The written records for the Cape of Good Hope in this period are all by Europeans, primarily men, and therefore it is difficult to find unmediated views of the cultures of the Khoikhoi and the slaves. In all discussions with students, this problem of perspective should be kept in mind. Note, however, that the European perspective was not monolithic. There were a variety of types of sources, and people always have many and conflicting motivations.

These sources show how closely the different groups at the Cape interacted with one another, and how much their lives depended on one another. These relationships were not always adversarial or coerced. Nevertheless, definite prejudices are expressed in several of these sources, and in class discussions, students should explore the ways in which racial hierarchies came into being at the Cape in this formative period of European settlement.

Because the Khoikhoi were the first peoples of the Cape, and had a well-established traditional way of life before the coming of the Europeans and their slaves, a few of the sources focus on the Khoikhoi alone. The account of the dance, the rock art, and the image of the digging stick allow students to glimpse a way of life and a worldview that is and was markedly different from that of Europeans.

Finally, these sources are ambiguous and allow for many different interpretations. As you dig into these sources with your students, do not feel that there is only one “correct” way for the discussion to go.

Always go from the surface to the depths: in other words, first ask students to describe very literally the contents of the source; then start looking for meaning. As you start considering meaning, think about the context of the source—the audience for which it was written, painted, or made. Think about the uses of the source. Consider role-playing exercises to understand those sources that talk about relationships among people.

Discussion Questions:

  • In what ways was Eva/Krotoa a woman suspended between cultures?
  • Peter Kolb objects to European children being brought up by Khoikhoi or slave nannies on the basis of religion, but what else can we learn about interaction among the various cultures at the Cape from his writings?
  • What can we understand from these sources about political and personal relationships among Europeans, Khoikhoi, and slaves at the Cape?
  • What was life like for the Khoikhoi after the foundation of the European colony at the Cape?