For the past 36 years, I have been documenting the lives of each and every individual residing at the Cape of Good Hope at this initially small, Dutch East India Company refreshment station and settlement for the period 1652-1713.

My initial reason for covering this 60-year period was to document and review extensively the life of a Khoi woman called Krotoa - the Cape's first baptized aborigine to be assimilated into the nascent colonial community. Investigating her contemporaries became crucial in finding new clues that would enable me to establish greater historical accuracy about this much-maligned and controversial woman and her times. As a double-descendant of Krotoa (in both the paternal and maternal lines), my pursuit commenced as an initial singularly genealogical search but expanded into a micro-historical investigation revealing new and startling insights into the matrix of early Cape society. My research thus far, confirms my hunch that at least 40% to 50% (and this is a conservative estimate) of those South Africans who had been officially classified as being white under the now-abolished apartheid system, actually descend from this very woman. Given the fact that, initially the Cape of Good Hope's gene pool remained small and somewhat constant, many of her European, slave and aboriginal contemporaries invariably qualify for similar founding father-/founding mother-status, all sharing an enormous progeny that cuts right cross at least three supposedly distinct/separate ethnic or cultural groups within South Africa: Afrikaans-speaking whites (in modern political parlance, the so-called Afrikaners), ‘English-speaking whites' and so-called Cape 'Coloureds'.

This small trading post was to embrace displaced individuals ranging from northern European VOC officials, servants and settlers, west and east African and Asian slaves and detribalised Khoikhoi; thus forming a veritable afro-eurasian melting pot. The colony's frontiers were to later encroach and expand into the later Cape Colony which was to provide the further springboard for the colonial prising open of what has become the politically-defined entity of South Africa.


The appearance of self-styled Japanese at the Cape of Good Hope as early as 331 years ago is significant:

It serves to remind us that the VOC with its Dutch west and east India seaborne empire was largely responsible (in accordance with the nature of empires and colonization) for aggravating the diaspora of many peoples across the globe and that societies are seldom, if ever, immune from racial, ethnic and cultural intermingling. The unique position of the Cape of Good Hope as halfway station between Europe and Asia is brought into focus when we realize the crucial role the settlement has played in bridging East and West; North and South. The subsequent formation of a multi-ethnic and multicultural eurafricasian society at the tip of Africa serves as a valuable insight into the critical modern challenge of racial, ethnic and cultural tolerance in an increasing borderless world.

Mansell Upham

From an address to the Asiatic Society of Japan, 13 December 1993


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