Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

The Assimilation: Acculturation (1500 – 1652)

Posted by tahirfarrath on December 1, 2009

How it all began…

1485 – Câo puts ashore the Cape Cross, north of present-day Walvis Bay.

1488 – Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias arrived in Mossel Bay and made contact with the Khoisan. He erected a cross, and called the bay Aguada de São Brás, as they landed on the festival day of Saint Blaise. The harbour and surrounding area was renamed Mosselbaai (Bay of Mussels) in 1601 by Dutch navigator Paulus van Caerden.

1503 – Antonio de Saldanha, leading a Portuguese squadron, enters Table Bay (called Aguada da Saldanha until 1601) owing to a navigational error. They are the first Europeans to climb Table Mountain, which they name Taboa do Cabo (the Table Cape) on account of its shape. The King of Portugal, John II, renamed the area from the Cape of Storms to Cabo da Boa Esperança or Cape of Good Hope as it led to the riches of India.

1510 – On his way back to Portugal the Viceroy of Portuguese India, Francisco d’ Almeida, is killed in a skirmish with Khoi-Khoi, probably due to a misunderstanding arising from a barter between the Khoi-Khoi and the Portuguese at the mouth of the Salt River in Table Bay. Thereafter, Portuguese traders tend to bypass the Cape itself, relying on Robben Island for fresh meat and water.

1554 – The Portuguese ship São Bento was wrecked north of the Great Fish River on its return from the East. Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo, Portuguese navigator and cartographer is one of 64 survivors of the crew of 473 who reaches Delagoa Bay on foot, and one of 23 to be ultimately rescued.

1575 – Portuguese mariner and cartographer Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo explores the south and south-east coast of South Africa on a voyage for this purpose. He gives the first detailed description and draws a map of the coast.

1580 – An English admiral, Francis Drake, rounds the Cape on his voyage round the world in his quest to reach India for the English Crown. He describes the Cape in the following words: ‘This Cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.’

1592 – The English navigator, James Lancaster, barters sheep in the Bay of Saldaha (called Table Bay after 1601) from the Khoi-Khoi. He describes the sheep as very large, with good mutton, bearing no wool but hair, and with very large tails.

1595 – Four ships under Cornelis de Houtman reach São Bras. This is the first contact of the Dutch with the coast of Southern Africa.

1601 – Joris van Spilbergen, leading a Dutch fleet, casts anchor in the Bay of Saldaha (Aguada da Saldanha) and names it Table Bay after Table Mountain, while the original name is transferred to the present Saldanha Bay

1615 – Sir Thomas Roe attempts to land some deported British criminals at the Cape, but those who are not drowned or killed by Khoi-Khoi are soon removed from the Cape and the scheme is abandoned. (SESA, v. 2, p. 507)

1631 – The English take Autshumao (also Autshumato), chief of the Goringhaikonas Khoi-Khoi, to Batavia. He is known to the English as ‘Harry’ and later to the Dutch as ‘Herry’. He is later returned to the Cape. He also acts as the resident agent or postmaster for passing ships.

The Dutch East India Company saw the need to establish a mid-station between Europe and the East at the southern most tip of Africa.

The Dromedaris arrives

In 1652, the first Europeans sent to settle in South Africa were the Dutch seafarer Jan van Riebeeck and his crew, who arrived with their three ships in Table Bay. The local inhabitants in the Cape at that time were the Khoisan people.

Van Riebeeck’s specific instructions were not to colonise the Cape (or so it seemed) but to build a fort, to erect a flagpole for signalling to passing ships, and to build pilot boats to escort them safely into the bay.

However, on December 31, 1687 a band of Huguenots set sail from France to the colony at the Cape of Good Hope after leaving their country at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes of granting religious freedom. A commissioner was sent out from the Cape Colony in 1685 to attract more settlers. Since they shared a similar religion to the Dutch colonists, they were quickly absorbed into the Afrikaner population. Many of these settlers chose as their home an area called Franschhoek, Afrikaans for “French corner”. The French Huguenots ceased by the middle of the 18th century to maintain a distinct identity, and the knowledge of French disappeared. Many families are now mostly Afrikaans speaking, but examples of their more common names are Blignaut, Cronje (Cronier), de Klerk (Le Clercq), Visagie (Visage), de Villiers, du Plessis, du Toit, Fourie, Fouche, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Hugo, Joubert, Labuschagne (la Buscagne), Lange, le Roux, Lombard, Malan, Malherbe, Marais, Nel, Pienaar, Roux[2], Terreblanche, Taljard, Theron and Viljoen (Villion), etc.

The Thirty Years’ War (1618- 1648) left many of the German states in a poor economic condition. Consequently many Germans, including ex-soldiers, were drawn to the west by the wealth of the Netherlands. At least one German, Jacob Cloete, came to the Cape with Jan van Riebeeck. According to Hoge in Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, there were about 15 000 who arrived during the period of Dutch administration at the Cape, although not all of them stayed here. The early German immigrants were mainly soldiers in the service of the Dutch East India Company or VOC, but some took their discharge in as early as 1657 and became free-burghers. German blood soon mixed with French and Dutch blood and the German language too soon made way for Dutch, which played a major role in the development of Afrikaans.

In 1840 the South-West African London Missionary Society transferred all of its activities to the Rhenish Missionary Society who began founding churches throughout what would become Namibia in 1990. On 16 November 1882 a merchant from Bremen, Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz, requested protection for a station that he planned to build in South-West Africa. Land was purchased land from a native chief and established a city at Angra Pequena which was renamed Lüderitz. On 24 April 1884, the area was placed under the protection of Imperial Germany to deter British encroachment. During 1908 conflict, between 25,000 and 100,000 Herero, more than 10,000 Nama and 1,749 Germans died in the conflict. In 1902, the colony had 200,000 inhabitants, though only 2,595 were German. By 1914, more German settlers arrived and the region already had around 80,000 Herero, 60,000 Ovambo, and 10,000 Nama, who were disparagingly referred to as Hottentots. After the World War i, the area came under the control of Britain, and then was made part of the South African League of Nations.

A trickle of Italians began settling in South Africa from as early as 1689. It was only from 1861, though, that they starting flooding into the country, as refugees from the Italian War of Independence.

After the Byzantine–Ottoman Wars, which resulted in the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Greek lands, many Greeks fled Constantinople and found refuge in Italy. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Hellenes, Greek immigrants, reached the Southern shores of what now constitutes the Republic of South Africa.

There were Jews among the directors of the Dutch East India Company, which for 150 years administered the colony at the Cape of Good Hope. After 1820, a small number of Jews settled among and identified with the rural white Afrikaans-speaking population; these persons became known as Boerejode (Boer Jews). A measure of intermarriage also occurred and was generally accepted. The first congregation in South Africa, known as the Gardens Shul, was founded in Cape Town in November 1841, but the Jews faced substantial anti-Semitism because the revised Grondwet of 1894 still debarred Jews and Catholics from military posts and other government positions. The South African gold rush began after 1886, attracting many Jews fleeing Russian. Per capita, South African Jews were later reputedly the financially supportive Zionists abroad, yet Jews were also involved in the anti-apartheid movement, with Harry Schwarz and Helen Suzman being the most notable.

The largest single event of Portuguese settlement occurred when two of the former Portuguese colonies (Angola and Mozambique) became independent in 1975. While most Portuguese from the two Portuguese-speaking African countries went to Portugal and the rest to Brazil, some entered South Africa.

Rhodesia was governed by a predominantly white minority government until 1979. The state was named after Cecil John Rhodes, whose British South Africa Company acquired the land in the nineteenth century. In the ten years after independence, around 60% of the white population of Zimbabwe emigrated. Most emigrated to South Africa.


One Response to “The Assimilation: Acculturation (1500 – 1652)”

  1. Angelina said


    I’m Angelina from Beach House Pictures, a TV production house based in Singapore. Just wondering if you could drop me an email as I need some assistance in locating archival images of the Dutch fleet.

    Appreciate your help, and I will explain further in the email if you have any other queries.

    Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very much!

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