would have made a much more authentic and well-acted Jan van Riebeeck whereas Armand Aucamp and his script was just not plausible nor authentic. Marcel van Heerden does a good Commander Wagenaar.
I think that Director Roberta Durrant and scriptwriters Margeret Goldsmid and Kaye Williams let down the story badly. A second plus point was the attempt to use the KhoeKhoegowab language alongside Afrikaans.
Some have argued that the Movie projects a feminist perspective. I do not think that it does, other than portraying a strong character – Krotoa. The feminist perspective does not come out from the couple of instances of playing facilitator in bartering. Her real skillsets and greatness can only come out in the negotiations framed by the diplomatic engagements under war and threat of war which is missing from the movie. Alternatively when giving JvR and other officials perspectives in the complexity of the Indigene world, where according to his journal she played him for a fool. Her role as an interpreter, diplomat and facilitator of her people’s interests behind the VOC lines is what brings out the most amazing characteristics of this young woman in a man’s world.
What is perhaps the second most outrageous element of this movie after the misrepresentation of Jan van Riebeeck and of Krotoa’s relationship with him, the fact that one third of her early life is cut out altogether and part of the last third of her life too.
The story of Kratoa involves very different scenarios in each of the three short decades of her life. She died before she turned 32. The first eleven years of her life must have shaped her in an indelible way, but was not looked at. The movie projects Kratoa as being solely shaped by the van Riebeecks. The second decade of her life is the start of the Movie and is all about Jan van Riebeeck and later van Meerhof’s fictitious relationship with her. It was not about Krotoa. The third and most devastating decade of her life is a sanitisation of the cruelty she was put through by the Europeans and the torment she underwent.
Avoided too is the dominant paradigm in all three decades, of being a child, teen and woman of great substance and independence but dominated as being abandoned into the care or wardship first as ward of her Uncle Autshumao, then ward of Commander Jan van Riebeeck, and then first as ward to her husband van Meerhof (as a kind of mider) and second to the new Governor and Dutch Reformed Church Council.
The name Krotoa or !Gora/goas (mispronounced in the movie) means a “Ward” – a child abandoned into the care of others. Indeed in the end her children (a number of s urviving children) are forcibly removed from her and not immediately in her lifetime sent to Mauritius but given over into the care of a brothel keeper, Barbara Geems. Not even the credits acknowledge the names of her children who like her, become “Wards” and what became of them. The movie is a complete whitewash of how early white settler society collectively treated Krotoa, not just the de Man and Wagenaar.
Let me be subjective for a moment. I was a ward four times over before the age of seven, and until I went out to work aged 15 I remained in different wardships. I grew up with both male and female wards. The one thing I know about being a ward, is by the time you are ten years old you would develop skills that are associated with adults and would be very streetwise. You will more than likely have experienced various types of abuse including sexual abuse particularly under certain circumstances. I cannot project on Krotoa what she must have experienced but I certainly can say that she already was her own person by the time of her encounter with the van Riebeecks and she would have been wise beyond her years and broadly experienced.
The early three settlements are not really projected as they were in Krotoa’s lifetime. Firstly the Europeans projected as gentry were not gentry and mostly not Dutch. Again, a picture painted 200 years later by artist Charles Bell gives an imaginary projection of van Riebeeck’s landing at a forlorn Cape met by startled indigenes who engage with elegantly dressed Dutchmen carrying a flag as though this was the first indigene engagement with Europeans, is imaginery and far off the mark. It contradicts an indigene establishment which had been dealing as port reception for Europeans for a half century already, and an Autshumao who had travelled to and trained in Java and was running a great little port business which the English had assisted him to set up.
Some of van Riebeeck’s men came from the Netherlands, but most were from other countries like Germany, France, Prussia, the Baltic, Belgium, France and Scandinavia. They were a roughneck bunch of mercenaries and not a bunch of pious Dutch gentry. They immediately started fights with indigenes and were a big headache for van Riebeeck. They arrived at the beginning of winter and were rained out in a camp alongside the Goringhaiqua also known as theWatermen of the Camissa trading settlement. Van Riebeeck and family probably patched up and made use of Janszens old structure during the building period while his men camped rough with the Goringhaicona. Jan van Riebeeck spent his first two years undercutting Autshumao and squeezing him out of his very real business with the passing ships of other nationalities.
Van Riebeeck and his successor Wagenaar are both projected as “governors” in the movie, which they were not. They were simply Commanders of a start-up VOC project. Simon van der Stel was the first Governor of the Cape that was resident at the Cape. At van Riebeeck’s time the Governor General of Batavia was the Governor of the Cape. This notion of a Governor at the Cape projects the Fort and settlement in much too grandiose a scenario than it actually was at the time.
Throughout van Riebeeck’s time the fort scenario was a cramped and overcrowded place where JvR and his young, sickly wife, his child and two nieces only had two rooms. There were only two old plough horses available and things were pretty rudimentary. After the Dutch failed to win an outright victory in the frst Indigene-Dutch War horses were imported after van Riebeecks time to develop a cavalry so as to gain superiority in war in the future. In the entire first winter of 4 months the roughneck Europeans spent cheek by jowl at the Camissa River village with Autshumao and his Goringhaiqua community. The van Riebeeck family were the first to move into the fort before the building was completed. After moving into the fort now overlooking the Camissa river van Riebeeck gazed out of the window and he says he saw the forlorn figure of Autshumao sitting encamped outside.
In appearance, age and personality, the 33 year old Jan van Riebeeck (38 by the time of the movie timeline), is grossly misrepresented. Van Riebeeck was a stout, balding, rough-faced, hardened VOC employee from a posting in Vietnam and highly prejudiced against indigenous people. He was not a young fresh-faced naive greenhorn needing egging on by Roelof de Man as projected in the movie. We have a good idea about JvR’s outrageous attitude when comparing his counter-report to the VOC after his 18 day visit to the Cape in 1647 to the main report of Captain Janszens who had spent a year at the Cape and recommended that the Indigenes were great people for developing a partnership with the VOC.
Van Riebeeck was disparaging and as a non-first-hand witness and misrepresented his disparaging view of an incident between some of Janszens men and indigenous people, challenging the (just) manner in which the Captain had dealt with the incident. We also know through van Riebeecks letters to the VOC asking permission to enact two draconian forced removals plans to rid the Peninsular of Indigenes, one of which was developing a concentration camp. The movie falsely projects a soft benevolent man young man who falls in love with Krotoa. The primary texts describe van Ribeeck as a – “fiery-tempered, resolute man, in the prime of life, with perfect health, untiring energy, and unbounded zeal”
Maria van Riebeeck, a sickly young woman who died two years after leaving the Cape, had no less than 8 pregnancies, most of which resulted in miscarriage. She had two children of her own to look after plus two orphaned nieces that had come with her from the Netherlands. They were in two cramped rooms. She hardly would have managed giving personal undivided attention to a child servant , Krotoa.
Krotoa too as a lowly servant shared her cramped quarters with at least two other slave women and three other slave children. The scenario at the fort is badly mis-projected. Maria van Riebeeck is projected as a much older woman of stern demeanour. She was a 22 year old who was constantly pregnant. The created conflict and dialogue of Maria van Riebeeck does not make sense, particularly when she has argument with Krotoa as though Krotoa was a baptised Christian which she was not as a young girl. The misrepresentation of Krotoa in her teens projecting her much more womanly than reality is not authentic.
Now there were momentous happenings at the Table Bay settlement during those years. Krotoa would still have been fascinated with the many, and increasingly so, ships coming into the bay and many people coming ashore. Two things in the first five years of her second decade of life would surely have stood out. The first being the arrival of the two Arabus girls of her own age into the van Riebeeck household as slaves. Krotoa would have been pre-occupied to some degree with the concept of slavery and would have been playmates and a confident of these children. I am also genealogically related to both of the Arabus slave children. Did Krotoa have an opinion or two, a question or two? It’s not mentioned in the movie. Then over 400 children from West Africa arrive as slaves and are sick and starving. They are out in the open as there is no immediate accommodation. Van Riebeeck was highly preoccupied with these slave children. It must have been a traumatic experience for Krotoa and the two Arabus girls. Van Riebeeck gave daily rations of tobacco and alcohol to pacify the children. Is this how he also pacified Krotoa and the other slave children in his household? It is likely that both her alcoholism and a legacy of abuse happened to start while the three girls were quite young and while sedated with liquor. The movie projects a false and groundless trajectory instead of these facts that we know.
The projection of Krotoa as flirtatious and having a crush on Commander van Riebeeck to the extent of showing her as engaging in possible fantasising and stimulating herself sexually after being with van Riebeeck and prior to her rape by the Commander was a really terrible projection that was insulting to her memory and to those who hold her dear today. What on earth were the director and scriptwriters up to. I believe that I was not alone in seeing this as abuse as I have picked up the same shock factor from others who have seen the movie.
The ahistorical twisting of the role and story of Krotoa as consciously making a decision to develop a “middle way” between the Khoena and the Dutch so that they may “find each other” was a gross historical misrepresentation and elevates Krotoa into playing a conscious political role that is not corroborated by history.
Likewise to overly emphasise her conflict with Nommoa (Doman) as more than just two competing interpretors on the same patch and elevating this to a broader belief by the Khoena tribes that she was betraying them is not bourne out by the historical record. This again is a white South Africa overlay.
Krotoa’s running away with her uncle and being chased by van Riebeeck to be brought back to the fort is also misrepresented and instead has her returning of her own accord.
The romantic relationship between Krotoa and Doman is complete fiction. It could have worked as a bit of artistic license if it did not destroy both Doman and Krotoa’s real story. Doman’s leadership of the first Indigene–Dutch War and the war itself is written out of the script and replaced by a story of a dejected love-smitten jilted Doman hanging himself. The real dynamics of the War cast both Krotoa and Doman in a very different light.
Autshumao is also projected in a non authentic manner. Noted for wearing European clothes and running a very business-like trading operation he is treated as primitive barterer for trinkets, whereas the entire conflict is around JvR undercutting the business that Autshumao had taken two decades to build up. Autshumao had five different countries as clients and was offering a wide set of services. For instance the Khoena were known for mining salt which they sold. He probably was also beneficiating the goods that he got from the Dutch in trade, which he then sold to other Khoena and exchanged these for livestock. Autshumao building on the legacy of Xhore before him was a businessman of note. He had run a settlement on Robben Island a decade earlier too before relocating to Camissa on the mainland.
Van Riebeeck states clearly in his journal that both he and Autshumao were highly conscious of Autshumao’s proud role as a trading entrepreneur. He says – “Herrie in the meanwhile, priding himself on having originated the incipient trade…”.
Autshumao was the founder of the Port settlement and had become well off alongside another independent Khoena cattleman Aikinsoa through adept trading, mining of salt, loading fresh water, providing meat, running a postal service and assisting ships with getting repair wood and helping in the care of the sick who were sometimes left behind.
Krotoa’s story should have began by giving a more accurate picture of the relatively busy Port of Table Bay in the 1640s. An average of 3 ships a month were stopping in the bay on their way to Southeast Asia and 2 ships a month returning to Europe. These ships were Dutch, Portuguese, English, French and Danish. Krotoa’s story also is the story of the Goringhaicona – a loose collection of people rather than a tribe. Indigene people who had drifted away from other tribes and established themselves at the Camissa River offering a complex set of services to the passing shipping. They had broken with traditional tribal life and the livestock farming economy. Sone of their community and most likely Krotoa too were born of relationships between Khoena women and passing travellers. This is normal life in all ports. The stereotyping of this community as having complete old tribal customs is also not accurate given the kength of time of interaction with travellers, the change in economy, the frequency of interaction, the numbers interacting and the many lengthy recuperation hosting. This community were at ease with European visitors and their languages and had even taken to some of the habits and dress of the visitors. Table Bay was everything that any other normal port was at that time. It wasn’t just a bunch of primitive people floundering about on windswept beaches project as strandlooper beachbums. Unfortunate both White and revivalist Khoena groups by into this historical overlay that hides the nature of the port development over 50 years.
For over 50 years over one thousand ships had been visiting Table Bay and number of the Indigene community leaders had already gone abroad with the Europeans and returned. From accounts of her appearances Krotoa’s mother may well have conceived her after a relationship with a passing seaman. More than 200 000 visitors had come through the Port. This had to have had a huge impact on the Khoena people who seem to have created a buffer community between themselves and their wealth and the shoreline frontier.
Krotoa as her names suggests (The Ward) grew up in the custody of her Uncle Autshumao who had been to Java with the Europeans, was known to wear European clothing and was an adept leader and trader. His trading community had developed many skills including mining for salt, a sought after commodity by passing ships.
Europeans frequently stayed over at Table Bay for weeks and months at a time. Krotoa was greatly influenced and mentored by her uncle. It is likely that she interacted frequently with the Europeans and probably as an inquisitive and enquiring youngster would spend lots of time among the Europeans and be on lookout duty for new ships arriving and race up to her uncle to inform him. She would have learnt a great deal in her formative years including picking up languages. Her uncle looked after her as a ward, and was her mentor and primary teacher in the 11 years before the van Riebeecks arrived.
Krotoa would have mingled with many European visitors and would not have been afraid of them. In 1647 she would have witnessed the wrecking of the Dutch Ship Harlem and been a regular visitor to the temporary fort established on the seashore by the kindly Captain Janszens and his 60 men who lived there for almost a year. It is likely too that in 1648 she may have seen Jan van Riebeeck on his first homeward bound trip when he stopped off for 18 days at Table Bay.
This formative period in her life where a combination of the rapidly changing tribal culture mixed with European impacts on the lives of the Camissa community of Goringhaicona cannot be ignored, as it always has been by white people projecting Krotoa’s life. It is one third of her life which is boiled down to Krotoa and young Doman chasing each other on the beach in the movie.
Krotoa is likely to have met Van Riebeeck briefly in 1648. Prior to coming to set up the colony when Van Riebeeck visited the Cape in 1647 he wrote a counter-report to the report written on the suitability of setting up a Dutch refreshment station and the approach toward the local population as written by Captain Janszens who had been there for a year.
In his three weeks at Table Bay van Riebeeck schemed and consulted behind his back with some of the disgruntled elements under Captain Janzsens command. Van Riebeeck was already in disgrace with the VOC after being found guilty of cheating the company in Vietnam.
Janszens had taken a conciliatory approach to the Khoena who had attacked a couple of Janszens men with good cause. Janzsens had ruled that his men were in the wrong and in his report he explained why to the VOC. In fact he made a case that after living alongside the indigenes for a year he could recommend that they would make good partners in running the business. Van Riebeeck was a nasty fellow in that he wrote a counter approach with an aggressive attitude towards the indigenes.
This was just the start of a consistent negative and punitive approach. Proof of this is in comparing firstly the two different reports, and then secondly examining correspondence by van Riebeeck to the VOC between 1657 and 1659. In these letters his approach is ultra-aggressive.
He proposed that all the indigenes be lured into an area of Hout Bay after a series of fortified redoubts were built to pen them in, as a kind of concentration camp, from where they would be forced to raise livestock for the company and be prevented from exiting. When the VOC rejected this he and van Goens put forward a proposal to create an island out of the Peninsula by digging and flooding a canal running from False Bay to Table Bay. All the Indigenes would then be expelled to the other side. He set in motion a trajectory of ‘Forced Removals’ or ethnic cleansing as the way forward in building a colony.
By ignoring these important documents and simply looking at van Riebeeck’s journals, many have projected van Riebeeck as a harmless and benevolent character, which just is not true. They have also bought into the falsified characterisation of Autshumato as a primitive beach-bum and vagabond. Then of course there is the great plagerisation issue around the physical characteristics of van Riebeeck where a picture of the handsome younger looking Mr Vermuyden was for many decades presented as though this is what van Riebeeck looked like, rather than using the actual portrait of van Riebeeck. The movie bought into this plagerised view of van Riebeeck.
Fort de Goede Hoop built triumphantly on top of Krotoa’s home settlement at Camissa became the first of three colonies – Table Bay Colony; and by 1657 the first Free Citizens were given land further away, headed by Steven Jansz Botma who formed “Steven’s Colony” which had another little fort called Coornhoop; and then another group of Free Citizens under Harmen Remajenne, set up the Harmans Colony, near the Liesbeeck River.
The Goringhaicona trading settlement represents the more accurate opening scenario of Krotoa’s first 11 years of life. The unfolding of the first of the three small colonies runs alongside the second decade of Krotoa’s life when she became a servant at the fort and after the age of 15 an interpretor. The third decade of her life begins with her patron, van Riebeeck and family leaving for Batavia, her baptism and her marriage. With the latter some artistic license can be taken but personally I see no evidence on this being a Pocohontas love relationship.
It was plainly a control mechanism – a marriage of convenience for Krotoa and a trap set by the company, with van Meerhof taking her to Robben Island, abandoning her and getting killed on the expedition to Madagascar.
Perhaps the Robben Island scenario in the movie was the most authentic in the whole movie but then the movie just falls apart and is drawn to a hasty end by cutting many corners. With the wardship of van Meerhof ended by his death abroad. The events leading to the first banishment to the island is papered over and is the second incarceration.
Krotoa is allowed to come back to the mainland where all her troubles get worse. She had been tucked out of site on Robben Island. There were now many more women and many relationships and gentry were emerging and the VOC officialdom more organised. Shipping stopovers were much more at this point.
Krotoa as widow Mrs Van Meerhof became independent of any ward, temporarily, for the first time. She has a thread running through her life of dependencies and disempowerment through wardship, alcohol and indications of sexual abuse. Her life of ostracization from her special place as a career woman of substance and her being shunned by officialdom and branded and standing out as a free person of colour was a lonely cross to bear.
She got caught up in drinking and being taken advantage of by the transient men in the port. The new Commander and the Dutch Reformed Church council seized her children and put them under the wardship of a brothel keeper Barbara Geems. History seems to have created a falsified story of the children being looked after by van Riebeecks niece. Unfortunately this movie adds to the fictions. Krotoa was again removed from society on the mainland and made a prisoner on Robben Island. The views of foreign visitors on meeting her were contradicted by the venomous views of the VOC officials at the Cape. But is not indicated by the movie.
Krotoa died in 1674. Two of her children did go to Mauritius as wards and another two were absorbed as wards into other local freed slave families. There is no record of offspring of thosechildren. The movie final credits make no mention of the facts of Krotoas descendents and jump inappropriately only to mention three prominent white leaders who never acknowleged their ancestry – Kruger,. Smuts and de Klerk. It was insult added to injury to handle the conclusion of the twisting of this story to be barely recognisable by ending in this manner. In so doing Krotoa remained captured by the Europeans in death.
Thanks to the great work of micro historian Mansell Upham we know the following about Krotoa’s decendents.
Krotoa’s children were Jacobus born c 1661 (father not known) died 1685 on a ship returning him from Mauritius; Pieternella van Meerhof vdk born 1663, married in Mauritius to Daniel Zaaijman from Vlissingen; Salamon baptised 1 Sep 1666 had no known descendents; Jeronimus baptised 23 Nov 1670 (father not known); Anthonij baptised 6 Aug 1673 (father not known but lived with the Guinea slave family Everts) died in the 1713 smallpox epidemic; Pieternella, Salamon, and Jacobus were taken to Mauritius in 1677. Pieternella van die Kaap, later married Daniel Zaaijman from Vlissingen. They had four sons and four daughters. Some of the family moved back to the Cape in 1706 and the others to Batavia.
Descendants of Pieternella married European and freed Slave partners, and in the next generations also married partners from the mixed freed slave and Khoena. Krotoa’s descendants can be traced through four of Petronella’s 8 children, through the Diodata girls in Indonesia, and the Bockelenberg, de Vries and the Zaaiman (Zaayman or Saayman) lines in the Cape. Over time many descendants exist among all national groups in South Africa. This would have been a more fitting ending in the credits than the way the movie handled this.
I am a direct descendent of Krotoa via the following route…. My lineage flows fromPieternella Goringhaicona van Meerhof and Pieter Zaaijman through their son Pieter Zaaijman (bn 1688 in Mauritius) and Anna Maria Koopman (bn 1690) and their son Bartholomeus Zaaiman (bn1717) who was married to Anna van Biljon (bn 1724). Their son Bernadus Lambertus Zaaiman (1752) was married to Gertruyda Johanna Willemse (bn 1752 of slave descent) and were the parents of Bartholomeus Saayman (bn 1781) who married Aletta Johanna Cecelia van der Vyver (bn 1781). Their son Barend Saayman (bn 1810) married Gertruida Willemse (bn c 1815 of slave descent) whose daughter Elizabeth Saayman (bn c 1838) married Jacobus Johannes Mellet (bn 1822) and were the parents of my great grandfather Petrus Francois Mellet (bn 1864) married to my great grandmother of European and slave descent). Through my grandfather also PF Mellet and my grandmother Elsie Petronella le Cordier the family line traces through to Johanna Catherina Mauritz aka Caatje Hottentottin Mauritz Voortman (1700) and two of her daughters. Through both the Zaayman-Willemse lineage and the le Cordier – Mellet lineage Krotoa’s line in my family intersects with Khoena, 26 slave lineages and 19 European lineages. A true mix of the Camissa footprint.
I cherish Krotoa and in terms of my syncretic faith, ancestors play a big role in my life and are engaged in my spiritual life. I have spent a long time trying to get to know Krotoa outside of politics, feminism and whatever other straight-jacket. I have wanted to know the person underneath all the overlays. This movie did not help me and indeed just makes getting to know Krotoa much more harder. I heard that some wish to take this movie and subject school children to its distortions. God forbid. This should never happen.
This has been a harsh critique reflective of a harsh experience of sitting through the movie. It was a great opportunity missed by the people who made the movie.
Nobody can dictate to anyone what they can do or cannot do in terms of how they view the past and project it. But this was foolhardy and insensitive in a time where so much information and resources are available and as it stands it is guaranteed to hurt people and to continue to distort. Nobody owns Krotoa and nobody should own her. People interpret the past in various ways and it is up to us to engage robustly to counter one view with another. My counter is that this movie lacked any semblence of authenticity and was insensitive and in projecting the kind of falsehoods that it did. We cannot operate in a manner which further divides people at this time in history but should simply try to provide information that assists people to explore in this time of exploration. We cannot tell people how to think either, presenting a rigid social and political “truth” that we have latterly constructed by self-proclamation either. The facts as we know it with a minimal amount of artistic license and creativity can easily and dramatically provide for a good movie. This one did not get that formular right in my opinion.
There is such an interesting and monumental story to be told and somehow the bottom of the barrel has been scraped in this production leaving none the wiser to who this amazing woman was, what an amazing period that was and how the events of that time impacted on the rest of the unfolding history and on us today.
I am less convinced that Krotoa was some kind of bridge between two worlds and more inclined to think of her as an amazing character who lived and navigated a paradigm shift brought about by her village emerging to become a port for international shipping, and the consequences and impacts of this on her and her world. She remarkably managed the consequences and impacts by positioning herself skilfully in her amazing though short career as diplomat and interpreter, but got felled in her tracks by misogyny, racism and colonial intent.
I wrote a piece on Krotoa some time ago called “Drawing the longbow in the Fort” which is available on my blogsite. It looks at some of the clues that we get in documents that give us a better picture of the person or shines a little more light on her. The title is a description of van Riebeeck’s view of Krotoa using the slang of their time.
Krotoa – the WARD broke into her own and out of wardship but found that she had to pay a huge an unbearable personal price for being an outspoken woman of colour, an indigene woman, an intellectual – in a European Colonial world of men, whose minds were trapped in a belief in their own fallible supremacy.