A timeline: What we know about Krotoa

2017-08-06 00:00

Her history was written in relation to the men who surrounded her, and is relatively scarce and scattered, but below is a timeline of what we know about the Khoi translator who made history.

1642: Krotoa of the Goringhaicona tribe (called Strandlopers by the Dutch) is born. She is the niece of Autshumao, a Khoi leader and interpreter to the Dutch.

1654: At about 10 or 11, Krotoa is taken by Jan van Riebeeck as a servant in his house at the fort. It’s not clear why she was sent away from her tribe. It could have been of her own volition, but some think she might have been bartered by Autshumao.

1650s: Krotoa learns Dutch and establishes herself as a valuable translator and negotiator between the settlers and the Khoi. Her keen negotiating skills aid in the fort’s forming a cooperative relationship with her rich relative, Oedasoa. She was also involved in working out terms for ending the First Dutch-Khoi War.

1660: Krotoa edges out her uncle as the principal interpreter settlement at the Cape. She is described as fluent in Dutch and reasonably competent in Portuguese.

1662: Krotoa becomes the first indigenous southern African to be baptised a Christian, and the settlers name her Eva. Van Riebeeck leaves the Cape, and Krotoa is left to his successor, Zacharias Wagenaer, who is suspicious of her due to her Khoi customs and continued visits to her tribe.

1664: Krotoa is married to Danish soldier and explorer Pieter van Meerhof. It is South Africa’s first recorded interracial marriage.

1665: Krotoa, Van Meerhof and their two children go to live on Robben Island. It is thought that Wagenaer stationed Van Meerhof on the island because he disapproved of their interracial marriage.

1666: Krotoa gives birth to her third child. Van Meerhof is killed on a slaving expedition to Madagascar.

1668: Krotoa returns to the mainland with her children. Her tribe sees her as a traitor, while the settlers look down on her. She is said to have started drinking heavily and turned to sex work.

1669: Drunken behaviour at a dinner table with Wagenaer leads to a warning of banishment from the Dutch. Later, Krotoa abandons her children and runs away, but is taken back to the fort as a prisoner. She is banished to Robben Island for “immoral behaviour”.

1674: Krotoa dies on the island on July 29 1674 at the age of 32. She is buried the next day at the Castle of Good Hope. Later her remains are exhumed and reburied at Die Groote Kerk.

1677: Krotoa’s children – Jacobus, Pieternella and Salamon – are sent to Mauritius. Today, Krotoa is seen as the mother of coloured Afrikaners. Her descendents also include white Afrikaners such as Paul Kruger, Jan Smuts and FW de Klerk.

August 2016: Krotoa is commemorated with a monument at the Castle of Good Hope. The Khoi community express their unhappiness that she is memorialised at a site where she experienced so much oppression and pain.

Information from SA History Online and news articles on News24 and eNCA

(An illustration of what Krotoa may have looked like)
Read more on:    jan van riebeeck  |  krotoa  |  khoi

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