Thursday, 01 August 2013 16:58

Krotoa, Woman, Oumagrootjie

Written by Jacelyn Xenia Kok
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Liefste Eva, our great, great, too great to mention grandmother.  Daardie naam wat hulle jou gegee het beteken mos Lewe, Eerste Vrou, Moeder van 'n Nasie!
Who, what, where?

No wait, rather the beginning of the end and the start of the future.
I`ll talk you through it, so pay attention, ek skil net `n aartappel eenkeer.

Krotoa dubbed by the Europeans as Eva, was the niece of Autshumato (try and say it aloud, dit maak jou lippe moet vibrate ). The Europeans did what colonisers do; They could not say his name and called him Harry die Strandloper.
These were the first two Khoisan inhabitants that Jan van Riebeeck encountered when they landed in sunny SA, way back in 1652.

I can almost see Harry looking old Jannie up and down in his overdressed suit, perhaps thinking “ jy gaan uitbrand ou bra wat skud met al daai material?”
Perhaps he even made an attempt to release Jannie from his overload, which Jannie in return construed as a thief-like disposition, the term which became synonymous with the Khoisan afterwards. In all Jan van Riebeeck's diary entries, the undertone of deceptiveness awarded to all Khoisan, became the foundation for racism and apartheid.

Harry carried on, unaware of the crucial descending scale his people was placed on at the hand of these “foolish visitors”. They underestimated the “visitors”, thought them temporary guests to be tolerated and entertained, the sweet promise in the back of their minds giving renewed strength that all visitors must eventually go home.
The Khoisan didn’t realise that Home became the very soil and heart of Khoiland. (Autshumato later went on to lead the opposition against the Dutch)

Eva just stared big eyed at all the pretty things that were carried off the ship. Oop bek she stood, fascinated by all these strange people. She was in awe of it all, and when Jannie beckoned her closer as  interpreter and nanny for his brood, she hastily grabbed the hand that would choke the life out of her. A case of Jim comes to Joburg, it was all too BIG for her to even begin to realize the threat to her people.

She excelled in her role as interpreter, inadvertently giving away crucial information about her people, their land, their customs and everything else the enemy could used to advance themselves at the cost of the Khoisan.

Eva saw the decline of her people, she saw how dependant they became on the alcohol and tobacco the Dutch settlers used to barter with. Soon the Dutch owned more land, more cattle, more of everything that once belonged to the Khoi, and the Khoi trekked further and further into the interior in search of more resources.

Eva had already become integrated in Dutch customs, she started dressing as they did, eating what they ate and even prayed to their God. She was caught between two worlds, unable to break loose from either.
When the longing for her people became too intense, she would sneak out of the Castle, dressed in her Khoi skins she would trek into the interior in search of her clan. They never rejected her; there was always room at the fire. She would join them in song and dance, reaching fever high octaves in the San dance, communing with the spirit gods of the Khoisan.

Not long then she started to pine for her Dutch family, and before the sun would rise on her tribe's camp, she would rise, bury her Khoi skins and sneak back into the Castle, as if she never left.
Many attributed her weakness as cowardice. Eventually her tribe became infuriated with her, unable to understand why she still sided with the Dutch. As the battle lines became more hardened, her en route escapades started diminishing as both sides demanded she choose a camp, and stick with it.
Hulle was moeg van haar draadsitter mentality.

Eva couldn’t make the choice, so destiny made it for her. On the 26 April 1664, she married a certain Danish surgeon called Pieter van Meerhoff. Was it love, was it lust or was it oblivion? Who else can say but our oumagroeitjie. 
All we do know is that she was the first Khoisan to marry according to Christian customs, she was the first interpreter at the Cape and she was the first woman casualty in this quest to “own” South Africa.

You see Eva never got to tell her side of the story and we can only glean in between the pages of the Dutch Commander, Jan van Riebeeck's diary entries.  Here was a man who already had pre-conceived notions about what culture and civilization entails.

What we do know is that our ancestor's history was never  written down from their unique perspectives, but illustrated as Khoi and San art, enunciated through dance, song and storytelling, carried over as on the job training (pottery, crafts, hunting, herb collecting, etc. etc.), and cherished from one generation to the next.
It was their crown of glory that meant nothing to the uncouth eye of their European "visitor".

(Krotoa died as Eva von Meerhoff on 29 July 1674 in the Cape and was buried on 30 September 1674 at the church in the Fort.
Not only are many of those deemed as Coloured people in South Africa directly descendant from Krotoa but there is overwhelming evidence that many prominent White South Africans also descended from Krotoa, despite being legally whites. These included Transvaal President Paul Kruger, Prime Minister Jan Smuts and President F.W. de Klerk.
Many white public figures seldom reveal their Khoi ancestry, either as a result of ignorance or out of legal necessity
- Editor)