Krotoa – trapped between two worlds

Krotoa, pronounced “Krotwa”, was caught in a political web from a young age. A Goringhaicona (Watermans) of high-ranking birth, she became a servant in Jan van Riebeeck’s household aged about 10.  Krotoa was not a slave, but she was never paid. She was clearly clever. She spoke Dutch “as well as any Dutch girl”, said van Riebeeck, and learned Portuguese. By the time she was a teenager, baptised as Eva, she had become the chief translator (tolckinne) for the VOC.

Krotoa’s skills made her valuable to the Dutch who initially treated her with affection and trust. Over time this gave way to censure, suspicion and disgust. Her role as a culture broker made her increasingly powerful, and any sign that she was not entirely Dutch marked her as a traitor (for example, when she swapped her Dutch clothing on home visits and wore “stinking old cattle hides, just like all the other dirty Hottentoo women”).

As power transferred to the Dutch, and the Khoikhoi fought back, all Krotoa’s relationships were politicized and damaged. She returned at times to live with her sister and tried to broker peace in the savage wars that broke out between the Dutch and Khoikhoi. But Krotoa’s highly visible part in a process that threated Khoikhoi interests made her a figure of suspicion in her own community. She was accused of being a “lickspittle or flatterer” who would finally betray her own people.

In January 1660, on Krotoa’s advice seven VOC soldiers, including a Dane named Pieter Meerhoff, were sent to spy on the Goringhaiqua (Kaapmans) camp[i]. Over the next few years Meerhoff and Krotoa had two children together. During this time Meerhof rose in the ranks to become junior surgeon, while Krotoa became more and more disliked by the VOC. Wagenaer, the commander who succeeded van Riebeeck, wrote “this naughty thing… this lewd vixen… has often played us this trick.”

In 1664 Krotoa and Meerhoff were married, “the first… according to Christian usage with a native”. Krotoa was given “a little marriage feast” at the commander’s house and small dowry of 56 rixdollars in recognition of her work as an interpreter for nothing other than food and clothes.[ii]

The following year, Meerhoff was made commander of Robben Island and the family settled there. In 1666 Krotoa gave birth on the island to their third child. There is no more mention of her until 1668 when she and her children settled back in Cape Town after Meerhoff was murdered in Madagascar whilst on a slaving expedition.

Krotoa’s downfall comes as a shock because it is so unexpected. The historical record notes: “This afternoon in consequence of her excessive drunkenness, and her shameful behaviour… she had been severely reprimanded… and advised to abandon her adulterous and shameful conduct.” The Church Council proposed “to remove her children from this drunken swine”. She went to live with some Khoikhoi camped at present-day Mouille Point. After a drunken incident soldiers were sent to “hunt up that Hottentoo pig”. Krotoa was locked up in the Fort’s Black Hole for a month and a half. She was then sent without trial to Robben Island. Her three children were placed in the care of a freeburgher family.

Krotoa returned to Cape Town for short periods but “as soon as she returned, she, like the dogs, always returned to her own vomit” as the Dutch authorities put it.

She died, without family or friend, on Robben Island aged 32.

Krotoa – vasgevang tussen twee wêrelde

Krotoa, uitgespreek “Krotwa”, was vasgevang in ‘n politieke web vanaf ‘n jong ouderdom. As ‘n Goringhaicona (Watermans) van hooggeplaaste geboorte, het sy ‘n bediende geword in Jan van Riebeeck se huishouding op die ouderdom van omtrent 10. Krotoa was nie ‘n slaaf nie, maar sy is ook nooit betaal nie. Sy was duidelik slim. Sy het Hollands “net so goed gepraat soos enige Hollandse meisie”, se van Riebeeck, en het Portugees geleer. Teen die tyd wat sy’;n tiener was, gedoop as Eva, het sy die hoofvertaler (tolckinne) vir die VOC geword.

Krotoa se vaardighede het haar baie waardevol gemaak vir die Hollanders wie haar aanvanklik met toegeneentheid en vertroue behandel het. Deur die jare het hierdie eienskappe verander na afkeuring, agterdog en walging. Haar rol as kulturele agent het haar baie meer magtig gemaak, en enige teken dat sy nie volkome Hollands was nie, het haar gemerk as ‘n verraaier (byvoorbeeld, as sy haar Hollandse klere op tuisbesoeke verruil het vir “stinkende ou veehuide, net soos al die ander vuil Hottentoo vroue”)

Soos mag oorgeskuif het na die Hollanders, en die Khoikhoi terugbaklei het, het al Krotoa se verhoudings polities geword en het skade gelei. Met tye het sy teruggekeer om by haar suster te bly en het sy probeer om vrede te bewerkstellig tussen die wrede oorloe wat tussen die Hollanders en die Khoikhoi uitgebreek het. Krotoa se duidelik sigbare aandeel in ‘n proses wat die Khoikhoi se belange bedreig het, het haar ‘n verdagte figuur in haar eie gemeenskap gemaak. Sy is beskuldig daarvan dat sy ‘n ”lickspiittle of flatterer” is wat uiteindelik haar eie mense sou verraai.

In Januarie 1660, volgens Krotoa se advies is sewe VOC soldate, onder andere ‘n Deen genaamd Pieter Meerhoff, gestuur om op die Goringhaiqua (Kaapmans) kamp te spioeneer. Oor die volgende paar jaar het Meerhoff en Krotoa twee kinders saam gehad. Gedurende hierdie tyd het Meerhoff ook geklim op die rangleer en word ‘n junior chirurg terwyl Krotoa se aansien meer en meer gedaal het by die VOC. Wagenaer, die bevelvoerder wat van Riebeeck opgevolg het, skryf “this naughty thing…this lewd vixen … has often played us this trick.”

In 1664 is Krotoa en Meerhoff getroud, “‘n eerste… volgens Christengebruik met ‘n inboorling”. Krotoa kry ‘n “klein huweliksfees” by die bevelvoerder se huis en ‘n bruidskat van 56 riksdaalders ter erkenning van haar werk as vertaler vir niks anders as kos en klere nie.

Die volgende jaar is Meerhoff as bevelvoerder aangestel op Robbeneiland en die familie het daar gevestig. In 1666 skenk Krotoa geboorte aan hul derde kind op die eiland. Daar word nie weer van haar melding gemaak voor 1668 toe sy en haar kinders hul vestig in Kaapstad nadat Meerhoff vermoor is in Madagaskar terwyl hy op ‘n slawe-ekspidisie was.

Krotoa se ondergang kom as ‘n skok omdat dit so onverwags was. Die historiese rekords toon “vanmiddag, as gevolg van haar uitermatige dronkenskap en haar skandelike optrede, is sy skerp aangespreek…en aanbeveel om haar owerspelige en skandelike gedrag te laat vaar. Die Kerkraad is het aangebied om “om haar kinders van die dronk vark “ te verwyder. Sy het saam met die Khoikhoi gaan bly waar hulle gekamp het by die hedendaagse Mouille Point. Na ‘n insident van dronkenskap is soldate gestuur om die “Hottentoo vark te jag”. Krotoa is vir ‘n maand en ‘n half opgesluit in die Fort se Swart Gat .Sy is daarna sonder ‘n verhoor na Robbeneiland gestuur. Haar drie kinders is in die sorg van ‘n vryburger-familie geplaas.

Krotoa het vir kort periodes teruggekeer na Kaapstad maar “so gou soos wat sy terruggekom het, sy, soos ‘ hond, keer altyd terug na haar eie braaksel” soos die Hollandse Owerhede dit stel.

Sy sterf sonder familie of vriend, op Robbeneiland op die ouderdom van 32.

Krotoa – wayephakathi kweBhayi neTinarha (ngokwentetho)

UKrotoa obizwa “Krotwa”, kwa eselula wayethwe xhankamfu ngumnathi wezopolitiko. Le ntwazana, nje ngenzalelwane yabasebenzi ngamaphenyane, omakhoekhoetha abathe xaxa ngokubaluleka kunabanye, yayisisicaka sika Jan van Riebeek iseneshumi nje leminyaka. UKrotoa lo wayengelokhoboka, nto nje wayesebenza kodwa engabhatalwa. Yintwazana eyayiqaqambile ngobukrelekrele le. Sasiphuma ngeempumlo isiDatshi kuyo, “njengayo nayiphina intwazana yomDatshi”, watsho uvanRiebeeck, kwaye uKrotoa lo wayefunde nesiPuthukezi. Xeshikweni ekwisigaba sokufikisa (teenager), nokuphehlelelwa njengo Eva, wayesele eyintsumpa kumgangatho wobutoliki (tolckinne), etolikela iVOC.

Wayexabisekile uKrotoa lo kumaDatshi ngenxa yesisakhono, futhi elithemba ethandwa nakanjalo.. Ekuhambeni kwe xesha kwaba zizithukuthuku zenja okokuthandwa nokuthenjwa, kwatsho endaweni yoko kwangenelela ukugxekwa, ukukrokrelwa nokwenyanywa. Ngamava awayenawo ngenkcubeko, nesakhono sokucebisa macala, wahlum’ impiko zokongama nefuthe loosomagunyeni, nto leyo eyenza ukuba apho akrokrelwa ngokungabi ngumDatshi ncakasana wayejongwa njengentlola nomgcatshi (umzekelo: mhlanazana efika ekhaya etshintsha iimpahla zakhe zobuDatshi ezambesa “ngezikhumba ezinevunjana njengabo bonke abanye abafazi beHottentot abamdaka”)

Xa ukuthinjwa kwelizwe bekukekelela ngakumaDatshi, amaKhoi equqa ebuyelela eziphindisela kwezomfazwe, ubudlelwane awayebakhile uKrotoa kuwo omabini amacala ezozizwe nathyekeka, buthyefwa ngulo mbangazwe, kwaye kwaye bonakala obobudlelwane.

Ubesakubuyela ekhaya apho ebehlala noodade bakhe uKrotwa, ehlala esenza amalinge oxolo kwezomfazwe zezirhalarhume ezingenabuntu, iimfazwe ezazi phakathi kwama Datshi nama Khoi. Kwathi ke kwakucac’ intoba uKrotwa lo ugqamile kwizisusa ezibeka amaKhoi esichengeni watsho wangumntu okrokrelwa kwangaba besizwe sakhe abantu. Kwaye kwaya wathyolwa njenge bhetyebhetye likathoba sikutyele lezikhulu owayebusa kuzo, umntu owathengisa isizwe.

Ngo January womnyaka ka 1660, ngeengcebiso zika Krotoa, amajoni asixhenxe e VOC, ekuquka kuwo iDane ebizwa Pieter Meerhoff, yakhutshwa ukuya kuhlola inkampu yamaKhoi(Goringhaiqua (Kaapmans) campi). Kudlule iminyaka embalwa uKrotoa no Meerhoff banabantwana ababini Kungelilixa lokunyukela kwisikhundla sobu Sajini obusafufusayo uMeerhoff, ekuthe ngalo wathanda ukuba nomdintsi netyheneba uKrotoa lo kwi VOC. UWagenaer, owayeyinkomanda ezihlangwini zowayemandulela u van Riebeeck, watyibela ngelithi “lenjakazi yempungutye eqaqadekileyo” yimikhwa yakhe le yokusibambisa iliwa.

Ngowe 1664 uKrotoa noMeerhoff bazimanya ngeqhina lomtshato, “umbono wamazibulo onjalo phakathi komKristu nentwazana yomgquba”. Loomsitho wabhiyozelwa ngesidlo sokuvuyisana no uKrotoa endlwini ka nkomanda, izipho ezihamba nelotheko ezixabisa i56 rixdollars yokuthenga ukutya nempahla (clothesii) yakhutsha njengo ‘ngxatshe’, umbulelo ngomsebenzi awayewenza wokutolika uKrotwa.

Ngonyaka olandelayo uMeerhoff waba yinkomanda ye siqithi, wahlala khona apho nosapho lwakhe. Ngo 1666 wazalelwa apho esiqithini umntwana wesithathu ka Krotoa no Meerhoff. Kude kubengowe 1668, akakhankanywa uKrotoa de abhinqele phezulu abeleke iintsana zakhe abuyele eKapa, emva kokuba uMeerhoff esutywe kukufa ekwiphulo lokuzingela amakhoboka.

Isiwo sika Krotoa emajukujukwini sikhwamkqise wonke ubani, ngokuba besingalindelekanga. Ithi incazelo ngembali: “ngale njikalanga ngenxa yokugqithisa kudlomdlayo, nendlela emanyumnyezi yokuziphatha … weyengxoliswe kanobom … wacetyiswa ukuwulahla umkhwa wakhe wokukrexeza nokuswela iintloni zokuziphatha” Ibandla lathi “makaphucwe abantwana bakhe lonontyintyi wehagu”. Wemnka apho uKrotwa wohlala kwindawo yokuncathama yamaKhoi ebizwa Mouille Point namhla (ngelasemzini). Kwathi emva kwesehlo somnxilo apho, kwathunyelwa ngamajoni “aphumi ngqina eyokuzingela lonontyityi wehagu”. Wakufunyanwa wagcinwa eluvalelweni e Fort Black Hole isithuba senyanga neveki ezimbini. Bambuyisela elibanjwa esiqithini, bengazange bahlam’ ahlongwane phezulu, bengazange bamncine nasenkundleni ngezozityholo. Abantwana bakhe abathathu bagcinwa kwimizi yabantu abangqibayo. UKrotoa wabuyela eKapa, ixeshana nje elingephi, kodwa “ebethi akubuyela, kubengathi yinja ehlanzileyo ibuyela emhlanzweni wayo”, bezisitsho iziphatha mandla zamaDatshi ngaye.

Eneminyakana nje engama 32, waluqeng’ ugodo apho esiqithini, sele engenabani nazihlobo.

[i]C2, p91-92: Council of Policy: “de tolckinne Eva” and Pieter Meerhoff mentioned together, 12 Jan 1660

[ii] C3, p24-26: Council of Policy permission to marry, 12 April 1664