CAMISSA HERITAGE: Indigenes, Slaves, Indentured Labour and Migrants of Colour at the Cape of Good Hope

(A paper produced for the McCormick Wright Scholars South Africa visit)
© Patric Tariq Mellet (January 2017)


The USA and South Africa share a little known set of ties that bind us in the form of the historical connection with what was the first multinational company with two branches – the United Dutch East India Company and the United Dutch West India Company linked by the slave trade and their Dutch colonial settlements of New Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York) and the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town).

McClean[1] tells us that the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam imported the first 11 slaves in 1626 and by the time New Amsterdam was ceded to the English in 1664 and became New York, there were 800 slaves of which 375 were Africans. Some 80 years later slaves were 20% of the New York population. A story is related by Mosterman[2] about one of the New Amsterdam slaves, Anthony van Angola, just as Boeseken’s[3] list of slaves bought and sold at the Cape shows us that there were many Anthony’s van Angola at the Cape.

In 1657, we are told by Schoeman[4], there were 15 slaves at the Cape of Good Hope and by the following year another 402 slaves, mainly children from West Africa joined these. They had been captured at sea after the Dutch battled two Portuguese vessels, and seized their slave cargo, and so began the trajectory of slavery at the Cape of Good Hope.

In the entire period of almost 200 years of slavery at the Cape, over 78 539 new imported slaves were sold in Cape Town and their children, grandchildren and descendants all led lives of enslavement. For 150 years the Cape census shows that there were more slaves than Europeans in the colony as illustrated by  Giliomee and Mbenga[5] using the 1798 figure of 20 000 Europeans to 25 754 slaves and 1 700 Free Blacks in the Cape Colony (Indigene figures are not given). Shell[6] further outlines for us how by the year 1769, creole or locally born slaves had reached 50% of the entire slave population.

Today scholars on slavery in the USA have a great awareness of the Atlantic slave trade and academics such as Eltis & Richardson[7] point out that 12,5 million Africans were taken across the seas to the Americas with almost 2 million losing their lives at sea.

Few however know about the Indian Ocean slave trade from East Africa, India and Southeast Asia. The Indian Ocean slave trade made up of slaves from each of these areas, where Allen[8] shows that an estimated 542 688 slaves, possibly double this number, from the Indian Ocean arena were also taken to the Americas. He further illustrates this as a sub-set of the 1,692 500 to 2,123 000 slaves in total that were captured in this arena. The balance were exported to other destinations – mainly to European colonial settlements in India and Southeast Asia. The European colonial footprint was an expensive one paid for in the slave currency of human misery.

Allen[9] also shows that of the total figure, there were 937 000 who were controlled by the Arab slave trade and taken to Arabia, Persia and India, while the rest were controlled by the European slave traders. There was also a huge loss of lives at sea which would radically up the total. Those slaves shipped in the Indian Ocean arena, show between 8.3% to 53.3% loss of life while at sea according to Allen[10]. Most people around the world do not associate slavery with slaves being taken to Africa or to Persia, India and Southeast Asia. Where ever slaves were transported and sold, to greater or lesser degrees, the harsh treatment was the same. The family and homeland connections of these people were cast to the winds that blew across the globe and somewhere in those winds there are the connections to those of us who descend from this slave trade in human beings.

Once the English had taken New Amsterdam from the Dutch, the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) became the major focus for their directors in the Dutch States General. New York then developed on a different trajectory and Dutch interests focused on the Cape of Good Hope and their substantial colonial footprint in Batavia (Jakarta) and elsewhere in India and Southeast Asia.

When the Dutch and other Europeans decided to settle at the Cape of Good Hope, Schoeman[11] notes that their Commander, Jan van Riebeeck lamented that the taming of the harsh terrain was not something that his European officials could tackle and requested slaves to be sent by the VOC, so that this hard work could be undertaken. The motley band of Europeans were either unwilling to do this work, or they did not have the strength and skill to work the land. Like the experience of the Dutch in New Amsterdam, the indigenes were not interested in assisting Dutch as labourers and the VOC saw the pitfalls of enslaving the local people and forbade this option.  Differently from the New Amsterdam scenario however, was the fact that in the Cape of Good Hope, in time, the Indigene interests and Slave interests, and people, bonded closely.

The Dutch had attempted to establish other colonies along the African coast and in Madagascar without success. It was slavery that became the great game-changer in South Africa. Without slavery on the one hand and the crushing and appropriation of the indigenes and their livestock, the Dutch settlement would have surely failed.

Boeseken[12] lists all the transactions of slaves at the Cape between 1658 and 1700 and from this and other records we know that the slaves brought to the Cape through the Indian Ocean Slave Trade included people from: India, Bengal & Sri Lanka; Surat, Bombay, Goa, Calicat, Cochin, Tuticorin, Malabar, Coromandel, Negapatnum, Tranquebar, Pondicherry, Palacat, Masulpatam, Colombo, Galle, Bengal.

Slaves were also brought from Southeast Asia; Arakan – Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), Tonkin (Hanoi Vietnam), Malacca (Malaysia), Macao, Deshima (Japan), Formosa (Taiwan), China, Indonesian Archipelago (Indonesia, Borneo, Celebes, Ternate, Ambon, Banda, Roma, Boeton, Moloccas, Rambon, Boegies, Timor, Alor, Solor, Bima, Bali, Soembawa, Java, Madoera, Flores, Sumatra, Djambi, Nias, Padang).

From Africa and Madagascar slaves were brought from – Benin, Guinea, Angola, Mozambique (including southern Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia), Mombasa, Zanzibar, Madagascar (Antogil Bay, Sante Marie, Manajari,  Matitana, Augustine Bay, Radama Bay).

Lluis Quintana-Murci, Christine Harmant and others[13] in the American Journal of Human Genetics demonstrate that “Coloured” genetic enhancement is more diverse in admixture than any other part of the world. Many other more meticulous and larger studies, such as that of Soodlal[14] also establish the same result and these genetic studies are further complemented by a combination of academic research and genealogy as demonstrated by Delia Robertson[15] and the Firsty Fifty Years Project a project collating Cape of Good Hope records.

The abolition of slavery took place in 1834 and was effected in 1838 at the Cape of Good Hope, but ‘Prize Slaves’ continued to pour into Cape Town until 1856 and were only freed from compulsory apprenticeships, known as indentured labour, by around 1870.

The majority of Cape slaves were Africans from other parts of Africa but as will be demonstrated in this paper the Indian and Southeast Asian slaves made up a substantial two fifths part of the slave population. In time the differences among slaves in terms of culture and origins disappeared into a creole or locally born identity, which together with other tributaries, this paper deems to call Camissa heritage. Notably this term neither references race, or colour, nor ethnicity. It simply demonstrates that a distinct African people emerged at the Cape bonded by a common historical experience constituting a heritage. This was no different than the emergence of a modern Xhosa  heritage framework or modern Zulu heritage framework.

Cape Town and the farmlands and small towns were all built on slave labour. Slaves were bought and sold and faced all sorts of abuse as the property of their owners. De Kock[16] graphically gives accounts of scourging, dismembering parts of the body, impalement, drownings, burning at the stake, crucifixions accompanied by humiliations of every sort. These were all punishments or executions faced by slaves.

The enslaved were restricted from free movement, branded, carried passes and restricted as to what clothes they could wear and went barefooted. The United Dutch East India Company had the largest slave holdings at the Cape but colonial citizens, European and Free Black (a tiny community) could also own slaves. Manumitted slaves were the bulk of the small early Free Black community where often former slaves (manumitted slaves) bought their kin and friends, to be able to free them. The worst suffering among slaves was at the hands of European farmers in remote farmlands.

Slaves did revolt en masse on notable occasions, but often the most common revolts were running away, arson or acts of defiance. Escaped slaves integrated with refugee indigenes from the ethnic cleansing wars of the Cape and, there also were pacified Khoena indigenes who integrated with slaves on farms in the colony. Both the indigenes who ran away and, escaped slaves, fled to the Gariep territory on the Northern Frontier to live alongside the Namaqua and the San groups of the Gariep where Penn[17] gives us an insight into the free communities that were established.

Worden[18] takes a look at the seamless transition from slavery at the Cape to the apprenticeship system and, indentured labour system after 1838.  Saunders[19] then shows that there were those farmers who immediately sought West African labour to replace slaves and Watson[20] gives us a comprehensive look at the post slavery dynamics and the move toward farmers engaging indentured labour from Africa beyond the Cape Colony borders and much further afield, more especially the same countries where slaves had been brought from.

Slavery was succeeded by an “Indentured Labour System” which was slavery by another name, even although people were no longer called slaves nor could be bought and sold in the same manner as previously done. ‘Prize Slaves’ also known as ‘Liberated Africans’ became the soft target for cheap and unpaid labour that resulted in unfair contractual relationships that often lasted beyond 20 years. These were slaves liberated by the Royal Navy from slaver ships they challenged on the high seas. These ‘Liberated Africans’ were brought to the nearest English colony, branded and placed with farmers as indentured labourers.

Large numbers of indentured labourers were brought to the Cape from different parts of the world, from St Helena, across Africa and through to India and the Indonesian Archipelago. Other free travelers of colour also came to the Cape and this increased as the diamond and gold rush occurred and when wars broke out between the British and local white settlers who had established independent republics. Indian and Chinese labourers were brought into the Natal Colony and the Cape Colony and Transvaal Republic to work on diamond and gold mines and also on the sugar and other farms. Later during the Anglo-Boer War more migrants of colour arrived as soldiers and trackers, such as the Aborigine Australians researched by Scarlett[21], some of whom remained behind after the war. All of this is the background and summary of what follows and also contextualises a more complex and elaborate story.

The labour force in the Cape Colony, particularly on farms, post-emancipation from slavery, were those already caught up in an apprenticeship system – namely pacified indigenes called “Hottentots” (Cape Khoena).

The indigenous people of the Cape and their fate as a result of colonisation by the Dutch

Cape Indigenous people descendants with a direct lineage connection to any of the five most discriminated against and marginalised, account for around 30% of those classified as “Coloured” if one consults the 1865 census figures for ‘Hottentots as distinct from “Others” later referred to as “Coloured”.  The five groups here refer to the San, Namaqua, Griqua, Korana and the Revivalist Cape Khoena.

Today the indigenous peoples found to face discrimination and marginalisation are organised in surviving indigenous tribes and also by revivalist Khoena activist groups and re-created tribes aiming to secure their rights. Then there are also many of those sharing some indigene heritage who take a different approach and prefer to celebrate their indigene heritage inclusive of other indigenouse African tribes too and along with their slave and other ancestors of colour (the Camissa footprint).

Both of these approaches enjoy legitimacy, although some elements of the former take an ethno-nationalist approach and have adopted historical distortions and dubious exclusive claims.

The entire story of what happened to the indigenous people of the Southwestern Cape is long, detailed and complex, thus here only a brief introduction on the pre-colonial and post-colonial story can be told.

The meeting of Indigenes and Europeans in the modern period first occurred early in the 16th century. Johnson[22] comprehensively covers the death in battle in 1510 of the greatest Portuguese general of the time, Francesco d’Almeida and his entire command of 70, many senior military officers, being killed when the indigene Khoena (Khoi) people repelled them after the Khoena (Khoi) had been violated.

As a result, European engagement in Southern Africa with indigenes was minimal for over a century. But from 1600 as the United Dutch East India Company made trade breakthroughs in India and Southeast Asia, the Europeans were frequent visitors to the Cape.

Initially the five European powers respected the proto-port of the Cape of Good Hope, developed and run by indigenes. Until 1652 there were 1071 ships dropping anchor in Table Bay and trading with the indigenes as shown by maritime historian Knox-Johnston[23]. Ship stayovers could be anything from a week to more than six months or more and for the last decade prior to 1652, Gaastra and Bruijn  [24]provides tables of shipping movements allowing us to conclude that up to three ships a month were dropping anchor at Table Bay.  Mellet[25] in a paper focussed on the story of the foundations of the port of Cape Town shows how all this all changed when the Dutch seized the trading operation at the Camissa River run by the Camissa community (Goringhaicona) in 1652.

To contextualise the the term ”Camissa” it is noted that the terms ‘//ammis, gammis, kamis or kamma’ is the root for “Camissa” and is from the language of the Nama and !Ora according to Haacke and Eiseb[26] who define the term as a fresh-water river. The river in Table Bay is noted by the Portuguese as “Aguada de Saldanha” (water of Saldanha – the word “Saldanha” was original Portuguese name for Table Bay). The Dutch similarly later named this same river as the Soetwater Rivieren (Sweetwater) and referred to it in documents as Fresh Water, as distinguished from Zouten Rivieren (Salt River) ref: Hondius[27]; The Khoena did not have affectionate or honorary place names as in the European tradition. Indigenous words used, were utilitarian and simply descriptive or for oral route-mapping.

Moodie[28] tells us that Governor-General van Goens in 1682 notes that the inland Khoena refer to a fresh-water river as ‘Camissa’ or ‘Cumissa’. These indigene names, pop-up elsewhere, all meaning the same thing – fresh water. For example Raper[29] explains – Tsistsikamma = tse-tsesa + kamma  means ‘clear water’, ‘place of much water’ or ‘place where water begins’.  Thus the river providing drinking water in Table Bay was referred to as ‘//amma’ and the term ‘Ssa’ referred to those who foraged or fished as this community did when not trading – thus the people of the water and the river itself came to be called Camissa. The Cape Peninsula was known to the indigenes as //Hu !Gais who associated it as central to their survival and very being. The river ran from Table Mountain which was called Hoerikwaggo, and into the sea.

The Camissa community were originally members of various tribes who had broken away from tribal life to establish themselves as entrepreneurs and traders, and facilitators in a new economy that met the needs of the passing sea traffic. Then there were other individuals like Ankaisoa we are told by Elphick[30] who also broke from tribes to establish themselves as independent settled livestock farmers. The dramatic increase in shipping and regular contact with Europeans had effectively resulted in a social revolution and introduced new ways of living and a new economy with the exchange of commodities. This is not appreciated by many historians and those who play out a recreation of the Khoena in the 21st century. Such people lock-in the Khoena, to eras long before, and buy-in to a notion of Khoena being perpetually and absolutely locked into a bubble in time. A proper evaluation has to follow the course of changes over history to all of South Africa’s people.

From the indigene side they also began new economic activities such as salt production to meet the needs of the ships. For a while, the latter were assisted by the English, to operate from Robben Island, but after a short while they asked the English to assist them to re-establish themselves on the banks of the Camissa River in Cape Town.

Other indigenes referred to them as the Goringhaicona while the Dutch originally referred to them more accurately as the ‘Water People’ (Watermans). There is record that a number of these people were taken abroad to familiarise themselves with European culture and for training. Elphick[31] relates that two of these people were Xhore who had been taken unwillingly to London and back in 1613 -1614, and Autshumao who was taken to Java and back in 1630.

Elphick[32] sums up the dynamic at the Cape Of Good Hope at this time in saying, “In a sense, the VOC Company’s frontier had reached the Peninsulas [indigenes] fifty years before the Colony was established.” In this paper frequent mention will be made of this as the “Shoreline Frontier”.

Hondius[33] and Theal[34] record that in 1652 Jan van Riebeeck and a large party of diverse Europeans working for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) arrived and established a permanent settlement. The site that the Dutch strategically chose to establish a fort was exactly where Autshumao and his people had established their proto-port trading operation – on the banks of the Camissa River.

In doing this the Dutch also seized control of the primary source of fresh water supplies for ships. In the first eight months after Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival, he built a fort right on top of Autshumao’s village, which had hosted him and his men. Van Riebeeck[35] notes that after he had moved into the fort he could still see the forlorn Autshumao encamped by the river.

One entry in Van Riebeeck’s journal[36]  makes it very clear that both van Riebeeck and Autshumao were highly conscious of Autshumao’s proud role as a trading entrepreneur at the Camissa trading post. He says – “Herrie in the meanwhile, priding himself on having originated the incipient trade…”. Elphick[37] in his comprehensive story of the Khoena (Khoi) people of the Cape makes it very clear that Autshumao (Herrie) saw himself as “offering services to the Dutch and the English” as told to a French vessel that engaged him at the Cape.

The Dutch effectively put Austshumao and his people out of business and this was the first act of colonial aggression. Once the Dutch had succeeded to destroy this new indigene economy they turned their attention to subjugating the three primary tribes in the region, pacify them, divest them of their herds of livestock and reduce them to labourers – the Gornghaiqua, Gorachouqua and Cochouqua.

Mellet[38] in his paper on “the 15 Cleansing Wars” shows that this was the beginning of 176 years during which wars were waged by the Europeans on Indigenes in the Cape to establish the Cape Colony. These wars are detailed by Penn[39] and this then dovetailed with 9 wars between the Indigenes and first the Dutch and then the British in the Eastern Cape, which is comprehensively covered by Leggasick. [40]

In the wake of each war, large numbers of Europeans were brought in to settle the land and slaves and pacified Khoena were used for the back-breaking work required to break virgin territory. In the Eastern Cape the Xhosa and Khoena had long previously developed the land for productive farming of crops and had handsome herds of cattle and sheep. This land was was seized and occupied once military might put the residents to flight.

There were three families of African indigenous peoples in the Cape territory when the Europeans colonised the Cape.

The first were the /Xam ‘First People’ and other now extinct San who had lived in the area for thousands of years (Deacon & Deacon)[41].  A comprehensive study of the many distinct San tribes in Southern Africa is provided in the only work that has been done by the San themselves with the editorial assistance of Le Roux and White[42] and older historical research by Bernard[43] who gives further perspective, and Stow[44] who looks at the ‘intrusion of the Hottentots and Xhosa into the hunting grounds of the ‘Bushmen’, and Smith[45] who looks at how the pastoral herders emerged.

The second of the indigenous African peoples are the Khoena (or Khoi), who were not ‘First People’ of the Cape, whom numerous scholars and latest research corroborates had gradually migrated from the northern reaches of South Africa around a thousand years before the Europeans arrival. They were not directly related to the Cape San people and through their pastoral activity they displaced the San from the coastal areas. The most comprehensive work which illustrates this was done almost four decades ago by Elphick[46] and the most up to date genetic research by Schlebusch[47] (Schlebusch[48]) and archaeological works by Morris[49] and Bousman[50]  clearly corroborate the migration of the Khoena (Khoi) from the Northern Kalahari, Limpopo and possibly Zambia and Zimbabwe, to the Eastern and Western Cape.

The third indigenous African people were the Xhosa people who were formed from a combination of a trickle of early Bantu migrants of at least 1200 years ago also like the Khoena having migrated in a slow drift to take up residence alongside the Cobuqua Khoena and integrating with them around the Kei River.

Although the ignorant in South Africa continue to trot out the falsehood of colonial history that says South Africa was mainly an empty land, this theory was finally conclusively debunked by Shula Marks 28 years ago.

She pointed out that carbon dating has been processed from the Early Iron Age sites stretching over central, eastern and southern Africa. She went on to show that the first Iron Age African farmers were in South Africa from around 300 AD and not from the 15th century as an invading black horde as is often claimed.

At that time Marks[51] further stated that, ‘The earliest dates we have for the Iron Age in South Africa go back to 1200 years before the Portuguese rounded the southern tip of the Continent of Africa.’ Subsequently fourteen years after the Marks paper, Miller & van der Merwe[52] show that the dates could push back even earlier. This suggests that there may not have been much of a gap at all between Khoena and the early //Kosa (named as such by the Khoena and San) entering the Eastern Cape. By 800 AD the whole of South Africa was populated by Africans of diverse roots and this intricate mix of people were in no way comparable to the European colonial invaders of the 17th century.

Around 12 Khoena tribes and clans over time had joined with the //Kosa and were later joined by the Nguni peoples who arrived in the Eastern Cape from the 14th century onwards. These together became the Xhosa. A picture of this coming together is provided by Peires[53] in his comprehensive history of the Xhosa in pre-colonial times.

The Khoena (Khoi) tribes and clans within the Xhosa are the Cobuqua, Inqua, Sukwini, Gqwashu, Nqwarne, Cete, isiThathu,Ngqosini, Gonaqua, Gamtoos, Damasqua,Hoengeyqua and the mixed Xhosa-Khoena Gqunukwhebe.

Peires[54] gives us clues, as does Elphick[55], that the earliest Bantu migrants probably around 800 AD into the Eastern Cape were called the //Kosa by the Khoena (Cobuqua) and San (!Ga !ne of the Kei area), and these merged. Over time in different epochs there were twelve distinct Khoena (or Khoi) tribes and clans in the Eastern Cape region, who also merged with later Nguni people who arrived in a slow migrational drift into the Eastern Cape (Many broke from the Xesibe, Baca, Bomvana, Mpondo, Mpondomise, the Thembus and Sotho tribes and clans). These would form the Hose of Phalo, Gcaleka Xhosa, Ngqika Xhosa and Ndlambe Xhosa. This is well illustrated by Parsons. A further mix of Southernmost Xhosa with the Gonaqua, Gamtoos and Hoengeyqua, is shown by Pieres to have resulted in the formation of the Gqunukhwebe, another mixed Xhosa-Khoena tribe who with the onslaught of the Dutch settlers followed by the English, merged with the Ndlambe Xhosa.

Parsons[56] shows that these Nguni were also a mix of Khoena known as the Bakoni who migrated from the Limpopo region to KZN and integrated with the Tsonga and //Xegwi (KZN San) to form large and small Nguni peoples. Large tribes developed like the Mthwethwa and Ndwandwe who were later welded into a relatively modern formation called the Zulu kingdom.

Geneticists show us that the diverse San tribes of Southern Africa were once many very distinctly different groups who shared genetic and linguistic markers for which a German anthropologist in 1935 created a catchall term to collectively describe them as the KhoiSan.

There was never actually a tribe or people called KhoiSan but this academic term has gained currency in time and some revivalists express themselves as such to demonstrate a pride in the connectedness they have with the ancient deep and distant world before the last 2500 years ago. But the reality  is that this connectedness is shared by most tribes in South Africa and no one group can claim exclusivity in this regard. Some have stronger connections than others but all connectivity ranges between 5% and 30% with a stronger reflection in Mtdna than Y-dna. The story of what happened to realise this result is a gruesome and shameful story. Commando militia of which 60% were pacified Khoena (or Khoi) once having massacred all adult /Xam (Cape San) people in each genocide extermination raid, were allowed to take a few of the children to be placed as apprentices on farms and were allowed to take the girls as concubines.

The website clarifies the issue of terminology and its history in this manner “In 1928, German explorer and anthropologist Leonhard Schulze coined the term ‘Khoisan’ to refer to both the Khoe herders and the San hunter-gatherers. An influential South African anthropologist, Isaac Schapera, used this term in 1930. Schapera was under the misapprehension that the Khoe and San peoples spoke languages from one family. He applied the term to both the physical characteristics and the languages of the indigenous peoples. Today, San people prefer to be identified by as San or by their ethnic community names. In South Africa, some people who are reclaiming their ancestry refer to themselves as Khoesan. WIMSA recommends that where researchers wish to refer to the common gene type of the indigenous peoples or to the language stock, they should use the spelling Khoe-San.”

There can be no doubt that revivalists recreating Khoena tribes or associations in the 21st century cannot lay claim to being “First People” because this would be at the expense of the real “first People” of the Cape – the /Xam, exterminated in genocide meted out jointly between the Europeans and the pacified Khoena.

Around 2500 years ago migrating East African pastoralists with Nilotic roots, bringing sheep with them, entered the arena of Zambia, Zimbabwe, the northern Kalahari (in Botswana) and Limpopo and mixed with the Tshua and other San of that region and from this there evolved the Khoena (or Khoi) people as the first pastoralist communities of South Africa.

But very quickly along the same corridor, other livestock-keeping people of Bantu or Sub-Saharan African dna entered the region around 300 AD and like the Khoena also set out in an Easterly and a Southerly direction.

The Khoena (or Khoi) developed a number of original names as they migrated out of the Kalahari and Limpopo. Those going west became the Namaqua with its various subdivisions and those going east along the Limpopo became known as the Bakoni. Those that went southwards first settled along the Gariep River becoming the Naugaap, Namnykoa, Kaukoa, Aukokoa and much later various groups of Korana (which were a combination of old Gariep Khoena and and post-colonial refugee Khoena (Khoi) from the Cape. Those that went further Southeast to the Kei River and beyond emerged as the Cobuqua and the Inqua both of which merged into the Xhosa. Their story of merging into the Xhosa is shown by Peires[57] and by Elphick[58].

As offshoots from the Cobuqua and Inqua travelled further south and down into the Western Cape there was multiplication of tribes by division with the emergence of new tribal names for those tribes gradually splitting as they grew bigger and drifted further south. The Khoena tribes in the Zuurveld area and just south of the Zuurveld merged over time into the Gqunukwebe Xhosa who in turn merged with the Ndlambe Xhosa. The Southern and Southwestern Khoena (Khoi) are those who were the first to take the brunt of the colonial onslaught.The Khoena (Khoi) at this stage had habitat in the Southwestern Cape and it is they whom the colonialists first clashed with.

These were the Hessequa, Chainouqua, Attaqua, Cochouqua, Goringhaiqua, Gorachouqua and the Chariguriqua who were a set of client peoples working for the Namaqua in the Northwestern Cape. Already mentioned were the Goringhaicona who were not a tribe but rather those people who drifted away from tribes to form the proto-port Camissa community. Five scholars read together give us a comprehensive picture of this evolution of societies in South Africa – Parsons[59], Elphick[60], Peires[61], Penn[62] and Adhikari[63]. The latter specifically looks at the /Xam or Cape San and their demise as a result of genocide, and who all participated in their extermination. (Adikhari read with Penn paints a relatively comprehensive picture of what happened).

The indigene /Xam ‘First People’ or Cape San people were gradually pushed out of their coastal lands first by the Khoena (or Khoi) migrants and then the Xhosa expansion. There was some level of relationships involving procreation that also resulted in admixture of the /Xam with the Khoena and Xhosa but, the overall relations was dominated by increasing levels of aggression from the Khoena. The /Xam people faced aggression from every other group in the region and this heightened to genocide when the European expansion occurred as elaborated by Penn[64] and Adikhari[65]. By the late 19th century the /Xam had largely been exterminated and today only much feint lines within other people remind us of their existence and these are to be found in very specific rural communities. The pacified Cape Khoena, the Nama, the Griqua, the Korana, the Orlam, the Tswana and Sotho, like the Dutch and the British all treated the /Xam and other San people of the Gariep like vermin and participated in the genocide against them.

This is just a short overview and does not go into great depth, but the overall picture shows that in South Africa over a long period of time there was a great coming together of different people that created all of the tribes and clans of South Africa’s indigenous African population.

Under Apartheid the state fanned antagonisms and created a false historical framework that sought to separate Khoena and San identities from Bantu identities and promoted the falsehood that only some within the constructed “Coloured” identity were the true descendants of the San and Khoena (or Khoi) and that these are jointly the ‘FIRST PEOPLE’ and the ONLY indigenous people of South Africa. This contorted construction is a falsified history that has gained currency among some and can be tracked back to those conscripted pacified Khoena in colonial militias and also later in the Apartheid Defence Force.

A challenge exists today to convince those that are distorting history and heritage for short term individual gains that they are actually doing a huge disservice and harm to the cause of getting South Africans, government and the international community to understand what restorative justice means for marginalised indigenous communities and our ability to bring the San, the Revivalist Cape Khoena, Griqua, Korana, Nama, Slave heritage and heritage of migrants of colour from the margins into the centre of appreciation of heritage and culture.

Today outside of the falsehoods which only serve to taint the cause, there is a genuine Cape Khoena (or Khoi) revivalist movement (some prefer to use the German anthropologists academic  term – KhoiSan), which seeks to restore the memory of the Khoena (or Khoi) who were subject to ethnocide in the Cape, by restoring some of the traditions and infrastructure of their ancestors.

It is unfortunate that within this arena we see conflict and fractures that impact heavily on their ability to present a united position. The role of warped histories has lent itself to these divisions as has divisive racist tactics of narrow ethno-nationalists and people who argue that “Coloured” people are the only true Khoena (Khoi). This goes outside of the realm of revivalism and becomes a claim that as such the claimants are the only true “First People or Nation”.

Notwithstanding this deviation, the Cape Khoena revivalists deserve to be recognised as facing discrimination and marginalisation and, this has been underlined by the UN and a range of other international bodies. Along with the San, Nama, Korana and Griqua, the Revivalist Cape Khoena are recognised as being indigenous people facing discrimination and marginalisation in South Africa. ie: Among all the indigenous African peoples of South Africa, these five indigenous groups face marginalisation and discrimination.

This recognition does not extend to arguments that these are the ONLY indigenous Africans in South Africa nor does it recognise that these are the ‘First People’ of South Africa or the Cape as this would sanction a false historical assessment and would violate the rights of others who also descend in part from the diverse San and Khoena communities of Southern and East Africa. The UN,ACHPR, ILO[66] and other bodies recognising the issues of those marginalised communities facing discrimination does not sanction chauvinistic and racist approaches and language used by those subscribing to narrow ethno-nationalism who have nestled themselves within an otherwise genuine movement for restorative justice.

The vast majority of those who have been classified as “Coloured” while having some Khoena (or Khoi) ancestry as well as San/Southern African genetic markers, also have African heritage that goes beyond the borders of South Africa into the rest of the continent and includes linkages to other African indigenous people of South Africa. They also have Indian and Southeast Asian ancestry as well as more than thirty other tributaries to their ancestral heritage.

The term “Coloured” is a bureaucratic meaningless and race-focussed term imposed by colonialism and Apartheid. In this paper this tapestry African heritage is referred to as Camissa heritage. This non-racial term projects a heritage of a local people who emerged from a complex set of circumstances with a common history of facing the huge adversity of slavery and conquest and then Apartheid, has a long thread of rising above adversity. This paper describes this heritage in all its facets.

What remains to be said, is that once there was a huge African society living in stone walled towns stretching from Mapungubwe in Limpopo through Zimbabwe to Mozambique. This constitutes an unfolding story of exploration of a site and history which was covered up for many years by the Apartheid order. There are a range of perspectives that are aired by Shadreck Chirikure, Peter Delius, and others[67] which shake previous histories of South Africa to its foundations.

Mapungubwe shows an advanced South African multi-ethnic society that existed from around 900 AD to 1300 AD when something happened suddenly to bring this stonewalled settlement and its society and the up to 400 other such sites to an end. The movement of Khoena and early Bantu migrations southwards are likely to have been around the early years of this society and Elphick[68] demonstrates bonds and trade linkages that go all the way back to the north from the Cape Peninsula. There is a ‘primitivism’ and ‘noble savage’ overlay on Khoena history, which downplays African social history, social formation, trade and civilisation which unfortunately some revivalists play into. This locks in the Khoena for all time into a distant past and does not recognise that all over the world all societies go through changes and modernisation. It is this non-recognition and dumbing down of some indigenous peoples, particularly in Africa, that leads to marginalisation.

Around 700 years ago something happened to lead to the demise of the Mapungubwe society. It all requires much more research. Evidence shows that gold was smelted and fashioned objects created. The graves and remains of the revered leaders of this society have produced KhoiSan dna but the burial positions are that associated with Bantu burial. All indicators are that this was a very mixed society of San, Bakoni and Bantu.

Mapungubwe holds a huge challenge for further exploration and holds the key to many questions in African social history in South Africa. Under colonialism and Apartheid African social history was almost totally ignored and South African museums did not cover social history and entirely had exhibits of pre-colonial South Africa only of an archaeological nature dealing with stone-age and iron age-people. At best the notion of the ‘noble savage’, part human and part animal was entertained.

As much as the shoreline frontier and the Camissa experience defines a coming together of tributaries to identity so does the Mapangubwe society offer us a means of exploring the ties that bind us as Africans in this part of the continent. This is the antithesis of Apartheid and all forms of ethno-nationalism that have arisen out of colonialism and Apartheid ideologies.

The political consciousness of resistance to oppression among the indigene Khoena and Xhosa as well as among the broader people sharing the Camissa footprint took many forms – all out resistance wars, anti-conscription movements, slave uprisings, the establishing of the Griqua revivalist formation, the emergence of theologies of liberation at mission stations, the formation of political movements and much more. This however is a subject of its own and is made up of great feats of heroism. Both the common experience of oppression and the initiatives to resist this oppression gave substance over four centuries to the emergence of a definable people and cultural social heritage that stands out today in South Africa, as the heritage so poorly labelled “Coloured”.

Slaves and Migrants of Colour who crossed the Shoreline Frontier

The majority of the population of the Western Cape (65%) are descendants of three main roots but also includes an element of European ancestry. The latter is a combination of non-conformist Europeans who integrated with people of colour as well as Europeans who violated people of colour.

The first of the three roots are Cape indigene peoples /Xam, Khoena (Khoi) and Xhosa (mix of early Bantu, Khoena, /Xam and Nguni). In the Northern Cape The Tswana and the Sotho also were part of mixed social relations with the Khoena and San peoples of the Gariep.

The second root is Cape slaves of whom 45 000 were from other African countries, 17 500 from India/Sri Lanka/Bengal, and 13 300 from a wide range of countries in Southeast Asia. These first generation slaves and their creolised descendants over 200 years made a huge impact on Cape identity particularly as indigenes were subjected to ethnic cleansing wars by the Dutch over 176 years.

The third root people are a range of migrants of colour from many countries across the world – Indentured labourers from diverse neighbouring African countries, Indonesia, China, Batavian Peranakan Chinese, West African Royal Navy Seamen, Australian Aborigines, St Helena island, the Philippine refugees, sailors from the Caribbean, Zanzibari Seamen, Lascar sailors, Passenger Indian/Bengali merchants, African-Americans, North Africans and Middle Eastern migrants. But of all of these it was the slaves and the slavery system that most shaped the people of the Cape and its society and relations. The events that played out in the Cape also indelibly affected the whole of South Africa and its political trajectory.

The fourth and lesser root must also be acknowledged where during the first fifty years of European settlement and in the preceding 52 years when Table Bay was an indigene run proto-port, there is substantial records of relationships, resulting in procreation, between Europeans, indigenes and slaves and this continued to a lesser degree right up to the time of the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, the Population Registration Act, and the Group Areas Act, in 1950 by the Apartheid government.

Much is recorded in South African history about the migrations and fortunes of European waves of settlers – Dutch, French, German, British and others, but there is very little amplification about the many thousands of migrants of colour, forced or free, who arrived on ships from across the seas – up until the end of the 19th century more migrants than the Europeans. This is particularly the case with the large numbers of Sub-Saharan Africans commonly referred to as Bantu migrants who were assimilated into the population that the British would label ‘Cape Coloured’.

This seaborne migration to which Harries[69] in part refers, of tens of thousands of Sub-Saharan migrants was an inconvenient truth that contradicted the oft emphasised halting of the Bantu migratory drift in the Eastern Cape that meshed the amaXhosa and the Khoena (Khoi) – Cobuqua, Inqua, Gonaqua, Damasqua, Hoengeyqua and Gamtoos, in the territory between the Sundays and Gamtoos Rivers.

Migrants of colour, some brought as captives and others travelling voluntarily from other parts of Africa and Madagascar, and the Mascarene Islands; St Helena, Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Formosa); India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh; and from as far as Borneo, the Philippines and China. They were slaves, banished exiles, convicts, seamen, soldiers, adventurers, refugees, indentured labourers, merchants and economic migrants. Some had the misfortune of their ships being wrecked and then fortunately surviving and being taken in by indigene communities.

Yap and Leong Man[70] make some interesting statistical points that in census figures for 1865, some 213 years after European settlement, the Cape Colony had a population of 500,000 of which only 181 600 were white and the overwhelming majority were people of colour largely labelled ‘Coloured’. They also point out that for the British Natal Colony the population was 278,806 with fewer than 18,000 being white inhabitants with the large majority Zulu and a substantial proportion being the thousands of newly arrived Indian indentured labourers. Migrants of colour thus greatly outnumbered European migrants but their stories seldom feature in historical discourse.

In South Africa, free people of colour representing these migrant traditions were called by a colourful array of names each carrying a story –  Mardijkers, Bandieten,  Masbiekers, Peranakan and other  Chinese, Orang Cayen Muslim Exiles, the Saints of St Helena, Manillas from Philippines, Lascars, the Negro Americans, Caribbean’s, Indentures, Prize Slaves or Liberated Africans, Kroomen, Seedies, Zanzibaris, and Oromo.  These terms and the origins of many of the people of the Cape rarely emerge in heritage discourse or social history.  The administrative race term ‘Coloured’ likewise does not capture this amazing tapestry culture cradled by what can be called the Camissa embrace. (see ‘Story of a Port’)

This diversity of peoples largely integrated with the Khoena indigenes of the Cape and to some extent with other African communities in other South African ports and villages along the coastline. The integration of this element of South African history and heritage between the two poles of the indigenes and the Europeans can be called ‘the missing middle’. Because of the lack of information in the public domain and the fact that there is no memorials, imagery and literature that celebrates this huge element of ancestral heritage there is a skewed tendency for some to say that the ancestral heritage of those labelled ‘Coloured’ can simply be reduced to a Khoena and San (/Xam) heritage, with a minor element of Asian and European ancestry.

Gaastra and Bruijn[71] elaborate on the extent of shipping over two centuries from 1600 until the first British occupation of the Cape in 1795, saying there were  9, 641 outward bound shipping movements via the Cape to Southeast Asia, of Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, Danish and Ostend vessels besides those of other nationalities. They also give an indicator of the return traffic by telling us that the VOC outward bound figure alone was 3,358 vessels. Of the VOC outward bound vessels only, Gasstra and Bruijn[72] tell us that over 1 million travellers made their way to Southeast Asia.  There was much more shipping in the 19th and 20th centuries as sail gave way to steam and larger numbers of people travelled the seas. What rarely comes to light is that the crews of these vessels often comprised of a large component of people of colour.

While the vast majority on board the outward-bound vessels were soldiers, significantly large numbers were also passengers, and on return voyages from the east significant numbers of those passengers were also slaves considered to be cargo, as well as free passengers of colour and African and Asian crews. Many of these remained at the Cape and through this port gateway became part of South African ancestry.

In pre-modern history Knox-Johnston[73] indicates that the story of the visitors and migrants of colour to the Cape can possibly be first traced back to the Phoenicians (people of Lebanon, Syria and northern Palestine) 2,500 years ago, followed by the Carthegians 140 years later. Beale[74] further shows that the ancient Buddhist temple at Borobudur has a bass relief showing a sailing vessel indicating a trip down the east coast of Africa around AD 700 and in 2003 the author built a replica that successfully proved the possibility of rounding the Cape at that time.

Knox-Johnston[75] further shows that the Chinese travelled down the African coast in AD 960 and the Arabs may have reached as far as the Cape in AD 1000 and that their cartography fairly accurately identifies South Africa in 1154. Archaeology at the Mapangubwe site in Limpopo Province indicates that a huge and extensive advanced African society lived in over 200 stone cities and towns stretching from South Africa’s Northern provinces through to Mozambique and evidence shows trading contact with the Arabs, Indians and Chinese. The society at Mapangubwe was a mix of Khoena(Khoi), San and Bantu.

The Arab travellers of that time referred to the South African indigenes as Wak Waks, differentiating these from East and Northeast Africans whom they referred to as the Zanjis, a term also meaning Black Slaves and a variant is the name for dog in East Africa – bazenji.  The term Zanj became the basis for the naming of Zanzibar by slave traders and some South African political groups in modern times dubiously adopted the variant Azania in honour of the briefly successful Zanj slave uprising as covered by Rodrigues[76] in chronicling the short-lived successful revolt of African slaves against the Abbasid Caliphate, which took place from 869 until 883 starting at the city of Basra in Iraq. The term Zanj and its variants pops up in all the centres of slavery from Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia and China.

Menzies[77] further makes a strong case for the Chinese having rounded the Cape at least by 1421 when China circumnavigated the world. The Chinese cartography of this time was much more advanced than that of the Europeans and notes detail like the Drakensberg mountains. While it is important to acknowledge these external contacts, we have no records of that early engagement with indigenes, nor reliable information on the impacts that may have been left.

In the modern period we know that according to Gaastra and Bruijn[78] a huge build-up of shipping which stopped at the Cape took place between 1600 and 1652 numbering some 1071 ships and then post 1652 the entire shipping trade mushroomed decade after decade. During those first 52 years of visitations, one can calculate around 200,000 passengers passing the Cape on outward bound journeys and at least half that number on return voyages. For various reasons, among the crews and passengers were people of colour – most notably according to Allen[79], slaves from West Africa taken to Southeast Asia and from Southeast Asia and East Africa on westward bound journeys. It was during those years that indigenes at the Cape would first have encountered the European practice of slavery and seen slaves. Those indigenes that had travelled abroad to London, Java and Batavia as shown by Elphick[80] and others would also have had close encounters with slavery and all that it entails and, brought these stories back to the Cape.

We can only speculate as to whether any of those slaves were brought ashore at the Cape at that time, but what we do know is that there were many shipwrecks  particularly on the wild coast and around Table Bay where people of colour, presumed to have been slaves or Lascar seamen did come ashore. Crampton[81] and Vernon[82] show that evidence does exist that people of colour as well as Europeans were shipwrecked, made it to shore, became accidental settlers and assimilated into indigene populations.

Vernon[83] chronicles many of these earliest shipwreck survivor stories from the 16th century in some detail too. According to SA Tourism[84], there were over 3000 ships of 37 nations that were wrecked off the South African coast since the 16th century. In the years before the European settlement of 1652 the survivors of those wrecks assimilated into local indigene African communities. A significant number of the wrecked ships both prior to and post the 1808 abolition of slavery, carried slave cargoes and Griebel[85] notes that sales of slave survivors took place in contravention of the ban on importing slaves. Walker[86] notes four slaver ships that wrecked off the Cape Peninsula coast over the 50 years from 1794 of which surviving slaves remained at the Cape of Good Hope. Griebel[87] elaborates on one of these, the Sao Jose which in 1794 had both the largest loss of life – 200 and, the largest number of survivors – 300.

The first migrants of colour post 1652 were individual Mardijkers, according to Shell[88] – individual foreign-born settlers not of European origin. Shell tells us that often non-European Batavians accompanied VOC officials to Europe and the VOC instructed van Riebeeck that on their return journey to Batavia when they arrived at the Cape he should persuade them to remain at the Cape and earn their living as Mardijkers. While it would seem that not many took up this opportunity nor did the Dutch at the Cape pursue the idea, the records as illustrated in Shell’s footnotes do show evidence of Mardijkers settled at the Cape.

The original Mardijkers were Southeast Asian Catholic converts on the island of Ambon who after the Dutch took over, were converted to the Reformed Church. But throughout the VOC footprint in Southeast Asia the term took on the meaning of creole free-persons of colour – some freed slaves, and later did not necessarily mean that Mardijkers had to be Christians or Ambonese.  Upham[89] notes the first record of a person likely to have arrived as a Mardijker at the Cape as Anthony de Later van Japan (also referred to as de la Terre, or as van Bengale) one of the husbands of the slave convict who also attained her freedom – Groot Cathrijn  van Bengale.  Mahida[90] also notes that among the first soldiers brought to the Cape by van Riebeeck to ensure defence of the fort were Mardijker soldiers. He makes an assumption that these would have been Muslims but there is no record to underpin such an assumption.

At the Cape for over 150 years the idea of importing Mardjiker settlers  en masse was often considered but never implemented. But according to Schoeman[91] throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, a trickle of these foreign born Mardijker freemen did settle and in the Cape and this meshed with the people categorised as freed-slave/Free Black.

Mardijkers were also well known as soldiers across the VOC world footprint and as previously stated are likely to have also been amongst the VOC soldiers at the Cape from earliest times of settlement. Shell[92] notes that later when the Cape established the Javanese Pandoeren Corps which fought at the Battle of Blouberg they were sometimes referred to as the local version of Mardijkers but among them too there could also have been foreign born Mardijkers evidenced by surnames.

Schoeman[93] tells us that in the first six years after establishing a foothold at Table Bay the Dutch are recorded to have had eleven slaves with them of whom eight were women and children. With the exception of one from Madagascar and two from Abyssinia, the others were from India and Bengal.

Schoeman[94] elaborates on the dramatic change to slave numbers in 1658 when two VOC ships intercepted Portuguese ships and seized their slave cargoes and brought them to the Cape. These were West African slaves numbering 402 survivors in total and of these slaves 172 were sent on to Batavia and the rest sold at the Cape of Good Hope. This was probably the largest single offloading of slaves at the Cape and they are part of the ancestry of every South African community regardless of state categorisation labels today.

How many enslaved people were brought to the Cape?  The most accurate figure would conservatively be around 78,539. To arrive at this figure one has to consult a number of works.

Shell[95] researched that 62,964 slaves were recorded to have been forcibly brought to the Cape between 1652 and 1808 by means of an iterative calculation on the population of all Cape Slaves of each VOC census year.  He also broke these figures down to percentages – Africa/Madagascar 51.5%, India 25,9% and Indonesia (Southeast Asia) 22.7%. This of course cannot discount that others may have been informally brought to the Cape. Other researchers provide evidence of at least another 15,539 slaves being brought to the Cape first by the British during the first occupation and then after the British take-over until 1856 but, record keeping on slaves had become blurred by then, making this too conservative a figure.

To unpack the figure of 15,539 slaves Saunders[96] puts the figure of the African ‘Prize Slaves’ brought to the Cape at over 5000 from 1806 until 1840 and Harries[97] logs more than another 4000 during the 1840s. Over the next period until 1856 a decreasing stream of ‘Prize Slaves’ continued to trickle into the Cape. It is hard to say how many but we can at least factor in another 1500 especially when we consider that many ‘Prize Slaves’ first taken to St Helena were then sent to Cape Town. Harries[98] also notes that during the first British occupation of the Cape between 1795 and 1803 the Royal Navy deposited 2000 slaves at the Cape, and captured from enemy shipping.  In the same period he noted 1,039 slaves from Mozambique were imported into the Colony under British administration before returning the Colony to the Batavian Republic administration. It can further be gleaned that number of slaves totalling in the region of 2000 were survivors of shipwrecks.

Gonzalez[99] tells us that during the whole slave trade period (until 1860), around 909 slave ships transported slaves from Southeastern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands to the New World often via Cape Town. He says that 661 ships disembarked their cargoes in Brazil and 523 during the nineteenth century. It was some of these ships en route to Brazil that were wrecked or captured in Cape waters.

Many of the shipwreck survivors were sold privately at the Cape, such as that publicised when the Portuguese ship Pacalt Real was wrecked in 1818 at Woodstock beach carrying 171 slaves some of whom perished. This would contribute to the conservative estimate of other informal and unlawful importation. Walker[100] notes a number of slaver shipwrecks in addition to the Pacalt Real. Unlike the 1794 wrecking of the San Jose where 300 lives of the slaves were saved and 200 lives lost, in the cases of the three ships wrecked, in each of those cases the slave ‘cargos’ were all saved. These were probably disposed of at that stage just like the Pacalt Real, where Griebel[101] explains that the slaves may have been sold privately in contravention of the protocols governing importation of ‘Slaves’.

To gain a better idea of how many slaves existed during the slave era at the Cape one has to look beyond the imported figure and also include the children, grandchildren and descendants of slaves over that 183 year period and beyond until the last Liberated Africans were actually freed. One also has to aggregate the de facto slavery of turning the surviving Khoena and San into ‘apprentices’ in the course of the 176 years of war that pushed out indigenes from the Colony, and of course the de facto enslavement of Africans in the frontier districts and the new Boer Republics as elaborated by Eldridge & Morton[102]. The figure of the enslaved in South Africa would easily be more than three times the 78,539 imported slaves noted in this assessment. The impacts of the years of slavery and then emancipation on social relations on the 19th century is examined in depth by Dooling[103] who shows just how much of a paradigm shift occurred when slaves and indentured labour began to be called “Coloured”.

A breakdown of the figure of 78,539 imported slaves, the forced migrants that came from across the sea, using the three geo-locations of origins if one factors in the post 1808 African slaves and recalculates using the percentages of Shell’s pre-1808 slave imports – then one arrives at Africa/Madagascar (60,70%), India/Sri Lanka/Bengal (22.06% %) and Southeast Asia (17,24 %).

It should be noted that the aggregation of the Malagasy slaves with mainland Africa is not just that Madagascar is part of the SADC geo-political region of Africa but also because most slaves taken by the Dutch according to Wiestra & Armstrong[104] were bought from the Saklava along the Western coastline who are largely descendants of East African and in the Journal of the Cape slave ship Leijdsman are variously described as ‘black negroes’ and ‘swarte caffers’.  A few of Southeast Asian and Arab descendent are also likely to have come from the eastern coastline. The later mass important of African indentured labour would push up the Bantu migration which assimilated into the population labelled ‘Coloured’ by at least another 15%.

Shell[105] gives an overview of the diversity of origins of all the slaves and Allen[106] complements this work by showing the diversity of the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asian component. The latter ranged as coming from Rakhine (Arakan) in Myanmar to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Indonesian Islands, Borneo, Philippines, Formosa through to Southern China and Deshima in Japan. The toponym of ‘van Bengal’ given to many slaves in fact may refer to the long ‘Bay of Bengal’ coastline rather than just to what we today call Bangladesh.

Distortions in South African historical narratives inaccurately referred to the enslaved as ‘Malay’ slaves and the Cape Malay identity is a constructed identity. In reality a minor number of slaves may have come from the Malay Peninsula. Haron[107] looks at this critique of the constructed Cape Malay identity through a the engagement of a range of scholars who subjected the term to scrutiny and notes the political division of people classified as ‘Coloured’ on religious lines with an artificial ethnic overlay. The term Cape Malay as used in the Cape had more to do with the widespread use across Southeast Asia in the shipping industry of the hybrid Portuguese-Meleyu language and for Europeans at the Cape to call all slaves from the Southeast Asian region, Malays, because of the language.

The majority of the 17,24% Southeast Asian component of slaves can be traced to a range of islands in the Indonesian Archipelago and the rest from a diverse array of countries in the region. However it is important to note that many Cape slaves carrying the toponyms of large slaving stations such as Batavia, Java and Colombo may indeed have been brought there from elsewhere along the long coast of the Bay of Bengal from India to Siam (Thailand) or from elsewhere in the archipelago. Also it must be noted that up to 50% of the populations in Batavia, Sumatra and Java were Chinese and creole Chinese known as Peranakan. This all affects the background or origins of those brought to the Cape.

Andaya B & Andaya L[108] give us a full appreciation of the source territories for slaves and exiles brought to the Cape from Southeast Asia. By also consulting Allen[109] one can come to a full appreciation of the history of slavery at the Cape of Good Hope VOC outpost in relation to the entire Southeast Asian area. He covers the slaving patterns and the proximities of the Dutch factories and colonies, as well as areas of warfare and famine.  Particularly of interest as exposed by Allen[110] is the role played by the Mascarene Islands and Zanzibar as a halfway-house for slaves from East Africa and from Asia.

The African slaves at the Cape were largely from Angola up to Guinea in West Africa, and in east and central Africa from Mozambique up to Somalia and inland to Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo and across to Madagascar. Harries[111] notes that these African slaves were formally classified as ‘Coloured’ when the first census of the new Union of South Africa said that Mazbiekers should be classified as ‘Coloured’ rather than as Natives. Prior to this Harries[112] conservatively estimates and notes that the over 25,000 Masbiekers who came to the Cape between 1770 and 1880, whether slave, Prize Slave or Indentured labourers were originally referred to as ‘rightless natives’ before being classified as ‘Coloured’. We will return to the origins of the Masbiekers later.

Besides the huge number of ‘Prize Slaves’ and Mazbieker and other Indentured labourers in the Cape Colony, significant numbers also went to the Natal Colony such as the Zanzibari African ‘Prize Slaves’ who are the forebears of the distinct Zanzibari community in KZN today.  SA History Online[113] refers to the British Consul-General of Zanzibar, John Kerk, who suggested in a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, that a temporary arrangement could be made whereby the liberated slaves from Zanzibar could be brought to Natal to be apprenticed to the European sugar planters. The first group of freed Zanzibaris, numbering 113, mainly Muslims arrived at Port Natal in August 1873. Another 81 more Zanzibaris arrived a year later. Pereira[114] tells us that up to 1880 there were 600 African Prize Slaves who were brought to Natal (KNZ), some of whom were referred to as Zanzibaris and others as Seedies. A Government Notice, No 142 of 1873, said that all Prize Slaves in Natal were to be employed in Public Works, but in practice they divided them equally between Public Works and private individuals as indentured labourers. The Zanzibari Africans, largely Muslims, were also classified as ‘Coloured’.

The facts outlined here in brief underline that the term ‘Coloured’ made no sense because a significant proportion of those so classified were clearly Bantu or Sub-Saharan peoples from an array of African countries.

The children, grandchildren and decedents of slaves until the 1834 emancipation from slavery was announced and then effected in 1838, were all born into slavery. From the end of the 1760s according to Eldridge & Morton[115] almost 50% of slaves were locally born with this increasing to 72% by the Emancipation from slavery, and already by the 1740s over 30% were locally born.

Prize slaves on being brought to the Cape Colony were not set free. They had to undergo many years of indentured or apprentice labour which was pretty much the same as slavery. For many, this ended only around 1860. Rowoldt-Shell[116]  relates how one exceptional group making up the last of the Prize Slaves were brought to the Cape as late as 1890.  In 1888, the Royal Navy had intercepted a slaver dhow in the Red Sea, liberated the Oromo child slaves on board and took them to Aden. They were later joined by other liberated Oromo child slaves at the Free Church of Scotland mission. In 1890 sixty-four of the Oromo children were sent to the Lovedale Mission in the Eastern Cape Colony where they were baptised as Christians and completed their education. Many of the children died over the next couple of decades. Some were repatriated and others remained on in South Africa. Former political prisoner and prominent academic – the late Dr Neville Alexander’s grandmother was one of those Oromo children.

This array of slaves with different origins, and their descendants embraced indigenes and indigenes embraced them. Within a generation or two the creole slave offspring of indigenes, slaves and indentured labourers from different parts of the world had a new African culture born in South Africa and some European non-conformists also embraced these creole people and their culture. The river running through Cape Town which had been home to the Khoena and the port formed by that early Camissa community, those called the Goringhaicona, was the gateway of this coming together resulting in what can be called the Camissa Footprint.

The “Camissa footprint” refers to the first small indigene community of Garinghaicona who left their traditional tribes and ways to establish a proto-port settlement at the mouth of the Camissa River (which still flows underground in Cape Town) where they serviced international shipping for the years prior to European colonisation. They were the guardians of the “shoreline frontier” which was first to fall to colonial conquest. These Camissa people were the first to embrace slaves and other migrants. It is thus a more befitting and all encompassing, non-racial term, to reference the diverse roots of people of colour than the colonial term “Coloured”. Through explaining the story behind the term Camissa which is the indigenous name for fresh water one is able to explain the different tributaries of colour and the common experience of rising above adversity, slavery and colonialism. The only non-derogatory term ever used by the Europeans was prior to European settlement when the port was a free African port, when they called the indigenes “Watermans” – the people of the water. The analogy of the covering over of the Camissa River and its over 40 springs by infrastructure and superstructure of the modern city, resonates with the covering over of a wonderful African identity by layers and layers of colonial lies and coverups. Expressing oneself proudly as an African of Camissa descent, and proud to be born of a people who rose above adversity is certainly preferable to the term “Coloured”.

The original captives brought to the Cape had been made slaves under varying circumstances in their homelands. We can learn much about Cape slavery by becoming acquainted with the complex circumstances at that time in the African, Indian, Bay of Bengal, and South East Asian arena as elaborated in the works of Andaya B & Andaya L[117], Allen[118] and particularly Ward[119]. Most people today are surprised when they learn that Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are also places from which slaves were taken to the Cape. When one looks at the toponyms of the first slaves imported the names, van Arakan, van Burma, van Siam, van Tonkin highlights markers for these identities as can be seen in the lists of slaves in ‘Slaves and Free Blacks of the Cape’ by Boeseken.

The Dutch VOC had factories in all of these places. Ayutthaya in old Siam was a major trade city where the Dutch had a factory alongside all of the other powers. Siam (Thailand) was an independent un-colonised country but where one third of the population were slaves, some of whom found themselves on the world slave market. Rakhine state (Arakan) in Myanmar was a major market place for slaves across the Bay of Bengal arena. When Mayanmar and Siam went to war, or Siam and Khmer of Cambodia went to war, thousands of war captives became slaves in the process. Once enslaved people were force marched across these vast territories and many were shipped out to other European slave trading markets. Although Indonesia and Sri Lanka did provide many slaves for the Cape, the slaves that came out of the big slaver holding areas – Batavia,  Java, Colombo, Galle were not necessarily from those areas but rather from many of these conflict areas where centuries old slavery was entrenched.

For a better idea of the circumstances behind the diverse African and Madagascan component of the slaves – Zimba, Alphers & Isaacman[120] should be consulted. They elaborate on the deceptiveness of assuming that Masbiekers were just Mozambicans. The imperial presence of the Dutch and other Europeans in East Africa, the Indian sub-continent and throughout Southeast Asia linking in to very old networks and traditions of enslavement, resulted in millions of people in the Indian Ocean domain being taken away to slave in far off lands by use of sea migratory routes. Popovic[121]  elaborates on the old slaver networks into which the Europeans tapped which can be traced back to the world’s biggest trading city of Basra in Iraq back from the 3rd century right through to the largest 9th century Zanj slave revolt – the largest ever slave revolt recorded.

In summary, people were enslaved through four main means – taken as war captives and sold; kidnapped by slavers and pirates and sold; sold by families in debt-bondage; or individuals giving themselves en masse over into slavery from famine and natural disaster hit areas, so as to survive. Over the last 1500 years, with a few isolated exceptions, the enslaved were largely Africans and Asians.

The sea and the maritime conveyances moving between continents revolutionised and speeded up the scattering of people and the crossing of many a frontier coastline where the captives had no choice but to integrate with their captors and the indigenes of those new lands. It also resulted in a revolution in linguistics that created hybrids in language. Different languages travelling by sea jumped their ethnic origins and, meanings of terms creolised which later would become the dominant meaning with older meanings receding into the sands of time. When scholars of etymology and linguistics indulge in rigid interpretations of words and attempt to pin these down to only having legitimacy in original ethnic form, in defiance of the definition of etymology and by ignorance of the paradigm shifts in migration by sea – it stymies social enquiry.  One finds this tendency among those arguing on lines of ethnic purism.

The migrations of people of colour to the Cape by sea were a paradigm shift from natural overland migratory drifts. This resulted in dramatic and fast relocations of people and cultures into a new environment and the engagement and dramatic impact on the identity of indigenes under colonial assault in this far off land. It also dramatically affected linguistics as ships and slaver stations mirrored the ‘Tower of Babel’ story.  In South Africa at the Cape a while a new people and culture was in creation as a result of these migrations and the colonial turmoil, many modern Nguni tribal formations and kingdoms were still in their infancy and would take many decades over two centuries to emerge as the groups like that of the Zulu, which could only be identified as such in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In South African history and anthropological studies the mistake has often been to simply look at cross land migratory patterns in pre-colonial settlement. This gives a skewed view for instance of the Bantu roots in the Western Cape which creolised with Asian slaves and indigene Khoena. It is so skewed that a Bantu presence in the Western Cape is erroneously only considered to have occurred in the late 19th century and this is a persistent myth. Little attention too is given to the pre-colonial social history of the Bantu and hybrid Bantu-Khoena-San formations making up much of the population in eastern South Africa that emerged over 2000 years. This too is drowned out by the European ‘discovery narrative’ and the false notion that all persons of colour who were not purely Khoena or San only arrived in South Africa at the same time as the Europeans or later – the so-called “empty land” historical narrative.

With sea travel, a large wave of Africans arrived in the Western Cape from west, central and east African countries, first as slaves and then as indentured labour. It is interesting to note Harries[122] showing that these Africans merged into the population categorised as ‘Coloured’ and that by the time of the new British administration over half of the slave population were ancestrally Africans. Numerically the imported slaves and the indentured labourers alone greatly outnumbered the original number of indigenes who were in the Cape before the arrival of van Riebeeck, and their being driven out through the 176 years of ethnic cleansing wars. Then of course all of the other migrants of colour must also be factored in and this contributes to understanding why 65% of the population of the Western Cape today are people categorised for largely political and expediency reasons as ‘Coloured’.

The story of the people of colour who migrated to South Africa is however not just the story of slavery. A range of other migrants of colour also came across the seas to the Cape. Many came voluntarily, except for some others also forced into exile from their homelands by the VOC, or sent as convicts from the VOCs eastern colonies to serve their time at the Cape. Most of these exiles and convicts never returned home.

Other migrants of colour were refugees and others adventurers, traders and economic migrants. Here one can identify the groups such as the Mardijkers, Free Blacks, some of whom we have already covered, as well as those having an array of names such as Bandieten, Political exiles, Peranakans, the Saints, the Manillas, the Masbieker Indentures, other Indentures, the Kroomen, the Seedies, the Lascars, the Oromo, passenger Indians, 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. These collectively constitute figures that rival those of the various waves of European migrants. Interestingly post 1994 the waves of economic migrants from exactly the same feeder countries from the slavery era, indentured labour era and other free migration areas of the past have continued to arrive as migrants unabated.

Most South Africans have been unaware of how big a part of our heritage and identity these tributaries are and the significance of the infusion of these tributaries into the existing indigene Khoena footprint at the Camissa gateway, particularly during the 160 years of war, genocide and dispossession that was taking its huge toll on the numbers of indigenes and their culture within the ever expanding Cape Colony.

The migration of people of colour via the sea seems to have escaped anthropologists, historians and until now, archaeologists – largely because maritime studies of the movement of people, conveyances and trade goods had been glossed over by a focus on the European “discovery narrative”. By factoring in the maritime perspective as a study of the movement of conveyances, humans, and cargoes along migratory sea-routes it changes many aspects of the dominant narratives of South Africa and particularly addresses the missing part of the history and heritage of people of colour.

The facts relating to migrants of colour in all its variant cameos is, is what we can call the ‘missing middle’ in the  story of the populating of the Cape, where the European settlers and the Indigenes are but the two poles of our heritage narrative.

In the census figures for two centuries at the Cape there was always a category of people called the ‘Free blacks’ which has already been touched on in part. This was recognition that a class of people of colour were distinguishable from slaves and indigenes. There were a range of people who fell into this category which has received poor attention from historians. As previously elaborated, people of colour who had freely made their way to the Cape as – sailors, soldiers and traders were referred to as Mardijkers. But Free Blacks were also manumitted slaves who either had bought their freedom or were gifted their freedom or had completed the required timeframes of enslavement determined by policies governing Christianised ‘halfslag’ slaves.

Alongside the so defined ‘Free Blacks’ were others who would also fall under this census category but were indeed only at the Cape due to force. These were those who were banished as exiles from VOC colonies and conflicts in the east because they were resistance figures. They all emerged from resistance to Dutch colonialism. Ward[123] in dealing with networks of empire and imperial sovereignty gives a comprehensive overview that assists in understanding what happened in the Cape Colony which was an outpost of the VOC Empire. Without understanding this context and what it means for migration and identity formation at the Cape it is really not possible to understand the history and heritage story of the Cape, leaving most with simply a caricature of those times.

The VOC found it convenient to use the Cape of Good Hope as a place of banishment and punishment particularly for resisters and convicts. Three groups of resisters were targeted in the main. These were the Indonesian and Javanese Muslim religious leaders, Indian and Singhalese resisters to Dutch colonisation and the Chinese resisters from Batavia where the Dutch had carried out a huge massacre of middle-class creole Peranakan Chinese and Chinese settlers. These exiles made a huge impact on our heritage. The exiles were often highly educated, politicised members of leading families, captured after colonial wars of conquest or to appease allies of the Dutch in India, Sri Lanka, the Bay of Bengal territories and the Indonesian Archipelago.

The Indonesian and Javanese exiles known as Orang Cayen and also as Auliya (Sufi Patrons or Saints) who through their missionary work among local slaves, often holding  Animist, Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic tenets of faith, laid the foundations of today’s Muslim community in South Africa. Most slaves brought to South Africa were not Muslim but many rather converted to Islam at the Cape. Islam offered many of the traumatised slaves a means to find social cohesion and a sense of freedom even although they were in a life of bondage.

In a crescent across the Cape Peninsula and on Robben Island the markers of the religious-political exiles of the East called Kramats can be found in the form of the burial shrines. The most prominent of these is that of Sheikh Yusuf al-Maqasari at Macassar. Sheikh Yusuf was banished to the Cape in 1694 with a party of 49 family, personal slaves and followers. Ward[124] tells us that Sheikh Yusuf like many other Free Blacks and exiles was also a slave-owner. Gillomee & Mabenga[125] note how his home in Macassar Downs became a meeting place for runaway slaves and those who had taken the Muslim faith. They also note that nearly 3000 convict labourers had arrived from Southeast Asia to work on the fortification and harbour works and that the core Imam community was drawn from these convicts. Convicts or ‘Bandieten’ most of whom were not originally Muslim were another big part of the migrant community of colour and proved a fertile ground for the missionary message of Islam. Among the convicts were many who would be considered to be Peranakan Chinese who made up over 50% of the populations where the Dutch VOC footprint was strongest in Southeast Asia. From that early group of exiles numbering 50 and subsequent leaders forced into exile, Islamic Focus[126] notes that Muslims were 1,000 in 1800, grew to 3,000 by 1820 and 6,400 by 1840. Today the Muslims community of faith in South Africa are around 1,7% of the total population, largely concentrated in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The Kramats continue to receive pilgrims in the Sufi tradition not just from across South Africa but from all over the world. Such was the influence and impact of these holy men also sometimes known as Auliya. Today a significant proportion of the descendants of slaves and indigenes make up the Cape Muslim community. The vast majority of the enslaved were not Muslims from Southeast Asia and India but through the missionary efforts of the Indonesian political-religious exiles they became what those of the Muslim faith would call ‘reverts’ to the faith. In Islam it is believed that all of humanity are born to the embrace of Islam but not all are conscious of this status. When a conscious step is taken to embrace the Muslim faith such people are called ‘reverts’ as it is believed that they revert to Islam rather than convert as in other faiths.

From the earliest period of settlement by the Europeans, Chinese convicts and indebted Chinese were brought to the Cape as ‘Bandieten’.  Others came to the Cape as free traders and others as enforced exiles. They were employed as fishermen, basket-makers, and masons. Yap and Leong Man[127] show that these Chinese of the 17th Century, though not slaves, were treated no differently and many remained at the Cape long after their sentences concluded, dying far from home and loved ones. From the beginning the Chinese were singled out and discriminatory and restrictive laws applied against them.  In their work on the history of the Chinese in South Africa Yap and Leong Man[128] note that the probably first Chinese man at the Cape was a convict Ytcho Wanko and one of the first ‘Free Black’ Chinese was Abraham de Vyf also known as Tuko de Chinees who was accepted into the Reformed Faith and baptised in 1702. But these authors point out that besides the Chinese prisoners, other free Chinese traders, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, ship’s chandlers came to the Cape but faced huge hurdles, and discrimination. Not all remained.

Ward[129] shows that from the time of van Riebeeck, the VOC had an itch to send what they called ‘industrious’ Chinese to the Cape Colony because of their many talents, but various political fears stood in the way. Ward points out that although the desired Chinese settlers were not sent to the Cape, many Chinese exiles and convicts were sent to live out their lives in the Colony.

Vermeulen[130] tells us that under Governor General Adrian Falckenier of Batavia, conflicts between Dutch and Chinese increased in 1740. Somers[131] provides us with some first-hand accounts of the atrocities. In September and October of that year a massacre of up to 10,000 Chinese began and spread over the next two months. Over the next two years Ricklefs[132] further elaborates on an alliance of the Chinese and Javanese who engaged in a resistance war with the Dutch. Both prior to and after these events, Chinese and Peranakan Chinese were deported in large numbers and some were murdered and thrown overboard at sea. Armstrong[133] calls this period “a terrible tragedy perpetrated by a weak and corrupt colonial power”. Paasman[134] tells us that the Dutch referred to the Chinese as the ‘Jews of Asia and they were subject of racist and restrictive measures taken by the Dutch wherever the two nationalities co-existed. The VOC colonial power at the Cape of Good Hope could equally be described as weak and corrupt and guilty of meeting out inhuman tragedy against the indigene population. The genocidal practices of the Dutch in Southeast Asia mirrored that practiced against the San in the Cape whom the Dutch often referred to as ‘Chinees Bossiesmans’. According to Kemaseng[135] only 3000 Chinese survived the Batavian massacre.

Dobbin[136] quotes the Governor General van Outhoorn in 1698 to give us a sense of the identity formations that emerged in Indonesia as a result of Chinese migration. She refers to a Chinese community in Batavia whose forebears were Hokkien Chinese but through intermarriage with Indonesians became known by the creole name as Peranakan – meaning locally born children of Indonesia. Most of these Peranakan had pre-Islamic South China animist folk religion beliefs with a syncretic Buddhist mix. They also had a degree of Dutch ancestry through intermarriage. The Peranakan and Hokkien Chinese made up 50% of the populations in Java and Sumatra, and by 1740 they were numerically larger than the Dutch in Batavia who feared their growing power. Mingham[137] adds to Dobbin’s descriptions to give us an in-depth picture as to how important the Chinese communities were in Dutch occupied Indonesia. They were industrious and entrepreneurial and were great farmers, traders and administrators. It is surprising that South African history is not more vocal about the Chinese in the Cape which would have been much more of a factor than is given credit simply because of the huge numerical and social influence these had in Dutch Southeast Asia and the widespread Dutch intermarriage with Paranakan in that part of the world. The Cape Colony fell under the VO Governor General in Batavia.

Just Prior to and after the Chinese uprising in Batavia and Java following a massacre of 10 000 Chinese settlers, the Dutch started deporting Chinese merchants from Batavia.  These Chinese deportees to the far reaches of the VOC Empire were considered to be trouble makers and treasonous.  Among these were the majority creole Chinese whose forebears were from Fukien and were known in Batavia as Paranakan. Some were deported to the Cape of Good Hope. Armstrong[138] puts the figure for Chinese deported to the Cape or who arrived freely during the entire VOC period at 350. This is probably too low but the figure would not be radically higher. Armstrong suggests that at any one time during the VOC period there was likely to have been at least 50 Chinese identified as such in Cape Town.

According to Harris[139] the population for the entire census of the Cape Colony in 1891 was 1,527,224 of which 215 were recorded as Chinese and only 6 Chinese recorded for the City of Cape Town with the majority being in Kimberley. This census figure certainly was ridiculously low, when one aggregates the steady trickle of migrant Chinese numbers recorded in their research as entering the Cape by Yap and Leong Man[140] between 1810 and the 1880s, with around 80 in Natal. By 1899 some Chinese were also among the refugees who fled the Anglo-Boer War from the ZAR to the Cape but this cannot account for the huge jump in figures presented by the authorities in the next census, probably correcting the early inefficiency. Perhaps what most illustrates my scepticism about census figures is that the 1904 census records 329 Chinese in the City of Cape Town whereas a decade earlier the record shows 6 Chinese, then suddenly also in 1904, when the Chinese exclusion Act was introduced in the Cape, the entire Chinese population in the Colony was put at 1380, some six times the number of a decade previously.

Census figures, since the first ‘official’ census of the Cape Town Municipal district was taken 1865 under the British Administration, must be treated with caution if not suspicion but it does provide some sort of yardstick. The 1865 census according to Worden, van Heyningen and Bickford-Smith[141] said that the total population was 28,400 with 15,100 being white, 4,600 of these being born in Europe. Then 628 in the census are categorised as ‘Hottentots’ and 274 categorized as ‘Kafirs’. A total of 12,400 are simply categorised as ‘Other’ of which 536 are said to have been born ‘elsewhere’. When one cross-references these census figures to other figures of arrivals, particularly persons of colour, there are clear contradictions.

The Chinese at the Cape were a small community who were seen as ‘Free Blacks’ and had their own burial ground. Yap and Leong Man[142] sketch a short social history and show how the Chinese married or co-habited with slaves and freed slaves. The offspring of these relationships are another tributary of the Camissa footprint and their descendants were later labelled ‘Coloured’. Likewise with the descendants of the Chinese craftsmen and farmers brought to the Cape from 1806 after the British took over. Their handiwork exists to this day. After 1834 many Chinese indentured labourers were brought to the Cape from St Helena. Yap and Leong Man[143] show how throughout the 19th century a steady trickle of Chinese workers flowed into the Cape and then into the Natal Colony alongside the Indian indentured labourers. They also point out the further migrations of Chinese mainly from Guangdong that flowed into the Cape and Natal from the 1860s and 1870s due to political and economic ructions and natural disasters in China. The new waves of Chinese in 1904 numbered over 806 in the Eastern Cape and 328 in Cape Town. They were subjected to many restrictions and indignities including special pass laws for Chinese.

The Chinese were completely barred from the OFS but with the gold rush Chinese also made their way in larger numbers to the Transvaal Republic where besides prospecting they became farmers, traders and artisans. These too soon found themselves subject to discriminatory laws and became victims of harsh racism. But these Chinese settlers took the hard knocks and prospered. Everything changed for the worse when as elaborated by Yap and Leong Man[144] the dire need for cheap labour on the gold mines saw 64 000 Chinese brought over to the Transvaal until black labour could be coerced to work on the mines. Most of these Chinese were repatriated but over 2000 remained in South Africa greatly boosting the Chinese permanent migration presence. Chinese economic migrants continue to come to South Africa ever since. The difference between the earlier migratory period and the post 1870s migrations is that the latter remained as an identifiable Chinese South African community even three or four generations later while the former assimilated into the Camissa footprint that officialdom labelled ‘Coloured’.

Within the first fifty years of European settlement at the Cape, indigenes, escaped slaves, rebel ‘Free Blacks’, and non-conformist rebel Europeans making common cause with the others, trekked away from the Cape Colony boundaries to various usually mountainous spots but mainly to the northern Gariep territory to establish communities free of the VOC and later British governing authorities.

Penn[145] gives a little window into this mix of people who were largely led by surviving Khoena and integrated with the Nama, San and other indigene groups along the Gariep River. Drossen was the Dutch word for ‘runaway’ and collectively the desertion phenomenon was referred to as the flight of the Drosters. As such this has a pivotal role in creole group identity formations of Orlam groups in the Gariep region. These include the Orlam Afrikaners, Orlam Springboks, Basters, Witboois, some of the Gora groups, and the Griquas. Various Droster manifestations are dealt with in a piecemeal manner by many published studies, but there is no comprehensive account of the Droster phenomenon in its entirety and its effect on identity formation. Penn[146] also points out that both the parameters of what constituted Drosters and the term itself evolved in meaning from the pre 1720 period and the post 1720 period.

The Droster phenomenon is a most important facet of modern identity formation as it brings a range of people of colour together using old indigene culture as the cement that binds. Among those who joined the Droster migration to the Gariep were also migrants of colour who had come from across the seas and rebel Europeans who assimilated into the new formations. In the Gariep region there was much greater social cohesion and community organisation among the Khoena and this provided a firm foundation for assimilation into a regional Khoena identity whereas in the Western Cape it was in the inverse. The clearest examples of proto modern national group formations are that of the Griqua and the Orlam Afrikaner formations. The Griqua even pipped the Boers in establishing the trappings of a proto modern nation-state, even although short-lived as a British Protectorate.

Related to both the slave era and the period after the abolition of slavery was the means used by Britain to ensure an end to the slave trade – the Royal Navy. After 1840 the Royal Navy established patrol ships based at Simonstown, St Helena, Zanzibar and Aden, largely policing the then outlawed slave trade. The patrol ships and these bases were primarily crewed by West and East African sailors. Many of these, known as Kroomen, Seedies  and Lascars, also settled down and married locally. We can turn the clock back even further to note older visitations to South Africa’s shores of Lascars and other black seamen and to those shipwrecked on the Wild Coast prior to European settlement. This almost 500 years of seamen of colour being part of our ancestral heritage seldom features large in our heritage literature but they were an indelible part of our past and their bloodlines run among all South Africans including indigenes. The story of these will unfold later as this story of migrants of colour further unfolds.

St Helena Island shares a long history with South Africa through connections that go back to the 1620s. Like the Cape Colony the larger part of its population were made up of slaves and indentured labour, alongside the European settlers and troops – mainly English. There were no indigenes on the island. The slaves and indentured workers were from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and many from China. St Helena after 1834 sent a number of Chinese from St Helena to South Africa as indentured labourers. These together with other St Helenians who had migrated earlier and later were known as the Saints.

St Helena became a first stop for anti-slaver Royal Navy patrol ships where they disembarked liberated Africans or ‘Prize Slaves. Many of these liberated slaves would inevitably also be sent on to the Cape Colony.

Significant numbers of St Helenians first came as part of the English naval and armed forces in the two British invasions of the Cape at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Some of those St Helenian forces stayed on at the Cape after 1806 followed by the settlement at the Cape of Chinese St Helenians of 1834 with the encouragement of the British authorities.

Then later in the eighth decade of the 19th century and into the 20th century, over a period of time, over 2000 more Saints came to the Cape and Natal as indentured migrants. Some were white and some to use the British classification used on St Helena Island, were ‘Coloured’, but all thought of themselves as British. The harsh reality of South African racism soon was brought to bear on the migrant Saints. Schulenburg[147] tells us that large assisted migrations from the island began between 1871 – 1873, as a result of depression on the island following the opening of the Suez Canal. These migrations continued well into the 20th century.

Many Cape families share an ancestral heritage with the Saints and these Saints too had a tapestry heritage. It is amazing, and suspiciously so, that whereas both the St Helena and Cape Colony administrations were British that it is difficult today to find detailed and coherent records for the different St Helenian migrations and settlement in South Africa. It seems like there has been some kind of cover-up, for whatever reason – perhaps the thwarting of possible later claims to British citizenship. Camissa embraced the migrant Saints and they embraced the Camissa footprint. Like with the records of the many other diverse generations which passed through the Camissa gateway into South Africa, the many descendants of the Saints had little evidence of a connection. Today one will hear, “In our family they say we have a connection to St Helena but that is all I know”.

At the same time that the Saints were coming to the Cape so were the largest groups of migrants of colour known as the Masbiekers. The Masbieker heritage stands out as the least talked about element of Cape heritage, yet it is one of the strongest in many family lineages affecting many more people than want to acknowledge it. Masbiekers flowed across our shoreline frontier into the embrace of Camissa both as slaves and as indentured labourers from the 1780s well into the 1880s. Without the sea-route between Mozambique and Table Bay this very large element of heritage roots in South Africa may never have happened.

Whereas there had over centuries been a very gradual migratory drift first over 300 years and then over another 900 years across land into the whole of South Africa by sub-Saharan peoples from the Great Lakes region, the maritime route resulted in the fastest and most revolutionary relocation system. By the time of the European permanent settlement at the Cape, Bantu migrations fused with Khoena and San ancestry developed over 1,000 years as far down the east coast as the borders of today’s Western Cape Province. At the same time as the establishment of van Riebeeck’s settlement of Europeans, numerically larger numbers of West African Bantu migrants arrived in the Western Cape as slaves, as early as 1658.

The Masbiekers were East and Central African slaves and indentured labourers who came to the Cape largely as agricultural labour in the rural areas of the Colony and as labour for Public Works and the Cape Town dockyard. They came via Mozambique – thus the name Masbieker, but these included Mozambicans, Malawians, Zimbabweans, Zambians, Tanzanians, possibly Congolese as well as people from the northern areas of KZN.  Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[148] explain that the term ‘Masbieker’ was a stereotype created by the Master class for a creolised group of African slaves. They explain how most Masbiekers did not actually come from Mozambique or even East Africa but were captured all along the Zambezi River and even further inland. The Masbiekers were effectively a creolised new creation born of many different tribespeople thrown together through slavery.

In the Cape the Masbiekers integrated with other slaves and with surviving Khoena and San. Communities in the Swartland, Paarl, Worcester, the Karoo, and Overberg, today labelled ‘Coloured’ have as part of their heritage – a strong Masbieker infusion. So do many of those in Cape Town where Masbieker influence was strong in District Six and Bokaap and across the Cape Flats. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[149] give us an amazing insight into the Masbieker culture and how this slowly melted into the formal category of people identified as ‘Coloured’. They provide cameo stories how freed Masbieker slaves settled on the slopes of Lions Head, and became Anglicized through the Anglican Churches in the City Bowl area – St Philips, St Pauls, St Marks and St George’s Cathedral.  Many took on very English surnames. The role of the Cowley Fathers in this process and the economic crossover of Masbiekers into fishing, trading and hawking is well documented.

Masbiekers were used extensively for the most back-breaking work on farms and in public works and the docks. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[150] describe the Masbieker identity development in detail and show how it is the Masbiekers who introduced the Ghoema or Ngoma to Cape culture. They also describe the conditions of their capture, brutal transportation first across land and then sea. After 1870 Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[151] tell us that there was a renewed call for Masbieker labour at the Cape, this time as indentured labourers. This new wave of Masbieker migrants negotiated with the Portuguese at Lourenzo Marques (Maputo) was largely Mozambicans and went to Natal as well as the Cape Colony. Those sent to the Cape Colony just for the period of 1879-1880 numbered over 2000 just to give an example of how large the migrant groups were, with most coming from Inhambane. Some of the migrants coming to the Cape also did not come through agencies but made their own way to Cape Town. They not only worked on the farms but also on Kimberley mines and as railway-line workers, dockworkers and public works labour. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[152] note that after six years this mass importation of Masbiekers concluded and that only seven percent of those eligible for repatriation ever went home.

The Masbieker identity comes to mind when evaluating a story covered by a television news journalist during South Africa’s first democratic non-racial elections in 1994. The journalist was interviewing a would-be voter in Lavender Hill about his voting intentions. The voter was a man who was very dark in appearance and with strong African features. He gave his name as Mr Kaffertjie Swart. On asked as to who he was going to vote for he stated “Ek gaat stem vir die man met die bles”. That is, he would vote for the bald headed man – de Klerk. When asked why, he stated  – “Eka willie dat ‘n Kaffer lanksaan my bly nie. De Klerk sallit nie soe laat gebeur nie”.  (He did not want those whom he saw as ‘Kaffers’ living next door to him and de Klerk would ensure that this does not happen).

Here was a very dark man with African features and with a derogatory first name meaning ‘Little black heathen’ and the surname ‘Black’, who did not want people he derogatorily identified as ‘Little black heathens’ living next to him. Foreigners found this amazingly weird and asked why he was classified as ‘Coloured’ rather than as ‘Black’.  The Masbieker story and the stories of slavery and other migrations of people of colour was used to explain the phenomenon experienced by the foreign observers.

Another large tributary of African people in our heritage in the Cape were those called ‘Liberated Africans’ or ‘Prize Slaves’ also called ‘Prize Boys’ and ‘Prize Girls’ to which previous detailed reference has been made. Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[153] in their work on slave routes and oral traditions provide the most invaluable information on understanding where slaves referred to as East Africans or Masbiekers  and East African ‘Prize Slaves’ actually originate on the continent.

As already earlier explained enslaved people from West Africa and East Africa were seized by the Royal Navy patrols after the abolition of slavery from slave-trader ships on the high seas post the 1807 abolition of slavery by the British Parliament.

Zimba, Alpers and Isaacman[154] explains how the ‘Prize Slaves’ were indentured first into the army, navy and government service and then into private contractual labour with colonists. They also show how this meshes with the Masbieker story and how settlements of ‘Prize Slaves’ sprang up in the area known as Black Town in Simonstown and in Papendorp which became Woodstock.  The authors quote that in 1843 the British Parliament bizarrely stipulated that all ‘Prize Slaves’ had to be branded with a mark on their upper right arm with “a symbol of freedom” and registered, following which they were to be publically auctioned as apprentices. ‘Liberated Africans’ were far from liberated. It was slavery with the same practice under a different name.

Initially the ‘Prize Slaves’ were indentured as apprentices for 14 years and then in the 1840s it was reduced to five years. All ‘Prize Slaves’ had to be apprenticed within a 20 mile radius of Cape Town, except of course those who were taken to Durban, whom were there called Zanzibaris. Between the period 1808 and the 1860s thousands of African ‘Prize Slaves’ were brought to the Cape Colony and became part of the population that were classified as ‘Coloured’. But this also gave birth to another part of the story of migrants of colour – the story of the black seamen in both the Royal Navy and the merchant marine.

The dedicated Royal Navy squadrons charged with the task of liberating slaves only began their work in earnest after 1840. The ‘Prize Slaves’ were then taken to Royal Navy bases at St Helena, Zanzibar, Aden and of course Simonstown

Davey[155] gives us a picture of the Royal Navy (RN) anti-slaver patrolling operations on the high seas along the African coastline, and shows how much the RN relied on African sailors – Kroomen, Seedies or Lascars from West Africa, East Africa and India respectively. Also among the seamen were other Asians such as the Manilla men from the Philippines. The RN seamen of colour were based at the Simonstown dockyard for almost 100 years. Many of these sailors did not return home but lived and died in Simonstown 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 alongside the Liesbeeck River. The late great professional dancer and choreographer Christopher Kindo was a descendent of the Kroomen. Many in Cape Town share this heritage.

Pereira[156] provides an excellent overview of how the Masbiekers, Prize slaves, Kroomen, Lascars, Seedies and Zanzibaris relate in the maritime environment and at the Cape of Good Hope.

One of these groups of seafarers of colour who are part of Cape and Natal ancestral heritage – the Lascars are in fact more associated with the merchant shipping crews but also served in the Royal Navy. Jaffer[157] indicates that Lascars serving as sailors from 1600 onwards would have come to South Africa from Eastern India and Bengal but also included people from Arakan in Myanmar, Indonesia, China, the Middle East, Mauritius, Madagascar and East Africa. The term Lascar was generally applied to sailors or militiamen of colour and originates in Arabic military terminology – Al Askar.

Lascars were usually to be found working on English merchant ships where poor and cruel working conditions often forced them to jump ship in British Ports – Table Bay and Durban being two such ports. Lascar involvement in South African heritage occurs much earlier than even van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape. Here reference is made to seafarers who experienced shipwrecks on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. But then Lascars continued coming to the Cape right into the 20th century.

Vernon[158] says of the Lascars that crews were treated so harshly and when ships were wrecked, few felt loyalty to those in command. In contrast they were treated well by indigenes and assimilated into their communities in the Eastern Cape. Lascars are associated for over three centuries with the English East India Company and other commercial and naval British sea traffic of later years. Lascars also served on British troop ships transporting soldiers for the Anglo-Boer War. Thousands of Lascars settled in England and but a number also settled in the British colonies such as the Cape Colony. They are among the ancestors of many South Africans labelled as ‘Coloured’ as well as the amaXhosa.

For a long time most people knew very little about the Kroomen of Simonstown except that there were these West African seamen with strange names that were there with the Royal Navy and their gravestones are in the Simonstown Graveyard carrying a mysterious inscription – KROOMEAN. There were also a few photographs which remained as markers of their time. Then Joline Young at UCT  undertook the mammoth effort to bring together the limited and scattered jigsaw of information to tell the hidden story of the Kroomen heritage in the Cape.

Young[159] tells us that the Kru or Kroo were a West African people who have a long history of being recruited as seamen by the Europeans. The ethnic Kroomen were coastal people from Sierra Leone/Liberia. Most Kru villages  became part of the new Liberian State. The term Kroomen however covered both these ethnic Kru and another group – the Settler-Liberians. The latter were made up of freed slaves who had been liberated by the Royal Navy anti-slaver squadrons as well as Black Loyalists who had sided with the Crown in the American War of Independence and had settled in Freetown. The ethnic Kru had long developed seamanship and navigational skills acquired through mastering canoe travel on the difficult local sea. As such they were in great demand by European shipping.

Young[160] explains that the British Royal Navy in particular had found a huge attrition rate of their sailors on African and Asia voyages whereas sailors from the Kru withstood the heat, rough seas and illness much better. The Kru were also highly resistant to being enslaved and even although they had previous assisted European slaver ships they were recruited for the new Royal Navy anti-slavery vessels. Perhaps their intimate knowledge of the salve trade was seen as an advantage. It would definite seem that the Kru sailors tackled their new role passionately and with great seamanship.

The first Kroomen to be employed by the British Navy in Simon’s Town arrived on the HMS Melville in 1838. For almost 100 years these Kroomen were integral to the Simonstown Naval Dockyard. Though great efforts were made to contain the Kroomen and segregate them from freed slaves and from other South Africans of colour, many lived out their lives in the Cape, married and had children in their new abode. Some of the Kroomen left the dockyard and the seafaring life on the high seas and worked as craftsmen and builders on the Royal Observatory project at Liesbeeck.

The Kru and the Lascars were not the only sailors of colour to work at the Cape and settle at the Cape. They were joined by the Seedies who were largely East African sailors. Pereira[161] tells us the term “Sidis” derived originally from the Arabic ‘Seyyedi’ meaning Lord, and referred to Africans in Islamic northern India. These Africans who now see themselves as Indian are very much a part of modern India today but their roots were from among the Ethiopian Habshis. Some of the African slaves freed by the Arabs rose to become senior military lords.  In  the  early  seventeenth  century  the Sidis served in the naval fleets of the Western coast of India first as slaves and soldiers and others a free  crewmen  and  even  as commanders.  The European fleets including that of the Dutch also began employing Sidis when they entered the region.

The term Seedies in the East African and South African context was certainly influenced by the Sidi experience of India but these Seedies had a different history. Pereira[162] explains that three types of freedmen employed by the Royal Navy: Africans liberated by the navy and  employed  directly;  Africans  liberated  and  taken  by  the  Royal  Navy  to  be  employed  in Bombay  and  the  Seychelles;  and  manumitted  Africans employed  in  the  ports  of  East  Africa.  All of these men were termed ‘Seedies’ by the Royal Navy. Pereira[163] said that the term ‘Seedies’ came to denote Moslem seamen originally from the Swahili coast, especially Zanzibar, particularly sailors and harbour workers. He says some 46% of Royal Navy Seedies were Muslim. He also tells us that the Royal Navy term ‘Seedie’ was changed  to  ‘Somali’ on May 14, 1934 at the Court of Buckingham Palace because most recruits were now from Somaliland. The terms referring to Royal Navy African servicemen of Colour thus had some fluidity. The Seedies like the Kru had around a 100 year history with Cape Town where their role initially was also the halting of slave trading on the Indian and Atlantic coastline of Africa.

There was also a meshing of the term ‘Seedies’ with the term ‘Zanzibaris’ and after a major strike in Cape Town in 1884 when there was a labour shortage Pereira[164] says several hundreds of these Zanzibari – Seedies were brought to South Africa and housed in stables at Hope Street, from which they were put to work in the City. These also married locally and merged into the population labelled ‘Coloured’.

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 thirty 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, Pascal, Palma, Garcia, Torrez, Bonaventura etc. Filipinos themselves were of mixed ancestry including Chinese, Indian, Spanish and Philippine 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.

Over the troubled and extended revolutionary period in the Philippines from 1860 to 1880 the Manillas trickled into the Cape as word spread by the first Filipino, Felix Flores, who arrived in Cape Town in 1863. By the time of the successful revolution led by the Katipunan and the La Liga Filipina, the Manila chapter of the Propaganda Movement and its rebel army, the Manillas of the Cape were well settled in their new home and their children were Capetonians. In the late 1890s Spain was finally expelled from the Philippines.

In the middle of the revolutionary period in 1870 and 1872 respectively, the Labios Revolt and the Cavite Mutiny, saw a dramatic increase of Filipino exiles arriving in the Cape. By 1882 there were 68 Manilla families in Kalk Bay. In 1898 the Primera Republica Filipina was established by Emilio Aguinaldo and a new Philippines Republican Army replaced Spanish military control. By this time Cape Manillas had fully embraced Cape Town as their new home.

Staunchly Catholic and imbued with revolutionary nationalist and anti-imperialist sentiments these Filipinos had fled to England, Hong Kong, Japan and South Africa. The catalyst was the execution of three of their leaders – revolutionary priests Burgos, Gomez and Zamora during the Cavite Mutiny against the imposition of a new tax, led by resistance leader Sergeant Ferdinand la Madrid, against Governor General Rafael de Izquierdo.

Price[165] relates how the founding father of the Manilla community, Felix Florez came to be in Cape Town. Felix was born on Panay Island in the Philippines in 1844 and arrived in Cape Town in 1863. From a photograph of Felix on board a vessel it would seem that Felix Florez arrived on the CSS Tuscaloosa. This was a vessel seized as spoils of war by the CSS Alabama and commissioned into the Confederate Navy of the rebel Confederacy at Civil War with the Union of States in North America. The two ships had sailed down the Latin American coast and on to the Indonesian and Polynesian islands before arriving with much fanfare in Cape Town with some of the crew jumping ship and settling at Church Haven on the West Coast.

Felix would have boarded the ship as it passed through the Philippines where it took on extra crew. The Royal Navy at Simonstown seized the CSS Tuscaloosa to return it to its rightful owners, while the CSS Alabama continued on to France where in French waters a sea battle ensued with a Union ship and the Alabama was sunk. The Crew of the CSS Tuscaloosa were thus stuck in Cape Town for a while and this is when Felix fell in love with what would become his new home. He also spread the word to others in the Philippines.

Adams[166], a descendent of the Manillas, tells us that Felix set up a shop in Kalk Bay and married the daughter of a German Count and a Masbieker former slave. Their business supplied the arriving migrants from the Philippines with provisions, fishing gear and he organised accommodation too. Felix was the godfather of the community. The community spoke a mixture of Spanish, Tagalog and English and soon began speaking their own comical version of Afrikaans. Felix Flores had four daughters and a son. One of the daughters, Franzina, married Christiaan Adams a likely descendant of a slave and Passenger Indian, Free Black.

Post the emancipation from slavery in 1834 a labour crises developed in the Cape so that in addition to ‘Prize Slaves’ and the St Helenian Chinese 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 of the Cape and largely integrated into the populations labelled ‘Coloured’ in those areas.

The story of the Mozambique element and St Helena element of these Indentured labourers has already been elaborated on, but each of the other migrant groups has their own story too. Clements Kadalie, who founded the biggest Trades Union Movement for much of the first half of the 20th century – the Commercial and Allied Workers Union was a Malawian migrant dockworker at the turn of the 19th/20th century.  The Kadalie descendants were classified ‘Coloured’.  Similar cameo stories exist for those from Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Abdullah Ibrahim earlier known as ‘Dollar Brand’ South Africa’s most renowned Jazz pianist with a worldwide following, is a descendent in part from a BaSotho migrant of that time.

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 from outside of the Cape Colony integrated with amaXhosa labourers in the Western Cape as well as with Sotho, Tswana, Korana and Xhosa communities elsewhere.  Many also often integrated into communities classified as ‘Coloured’. During the Apartheid era many of these descendants were classified as “Other Coloured” as were others who appeared to be white but were evaluated as being part of those categorised as ‘Coloured’.

The amaXhosa relationships with the Khoena (Khoi) in the Western Cape go back in time to before European explorers set foot on the shoreline-frontier. The Khoena in their own gradual migratory drift from the northern reaches of Botswana met the migratory drift of Nguni speakers in the Southeast and often formed integrated communities together.

Besides the fact that old kinship ties existed between the Khoena (Khoi) and amaXhosa, around the year 1700 European cattle raiders first engaged the Khoena-Xhosa communities in the northeast region of the Western Cape.  Since that time amaXhosa made their way into greater Cape Town and this picked up during the so-called frontier wars when prisoners of war were shipped by sea to be interred in Cape Town and, labour gangs were brought to work at 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 amaXhosa 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 all of these in return.

The arguments of Nguni being invaders from north of the borders of South Africa does not hold much historical credibility. The Nguni-speakers with a diverse array of tribes and clans developed in South Africa and one component of their make-up descends from the Tsonga in Mozambique, but other elements include the Bakoni, the Khoena and the San. The migratory movements were rather gradual natural drifts much like that earlier made by the Khoena, rather than invasions. There are around 12 Khoena tribes and clans who integrated into the Xhosa people as can be seen in the narrative of ‘The House of Phalo – A history of the Xhosa People in their days of Independence’ by Jeff Peires. While there are some classified as “Coloured” who claim that only those categories as “Coloured” are the true descendants of the indigene Khoena (Khoi), such claims are rooted in Apartheid and colonial narratives and not in fact.

The southern amaXhosa are a people with multiple roots much the same as those labelled ‘Coloured’ and indeed the two are cousins sharing many of the same ancestors. The DNA of Nelson Mandela on the Mtdna side was the same markers for Khoena and San while on the paternal side Y-dna was found to be that of sub-Saharan Africa (Bantu). Likewise with the test results of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he too found that he has Khoena and San DNA.

Soodyall[167] shows that similarly in those self-identifying as ‘Coloured’ the DNA testing of a large sample base has shown that marginally more people testing have Sub-Saharan African DNA (Bantu) markers to Southern African DNA markers (Khoena/San). The study was done by the UCT based Human Genome Project in cooperation with the National Health Laboratory Service and School of Pathology at the University of Witwatersrand, headed by Prof Himla Soodyall. The study had a sample base of 483 people in 2008, broken down to segments self-identifying as Black, ‘Coloured’, White, Asian and some not wishing to identify with any of these terms. There were 107 who self-identified as ‘Coloured’.

In fact DNA makers show an almost exact pattern to the story being related here of the Camissa footprint or ‘Coloured’ ancestry in terms of Khoena, San, Nguni, Sub-Saharan, Indian and Southeast Asian roots and that European and Eurasian roots also are part of the story but is not the dominant  elements that many believe it to be. The following Khoena tribes reside within the Xhosa people – Cobuqua, Cete, Ngqosini, Giqua, Inqua, Gqwashu, Nqarwane, Sukwini, isiThathu, Gonaqua, Hoengeyqua, Gamtoos, Damasqua; and in the case of the Chainuqua these were also fairly integrated. The Xhosa Gqunukhwebe and the Gonaqua were fairly absolutely integrated, sharing a variant of the same name.

Over the entire 18th and 19th centuries there was a constant trickle of sea-conveyance 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. But 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. While in the Western Cape which had 200 years of forced and voluntary Indian migration, most assimilated into the creole Camissa footprint, in KZN it was different in that the waves of Indian sub-continent migrants kept a strong distinct Indian cultural identity even though most in time became fairly cut off from India as a South African Indian identity emerged.

Vinson[168] tells us that from the 1780s more and more ‘American Negroes’ – African Americans and Caribbean sailors, missionaries, adventurers, musicians, political activists, newsmen and tradesmen made their way to South Africa and settled. The Kokstad Advertiser and the South African Spectator were two examples of newspapers started by African American journalists. The American Negroes as they were called at the time were part of the Gold Rush and they opened hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Vinson[169] elaborates that the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and the National Baptist Convention (NBC) were both established by an African American missionary presence in South Africa. He also uncovers a number of race incident conflicts in which court action and US government intervention was brought to bear. Lewis[170] elaborates how with the American Negroes came the political tradition of  Pan Africanism and the ideas of Marcus Garvey, Booker Washington, du Bois and others and this had a profound impact on the emerging political movements such as the CMP&PA, CPVA, APO, SANNC, and ICU. He goes on to highlight the contributions of two men who stand out in terms of their political influence in the Cape – Francis Zacharias Peregrino and Henry Sylvester Williams. Peregrino was born in Ghana but came out to the Cape from the USA where he ran a newspaper in New York State, while Williams came from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Many South Africans labelled ‘Coloured’ also have an ancestry component which goes back to the ‘American Negroes’ from USA and Caribbean.

It is important to note that this is an ongoing story but today refugees and economic migrants come by road, air and sea and include a great number of migrants of colour from exactly the same regions that slaves were taken and brought to the Cape. Today 38 million people travel in and out of South Africa annually and a significant percentage have permits and visas allowing long term and permanent stays. Many other illegally enter the country and over time they and their offspring assume South African identities. Stowaways enter South Africa’s ports that are fairly porous gateways for migration despite measures by authorities to try and secure these. Trotter[171]  tells the story of the many ‘sugar girls’ plying their prostitution trade in South Africa’s port cities. This inconvenient truth and the offspring of these relationships with seamen is yet another element of our heritage roots that cannot be factored out of the maritime migration story.

In searching for a way of simply presenting the story of the coming together of people of colour crossing the frontier shoreline and embracing the indigene people at that shoreline, who were forced from their traditional lands by a frontier which rapidly changed shape further and further northwards and eastwards, a simple symbolic set of stone steps in District Six offered itself as a tool of explanation.

Mellet[172] developed a useful educational tool using this District Six imagery to explain the heritage of those labelled ‘Coloured’ and offered a collective rallying point for self-identification of an important South African sub-identity in the form of the ‘Camissa Footprint’. By using the iconic ‘Seven Steps of Stone’ from District Six as a symbolic matrix tool, the heritage and identity in the Cape, and indeed across South Africa, is explained in the form of seven steps or tributaries to an identity that officialdom labelled as ‘Coloured’.

The ‘Seven-Steps’ tool also links very well into the symbolism of the Camissa River and its many tributary springs across the City Bowl of Cape Town. Each of the Seven Steps recognises one aspect of cultural heritage – The Indigenes, the slaves, the non-conformist Europeans, the ‘Free Blacks’, the Drosters, the Exiles and Refugees, and the Indentures and Economic Migrants. Each step, like all of the springs that link to the main Camissa River, constitute many cameo stories as outlined in this short study. Some today may have one or two of these tributaries in the ancestral heritage, others may have more and some may have all seven. Even the latest migrants have a place on the Seven Steps of Cape Identity.

The Camissa embraced all of those who crossed the shoreline frontier and the challenge exists for modern day generations of descendants to rediscover the Camissa within themselves and thereby celebrate wholeness. It is all of these tributaries together and the story of each woven like threads in a tapestry that constitute a coherent social history in the Cape and across South Africa.   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. The lack of acknowledgement of this part of heritage needs to be addressed in heritage discourse as does many more elements lost between the cracks of history. There is a binding tie between indigene struggles for survival and that of the migrants of colour in all their diversity. Over time these struggles meshed as did these peoples.

Migrations forced and voluntary, by people of colour, still flow across that first frontier – the shoreline frontier and continues 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 soaked in a toxic broth. This is not heritage and the difference between these toxic tendencies and heritage should never be confused.

Many pathologies play out among people in antagonisms between various groups – the artificial black and bruin (brown) arguments are a part of these, as is the notion of white purity, and even the concepts of ‘First Peoples’ and ‘First Nations’ are questionable concepts. Signs of habitation by the first peoples of antiquity dot our landscape across southern, eastern, western and central Africa and most modern groups in South Africa today link back to these antiquity people.  Today those few descendants in surviving San communities who are traced directly to the pre-colonial communities known as San, /Xam or Bushmen, are the closest that anyone in modern times can be said to relate directly to the first people in South Africa. The Cape San suffered extermination as no other group did, as the facts carefully brought together by Adhikari[173] illustrate the anatomy of genocide. When others for modern political purposes attempt to blur this terrible historically documented reality with bizarre claims, it adds insult to injury. No modern grouping can justifiably claim to wear the mantle of First Nation or First People without denying the defining character of genocide visited on the Cape San and the various role-players that participated therein – European, Khoena and Nguni. Many however do have some San heritage across all modern groups and this should be celebrated and cherished and those small surviving San communities isolated in South Africa and numerically larger in neighbouring states deserve to be respected and supported by all. Crude ethnic revivalism can and has sometimes undermined historical events and added a modern dimension to the injustices of the past. It is a ground upon which all should tread carefully if true respect is to be shown to ancestral heritage.

Indigene heritage can and should be proudly celebrated but not in a chauvinistic manner, nor around notions of ‘purity’.  Ethno chauvinism and Ethno-Nationalism does a great disservice to the memory of Khoena and San in South African social history. Most often when many populist arguments are closely examined, one finds ideologically skewed influences in understanding history and false social constructs that are revived over and over again. This is a hangover from colonialism and Apartheid. [174]

The kaleidoscope of roots elaborated on in this presentation requires more amplification in our society because it offers a legacy second to none and an opportunity to move beyond notions of singular and pure identities. This approach can liberate people rather than drive people into opposing enemy camps. It certainly offers those labelled ‘Coloured’ an opportunity to embrace a different way of looking at identity or more accurately at the identities we carry. In this context many can celebrate Indigene identity as the cement that binds all other elements in birthing a unique African identity among many others. The multi-faceted story of the Camissa Footprint brings indigene history and heritage together with the history and heritage of migrants of colour giving all a cornerstone for understanding what has been labelled as ‘coloured’ identity. While indigene roots cannot be the single defining attribute, it is the most important foundation from which social history proceeds and is framed.

The descendants of the migrants of colour who came across the seas and integrated with indigenes and fought exploitation and discrimination against all odds, emerged as a people from the footprint of Camissa. Their heritage is not an ethnic nor race heritage but rather a heritage made up of a valiant set of experiences of a creole people of Africa whose forebear rose above all sorts of adversity. These are the Camissa people.



  • Lenses on Cape Identities – Exploring Roots in South Africa; Book (2009)
  • The Winds Blow from Afar: How social formations of the San, Khoena and the Southern Xhosa came to have first habitat in the Eastern, Western and Central Cape. (2017)
  • Story of a Port: The Camissa Foundation of the Port City of Cape Town (2016)
  • Ethnic Cleansing: The time of the 15 wars – 176 years of indigene resistance 1652 – 1828 (2017)
  • They came from across the seas: Migrants of colour who crossed the Cape shoreline frontier voluntarily or as captives (2017)




[1] Maclean Maggie; History of American Women; Slavery in New Amsterdam 1625 – 1664; (2008);

[2] Andrea C. Mosterman; Slavery In New Amsterdam; Museum of the City of New York; Frederick A O Schwarz Children’s Centre; file:///C:/Users/Pat/AppData/Local/Temp/MCNY_Educator_Resource_Guide_Lesson4_0-1.pdf

[3] AJ Boeseken; Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape 1658-1700; Tafelberg Pub (1977); Cape Town

[4] Karel Schoeman; Early slavery at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1717; Pgs 27 – 49 and Chapter 2 The first slave imports 1658; Protea (2007); Pretoria

[5] Hermann Giliomee & Bernard Mbenga; New History of South Africa pg 59; Tafelberg Pub (2007); Cape Town

[6] Robert C-H Shell; Children of Bondage – A social history of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1838 pg 47; Witwatersrand University Press (1997): Johannesburg

[7] David Eltis & David Richardson; Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade; pgs 197 – 270; Yale University Press (2010); New Haven

[8] Richard B Allen; European slave trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850; pg 22; Indian Ocean Studies Ohio University Press (2014); Athens Ohio

[9] Richard B Allen; European slave trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850; pg 24; Indian Ocean Studies Ohio University Press (2014); Athens Ohio

[10] Richard B Allen; European slave trading in the Indian Ocean 1500 – 1850; pg 149; Indian Ocean Studies Ohio University Press (2014); Athens Ohio

[11] Karel Schoeman; Early slavery at the Cape of Good Hope 1652 – 1717; Pgs 25 – 32; Protea (2007); Pretoria

[12] AJ Boeseken; Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape 1658-1700; Tafelberg Pub (1977); Cape Town

[13] The American Society of Human Genetics; Strong Maternal Khoisan Contribution to the South African Coloured Population: A Case of Gender-Biased Admixture; The American Journal of Human Genetics; Elsevier Inc (2010) Authors – Lluis Quintana-Murci, Christine Harmant, Hélène Quach, Oleg Balanovsky, Valery Zaporozhchenko, Connie Bormans, Paul D. van Helden,Eileen G. Hoal,Doron M. Behar

[14] Prof Soodyall Himla; Final Report – Living History Project (2008); National Health Laboratories Service & School of Pathology; Johannesburg

[15] Delia Robertson; First Fifty Years – a project collating Cape of Good Hope records;

[16] De Kock Victor; Those in Bondage – An account of the life of the slave at the Cape in the days of the Dutch East India company (1963); Union Booksellers; Pretoria

[17] Nigel Penn; The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century; Chap 5 – Societies of the Orange River; Double Story Books (2005); Cape Town

[18] Nigel Worden; Between Slavery and Freedom: The Apprenticeship Period, 1834 to 1838; Worden and Clifton Crais, eds., Breaking the Chains: Slavery and its Legacy in the Nineteenth Century Cape Colony (1994); Witwatersrand University Press: Johannesburg

[19] C Saunders; Between Slavery and Freedom: The Importation of Prize Negroes to the Cape in the Aftermath of Emancipation; Pg 37; Kronos, 9 (1984)

[20] R L Watson; “Prize Negroes” and the Development of Racial Attitudes in the Cape Colony, South Africa (2000); History Department – North Carolina Wesleyan College; Southeastern Regional Seminar in African Studies (SERSAS); Western Carolina University; Cullowhee NC.

[21] Scarlette Philippa; Indigenous Histories; Aboriginal Trackers: Boer War; (2013); Canberra, Australia;

[22] David Johnson; Remembering the Khoikhoi victory over Dom Francisco Almeida at the Cape in 1510;Journal of Post Colonial Studies Vol 12 Issue 1; Routledge(2009)

[23] Knox-Johnston R; The Cape of Good Hope – A Maritime History; (1989) pg131; Hodder and Stoughton; London

[24] Patric Tariq Mellet; STORY OF A PORT – The Camissa foundation of the Port City of Cape Town; (2016)

[25] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pg 217; Johannesburg

[26] Haacke and Eiseb;  A Khoekhoegowab dictionary with an English-Khoekhoegowab index; 2002: 246; Krὃnlein and Rust 1969: 80

[27] J Hondius; A clear description of the Cape of Good Hope (1652); As in Master S (2012). Pp 4-5. The first stratigraphic column in South Africa from Hondius (1652) and its correlatives.

[28] Donald  Moodie; The Record; or, A Series of Official Papers Relative to the Condition and Treatment of the Native Tribes of South Africa (1838). Cape Town: A.S. Robertson. Available:

[29] P E Raper; Dictionary of Southern African Place Names (1987). Johannesburg: Lowry Publishers. Available:

[30] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pg 91 ; Johannesburg

[31] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pp 78-86 ; Johannesburg

[32] Richard Elphick; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa; Raven Press (1985) pg 85 ; Johannesburg

[33] Jacodius Hondius; A clear description of the Cape of Good Hope (1652); As in Master S (2012). P4. The first stratigraphic column in South Africa from Hondius (1652) and its correlatives.   

[34] G M Theal; History of South Africa 1486-1691; (1887). P 34; Swan Sonnenschein & Co; London

[35] van Riebeeck Jan; Journal of Jan van Riebeeck; Volume 1656-1662; Edited by H.B. Thom (1954) and translated by J. Smuts. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.

[36] van Riebeeck Jan; Journal of Jan van Riebeeck; Volume I, 1656-1662, (21 October 1652);  .Edited by H.B. Thom (1954) and translated by J. Smuts. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.

[37] Elphick Richard; Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa;  Raven Press (1985) pp 84, 85; Johannesburg; read with Raven-Hart. Before van Riebeeck pp 129,138,143-4, 148-9,153.

[38] Mellet Patric Tariq; ETHNIC CLEANSING: THE TIME OF THE FIFTEEN WARS – The 176 years of Indigene Resistance 1652 – 1828 (2017);

[39] Penn Nigel; The Forgotten Frontier – Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century; Chap 5 – Societies of the Orange River; Double Story Books (2005); Cape Town

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1 thought on “CAMISSA HERITAGE: Indigenes, Slaves, Indentured Labour and Migrants of Colour at the Cape of Good Hope

  1. Pingback: The Fourth Voice in the Heritage of Simon’s Town: PRIZE SLAVES | Melanie Steyn: Another New Life

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