Cape Town - In memory of 350 years since the death of Krotoa, a Khoi interpreter and trailblazer, poets, authors and churches will be compiling an anthology to celebrate this legendary woman's life and tell her true story.
Shofar Books, poets Vannie Kaap and the Groote Kerk in Cape Town are partnering in memory of Krotoa, who died on 29 July 1674. Her remains are buried at the Groote Kerk in Cape Town.
According to South African History Online, Krotoa (known as Eva to the Dutch and English settlers) was the niece of Autshumao, a Khoi leader and interpreter to the Dutch, known as Harry/Herry by the English and then by the Dutch).
Krotoa was banished to Robben Island as a prisoner for allegedly displaying immoral behaviour, and was “bitter” towards the settlers. Upon her death, she was buried at the then church of New Castle.
Haroldone Tshienda of Shofar books said the youth today were not familiar with the story of Krotoa, and it was important to create art and literature for her memory not to be lost or misinterpreted.
She invited local writers to contribute to the anthology about Krotoa whose work as a translator helped to shape the early days of South Africa.
“We are quite aware that not everyone's familiar with the history of Krotoa, and therefore, we want writers, poets and visual artists to submit work about Krotoa.
“So many women and children can relate to what Krotoa experienced in the past.
“Women and children are being violated, abused, their rights are taken away, yet they carry so much power and beauty at the same time.
“Poets Van Kaap and Shofar Books will be hosting multiple information sessions.“We are also in partnership with Simon Witbooi (Hemelbesem) who is our guide in the planning of this anthology.”
Tshnieda said they will be launching the book on the date of the anniversary of Krotoa's death – July 29, 2024.
Simon Witbooi (Hemelbesem), a South African rapper, artist and TV presenter changed his image to embrace his Khoisan heritage and knowledgeable of the history of Krotoa.
“The written history of Krotoa is held mostly in the pens of authors outside of her ‘person'/people group and therefore the gap between fact and truth has widened over the years.
“Like the Krotoa (Eve) of old, the ‘current' Krotoa's story is marred with trauma, but healing and restoration also lies in the common grounds when we listen, read and look at each other's examples set.
Reverend Riaan de Villiers of the Dutch Reformed Groote Kerk said the anthology would commemorate Kratoa's courage and strength in times of her suffering.
“The anthology for Krotoa will be a fitting tribute to this remarkable ancestor that lived here at the Cape.
Krotoa was the first person of Khoi descent to be baptised by our church at the Cape. The congregation, today known as Groote Kerk, was established in 1665 and was originally known as ‘Die Kerk van Goede Hoop'.
“Sadly during her time of greatest affliction she was seemingly abandoned by the church and when she died the church council sent a boat to retrieve and bury her remains. When in 1704 the church was built, her remains were reburied at the Groote Kerk where it still remains to this day.
“Her story as peacemaker and translator, and her courage and strength amidst the suffering and trauma she had endured, is an important reminder of the challenges we still face today as a society seeking healing and restoration.
"This year it is 350 years since she died and we would like to honour her life, legacy and connection to our congregation and inspire a new generation to learn from this courageous South African woman and leader.”
Jeremy Dames of Poets Vannie Kaap, said many people did not know that she was the first Khoi in a mixed marriage, to speak several languages and to become a Christian after being baptised: “The Krotoa publication is an important project for us … to celebrate the life of Krotoa and highlight her contribution to our country.
“She was the first indigenous woman in a mixed marriage and the first to become Christian when she was baptised and her name changed to Eva.
“The Krotoa publication is an important project for us (Poets Vannie Kaap) in collaboration with De Groote Kerk to celebrate the life of Krotoa and highlight her contribution to our country.
“She was, and remains a strong historical figure whose linguistic skills were vital in the formation of Afrikaans and Afrikaaps as we know it today.
“She played an important role in the shaping of early South Africa as an interpreter for Jan van Riebeek as she had very impressive language skills and learnt to speak several languages under the guidance of her uncle Autshumao, also known as Herry die strandloper, from a very young age.
‘She also represented her people around Van Riebeek and negotiated on their behalf.
“No easy task for a young girl. The publication will hopefully highlight this and change the narrative that she was a drunk, “loose” woman who embarrassed her employees.
“Sadly her life was very difficult, as she also suffered abuse from a young age.
“She was abandoned by her mother, never knew her father and (was) forced to work for Van Riebeek from age 11. There is no record of her ever being paid. She was given alcohol and was possibly sexually abused.
“She fell out of favour with the next governor, her abusive husband was murdered and she was banished to Robben Island where she would eventually die.
“Our publication will highlight the important role she played as interpreter, peace maker, negotiator, linguist, mother of a nation, and a woman who suffered abuse in a world dominated by men.
“It will hopefully become an important publication and item for collection by poetry lovers, and those who are truly interested in the history of our country.”