Eva the Hottentot

Eva the Hottentot

Author: A.M. van Rensburg (b4 c2 d1 e6 f5 g5 h3 i2)
Web master: M.A. van Rensburg (b4 c2 d1 e6 f5 g5 h3 i2 j1)

Picture of male and female khoikhoi in traditional clothing.

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Genetic Enrichment Page 1
My Genetic Enrichment Page 2 -
My Genetic Enrichment - EVA the Hottentot

Indigenous Roots back to EVA

The nearest I have come to royalty or chiefdom is through Eva, who was an indigenous Khoi-Khoi (Hottentot). One might pose the question what entitles one to be an Indigenous person or First Nation person. Do I qualify or not? I have three traceable descents from Eva.

EVA * 1642, died 1674 X Pieter van Meerhof => Petronella Meerhof => Magdalena Zaayman => Anna Elisabeth Bockelenberg => b1 Johannes Bruyns => b1c5 Jacobus Theodorus Bruyns => b1c5d5 Hendrik Willem Bruyns => b1c5d5e5f2 Christiaan Jacobus Theodorus Bruyns => b1c5d5e5f2g? Magdalena Johanna Maria Bruyns => b4c2d1e6f5g5 Nicolaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg => my father => me

Eva => Petronella Meerhof => Pieter Zaaiman => b?c5 Engela Catharina Zaaiman => b2c6 Willem Jacobus Pelzer => b2c6d2 Levina Catharina Pelzer => b6c1d3e3 Willem Johannes Kruger => b6c1d3e3f1 Johanna Elisabeth Kruger => ? Johanna Elisabeth van der Westhuyzen => b6c3d1e7f6g?h1 Johanna Elisabeth Kuhn => my father => me

Eva => Petronella Meerhof => Pieter Zaaiman => b?c5 Engela Catharina Zaaiman => b2c3 Anna Maria Jacoba Pelzer => b5 Frederika Elisabeth Griesel => b7c5d3 Anna Maria Kruger => ? Johannes Lodewikus van der Westhuyzen => 3 Andries Marthinus van der Westhuyzen => ? Johanna Elisabeth van der Westhuyzen => b6c3d1e7f6g?h1 Johanna Elisabeth Kuhn => my father => me

Eva - A Person who Lost everything

Eva also known as Krotoa was born c 1642 at the Cape. She was a member of the Goringhaikona. Strandloper (beachcomber), Khoikhoi also referred to as Hottentot, (this particular tribe consisted about fifty individuals according to V.C. Malherbe, "Krotoa, called 'Eva': A Woman Between"). Her uncle Herry also know as Autohoemao was the captain of this tribe. Eva rode on the back of an ox - denoting a high station amongst Khoikhoi. Like the biblical Eva she can be considered to be the 'stammoeder' of the Afrikaner (at least mine). Her union in marriage with Pieter van Meerhoff was the commencement of the Afrikaner, having their roots in Europe but they are also the seed of Africa. Like the first Eve, clothing and being naked was also an issue in Eva's life. Discarding her European clothes, when visiting her relations at the kraal, some have virtually equated it with the Great Fall.

Eva - Part of Van Riebeeck's family

Eva was uprooted from her tribal family life. The effect was losing a family and gaining a new family at the same time. Eva was ten or eleven when she became part of the Commander of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck's household {see picture of Van Riebeeck (30k)}. They educated her in the Christian and European ways. Eva soon mastered Dutch and also Portuguese and she became a vital link between the little group of Company officials and the local tribes. She became the interpreter between the VOC and the local tribes, see picture of male and female Hottentot (46k). Being part of the Van Riebeeck household, Eva became Van Riebeeck's confidant when it came to relating to the indigenous tribes. One of the other tribal leaders Oedasoa, was married to Eva sister. See picture of native village(39k). Another picture of Cape Khoi from Johannes Nieuhof, Gedenkwaardige Braziliaanse zee-en landreis, 1665. The Hottentot language consisted of many click sounds, and it was considered beyond the capability of Europeans to learn. Some joked that they stutter and stammer, other said they sound like turkeys. The name Hottentot was a derogatory term used by the Dutch, imitating the way the Khoikhoi spoke. (The bushman also had these sounds and later the Xhosas adopted the click sounds in their speech). Since the Dutch found the Khoikhoi language so difficult, the 'tolk' interpreter, thus became a key person.

Historical Marriage to Pieter van Meerhof

Eva was baptised on 3rd May 1662 at the fort. She was the first Hottentot to convert and marry a European. On 2nd June 1664 she was united in marriage to the adventurer and brilliant surgeon Pieter van Meerhof. Van Meerhof took part in six expeditions in search of Monomotapa. During these early years with all the activities, involvement and attention that they received were happy days for them. Both these ceremonies would have been conducted in the first fort, which was demolished by van der Stel. (C. Poelstra, Bouwstoffen voor de Geschiedenis der NG kerken in ZA, vol II, p. 23 refers to an entry on 2nd April 1663 "Sybelius wederen, een predikatie gedaen, ende gedoopt eem bejaerde vrouspersoon, de eerste van dese ingeboren lantsluiden, genaemd Hottentoos; is genaemt met den naam van Eva"). Eva is described as "een fraei, nuchter borst van aensien" she was beautiful in appearance (Resolusies van die Politieke Raad, vol I, p. 316).

In May 1665 "Van Meerhof was appointed superintendent of the convicts on Robben Island - a responsible post for Van Meerhof but a confining one for Eva. Eva was use to the bustle and excitement of the fort" Elphick, p. 201. While on Robben island she lost all contact with other women, this was a place of loneliness for her see Malherbe p. 49. The isolation and loneliness on this island was also experienced by the wife of Sacharias, the previous superintendent of Robben Island, namely Maria van Bengal. Maria van Bengal's loneliness was acknowledge, with the Company sending a slave women "as a servant and companion of the married woman who has hitherto been obliged to live such a lonely life" Malherbe, p. 49. It has been suggested that it was on Robben island that Eva took up drinking. While they were living on Robben Island, Eva fell off a stool and had to have treatment.

Pieter van Meerhoff was asked to go on another expedition, this time to Madagascar, while Eva remained on Robben Island. The expedition sailed on two ship Westwout and Poelsnip it was a slave trading expedition. Van Meerhoff was murdered by the local people in Madagascar before 27th February 1668. On the 27th February 1668 Eva and her children returned from Robben Island to Table Bay. The ships Poelsnip and Westwout arrived back at the Cape on 30th September 1668. It is rather ironical that she inherited slaves from her husband as a consequence of his death on a slave purchasing expedition, Robert-H Shell, Children of Bondage, p. xxxvi. On 23rd October 1669 Eva gave this slave, Jan Vos, to the church. She most probably did not want to manage the slave on her own, Shell, p. 112, we do know that she was even having difficulty managing herself.

Her Children
1. Jacobus born c 1661, died 1685 on the ship back to the Cape from Mauritius
2. Pieternella born c 1663, married Daniel Zaaiman
3. Salamon born 1666
4. Jeronimus baptised 23 November 1670
5. Anthonij baptised 6 August 1673

On the 8th February 1669 the church decided to remove Eva's children from her neglect. Eva was thrown into the "donkergat", the dark hole serving as a jail, on 10th February since she tried to take her children back the night before. The authorities placed the children with Jan Reyniersz, previous serving deacon with the church, and his wife until they were able to find more permanent arrangements. On 1st March 1669 the children were removed and placed with Barbara Geems.

On the 26th March 1669 Eva was banished from Robben Island.

Alcohol, Eva and Khoikhoi Culture

With the death of her husband, Eva's world seemed to collapse and her morals followed suite. Living a loose life and being a drunkard became a way of life. There has been much psycholigical speculation on what happened to Eva. Some have suggested that she had a nervous breakdown. Other have said she was rebelling against the European culture imposed on her and she was reverting back to her tribal ways. Her abuse of alcohol is used to condemn her in this regard. These type of speculations and accusations, neglected to as whether alcohol was a part of the Hottentot life style prior to the arrival of the Europeans? First of all there were no grapes previously at the Cape. When the Dutch arrived and traded with various commodities, the Hottentots wanted to trade brandy, indicating that this was not a commodity they had access to, Malherbe, p. 24. It was the Dutch who provoked them to drink in excess. The records indicate that the Dutch placed very strong drink at the disposal of the Hottentots, thus amusing themselves at the expense of the Hottentots. Strong alcohol was not part of their culture, refer to Malherbe, p. 38. This is collaborated by Elphick, p. 207 when he writes "Virtually the first European cultural traits that Khoikhoi adopted were a taste for tobacco and alcohol." Eva was not returning to her tribal ways, since alcohol was not indigenous but something foreign.

Sex, Eva and Khoikhoi Culture

With regard to living a loose moral life. Often people who have suffered the loss of a loved one, have an emotional vacuum and attach themselves to others. On occasions, others take advantage of this vulnerable time in a person's life. Eva had sexual encounters on the island after Van Meerhoff's death, this is verified by the fact that she conceived children on the island. When Eva's sister died "she displayed great grief at the news". One can only speculate what effect the death of her husband had on her. Her life was one of loss, even her adopted family, Van Riebeeck, left her.

The assertion that she was returning to her native ways, were penned in rather derogatory terms even at the time of her misdemeanor. The records state, "With the dogs she returned to her own vomit, until finally, in death, she put out the fire of lust, affording a clear illustration that nature, no matter how tightly muzzled by imprinted moral, principles ... reverts to its inborn qualities" Elphick, p. 202 quoting KA 3988 DR July 29, 1674 pp. 140 ff. It should be asked what were the moral customs of the Khoikhoi? Elphick p. 204 quotes from Dapper, VRS 14, pp 65-67, and supports it with Guy Tachard, Voyge de Siam, p 95; Peter Kolb, Naaukeurige en uitvoerige beschriving van de Kaap de Goede Hoop, p. 125 " When (a Khoikhoi man and women) are caught in illicit intercourse, they are both whipped ... and (sometimes) ... permitted to marry each other. In case this does not take place, they wait to see if the girl becomes pregnant. Once she is pregnant, the marriage must be hastened on, no matter how bad a person the lover is, in order to restore the honour of the girl; for it is a great scandal there to have an illegitimate child; although sometimes it does actually occur". If a married women among Khoikhoi committed adultery, it was punishable by death. The morals of the Khoikhoi people were not loose, this is supported by the very small number of unions and liaisons between the Europeans and Khoikhoi women. It was the Europeans moral who were loose and most miscegenation took place with slave women. Between 1660-1705 there were 191 Germans who married or lived with these 'non-whites'. Of these 114 were Cape born, 29 from Bengal, 43 from other parts of Asia, and 5 from Madagascar and Africa, information from Elphick and Gilliomee, p. 129. The logic of the arguments used against Eva does not live up to the facts, even though she did live it up.

Reaching out to her Familial Bond

Negative comments were made by the Dutch about her wearing animal skins when she visited her own people. The practicality of the 'karos' garment made of animal skins, should be remembered. The Dutch themselves in later years used animal skins for blankets and even clothing. Imagine what would have been said about her when she visited her tribal people and continued to wear her European clothes. Picture of Hottentot village 1706 (78k). Culturally Eva seemed to be very well adapted and sensitive, and tried to be appropriate for the cultural context. "Eva was the only person at the Cape who was totally at ease in the very different cultures of the fort and kraal; in coming years her dual culture was to become a curse which, along with other misfortunes, would finally destroy her" Elphick, p. 108. Instead of seeing her as weak, one can see her as reaching out to maintain familial bonds.

Eva had a sister who was the wife of Goeboe the son of chief Sousoa the king of the Chainouquas tribe, until this sister was carried away by Oedasoa. Eva also had a uncle Eijcouqua who belonged to the Chainouquas tribe, he had a grandfather who was alive named Heestkhama (H.B.Thom, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck, vol III, p. 270). Thus she became the wife of chief Oedasoa of the Cochoquas tribe, also know as Saldanhars. This sister had not seen Eva since the birth of Eva, until this reunion on 29th October 1658 (Thom, vol III, p. 362). When she was reunited with her sister Malherbe, p. 31 provides us with what happened, "At the first meeting of these two women joy prevented Eva from addressing the other, and for the same reason she was unable to serve as interpreter for our people. She perpetually had her arm round the shoulder of her sister, Oedasoa's wife, a sign that they had great pleasure in each other's company". When her Uncle Herry also know as Autohoemao was banished on 10th July 1658 to Robben Island, she went and visited him. To condemn Eva for trying to maintain family contact, since she was cut off from, them is rather harsh.

Eva heard about the death of her mother, on 7th July 1659 (Journal of Jan van Riebeeck) her mother lived with Herry's people, the Kaapmans (Thom, Vol II, p. 290, 362).

A year later Eva heard about the death of her sister on 1st August 1660, her grief is described as follows: "Eva, who lived in the Commander's house, displayed great grief at the news" (Thom, vol III, p. 247) When Oedasoe visited the castle to trade, he brought his daughter Namies with him, she is described as a women very well shaped, pretty and not darker than a fairly white mestico (Thom, vol III, p. 276).

Eva had significant family bonds with many of the various tribes. No wonder she played such a key role between the Company and the Hottentots.

Some historians with an anti-Christian bias suggests that religion was imposed on her. The facts seems to indicate the opposite. Once when she came back to the fort out of her own choice, she wanted to learn more about God. When she shared with her sister about God, her sister listened with tears, whereas Doman and the Kaapmans laughed at her when she spoke about God. (H.B. Thom, vol II, p. 263)

Critics: Revelation of Self and Eva

Many historians and anthropologists who have written about Eva reveal more about their own biases or what can be considered a socially acceptable interpretation for their time. These people have to write what their mentor requires and what has to be considered politically correct for the time. Therefore often more is revealed about the author and their culture, than about the individual being researched and the historical context. For example:

1. Molsbergen, Tijdens de O. I. Compagnie, concludes his article with sermonization about the evils of sin and that one can't judge the company with the way they buried her since she resorted to 'suicide', by inference by her life style. This was the typical condemning attitude of certain religious groups of the day, suicide was considered one of the worst sins with no possible salvation. Molsbergen erroneously describes what happened to the the Hottentot Sara as if it happened to Eva. Molsbegen description of the treatment by the authorities of her corpse does not apply to Eva. Molsbergen, p. 36 "De Kaapsche Regering besloot bij officieele resolutie te doen sleepen, om daar de zondares met haar hoofd en een gaffelvormigen paal ten afschrik te doen hangen tusschen hemel en aarde. Hier zien we alweer de parallel met het misdrijf." This description of the treatment of the corpse are described by Molsbergen, in the language of preachers of his day, where they describe the death of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners, being hung between heaven and earth. Molsbergen continues "Toen ze drie weken later van die vork viel, werd, ter uitvoering van het vonnis, het lijk opnieuw er op gelegd". G.C. de Wet, DSAB, vol II, p. 223. states that Eva was buried in the church inside the castle the day after her death.

2. D.B. Bosman "Uit die Biografie van 'n Hottentotin in beskawing", Huisgenoot, 3 July 1942 and 10 July 1942, sees Eva as a native that can't be civilized, "n eksperiment in beskawing", in other words the experiment has failed. He concludes by quoting Valentyn regarding the Hottentots "maar op die end weer teruggegaan het tot hulle ou Hottentotse gewoontes en kleredrag". Bosman reflects the prevailing racist attitude during the apartheid era. A common slur of the time were, 'you can take a native out of the bush, but you can't take the bush out of the native'.

3. Others see everything in terms of a black-white struggle and interpret Eva in terms of the black and white struggle, they reflect the struggle of their own times on to Eva. It is as if they are suffering from being colour blind and can see history only through their own eyes.

4. J.C. Wells, "Eva's Men: Gender and Power in the establishment of the Cape of Good Hope, 1652 -74", The Journal of African History, vol 39, 1998, no 3, notices this phenomenon of historians who 'construct' Eva according to their own subjectivity's, yet Wells herself falls into this trap. Wells puts on her late twentieth century glasses and focuses on 'gender and power' and imposes 'gender inclusive language'. In the first paragraph of the article by Wells p. 417 she uses the term Khoena rather than Khoikhoi, since Khoena means 'people' and Khoikhoi literally means 'men of men' to refer to the Hottentots. Her rationale is to be "gender inclusive" and the previous term of "Khoikhoi is the choice of (male) scholars". Wells' focus on gender power is clearly a twentieth century perspective of society and she applies it to history. Wells' assertion that Van Riebeeck had an affair with Eva, is another example of an author being influenced by the prevailing times, where any relationship is questioned with Freudian sexual obsession, one is found guilty by the mere association and wispers of sexual misconduct. The weakness in her argument is that Pieter van Meerhof and Eva started a close relationship in 1659, soon after Van Meerhoff arrived. Eva and Pieter van Meerhof already had two children by 1663, see Wells, p. 430. Elphick, p. 201 mentions (quoting KA 397, DR Nov 16, 1663) that she had two illegitimate children by European patrimony. This was supposed to be the time of her relationship with Van Riebeeck. Furthermore Van Riebeeck had a good relationships with Van Meerhoff. Would this have been the case if Eva was Van Riebeeck's 'concubine'. Pieter and Eva had three children. I am surprised that Wells does not continue her wild assertions of Eva and Van Riebeeck by a suggesting that Eva bore a child of Van Riebeeck, since this was the supposed period of their sexual relationship.

The Final Episode

Eva died on 29th July 1674. See picture of Cape in 1679 (22k). And she was buried in the little church at the new Castle (E.C. Godee Molsbergen, Jan van Riebeeck en Zijn Tijd). In 1674 Governor Johan Bax moved into the new Castle. In Van Riebeeck's days they held church in the fort. With the building of the castle a large room served as a chapel in the castle (A.F. Hattersley, An Illustrated Social History of South Africa, p. 12, 13). The writer is not aware whether the room which was used as a chapel in the castel has been identified. The mother church at Cape Town was only opened in 1704. See early drawing of Cape with Castle, notice the gallows (29k).

Eva's life was one of continual loss, she was first separated from her biological family. Then her adopted family, Van Riebeeck, left and she experienced another loss. After Van Riebeeck's departure her standing within the Company suffered a blow. "As more and more Khoikhoi mastered the Dutch language she was no longer indispensable as an interpreter" Elphick, p. 201. With her husbands appointment to Robben Island she lost female contact and the glamour of the high society. Finally she lost her husband. Little wonder that she lost control of her life, and died a tragic death at the young age of 32.

In 1677 Bartholomeus Borns and his wife Theuntje Bartholomeus van der Linde took two of the children, Petronella and Salomon with his family to Mauritius. Petronella got married in Mauritius to Daniel Zaayman and on 26th January 1709 arrived back at the Cape. The author does not know what happened to the other children of Eva. The writer is a descendant of Eva and this daughte, Petronella via three lines.

Some Khoikhoi words have been passed down and is still in use amongst Afrikaners:

aitsa - fright or surprise; soe - heat; sies - disgust; eina - pain/ouch; ga -disgust; abba - carry a child on the back; karos - blanket made of skins; the word hoeka, van hoeka se tyd - from time way back, gogga - insect, dagga - marijuana, gamka - lion, koup - dry place, tankwa - good winter grazing, dwyka - river .

The hottentots were hunter gatherers/pastoralists. The only agricultural activities that they entered, was growing dagga. There was a struggle for land between the Company and the Hottentots, both needed pastoral land. The Company established a number of Blockhouses to control movement of cattle, three of them was called Kijk-uyt (Look out), Keert-de Koe (stop or turn the cow), and Houdt den Bul (Keep the bul). In 1659 the company requested horses and dogs to assist them with looking after their animals (E.C. Godee Molsbergen, Jan van Riebeeck en Zijn Tijd). As early as 1600 the Hottentots asked: if they went to Holland whether they would be permitted to occupy European land.

Some contrasts with the Bantu

Their language had more consonants compared to the Bantu languages which had a prolific use of vowels. The Hottentot women milked their cows, whereas the Bantu women were not allowed near the cattle pen. The Hottentot build their housing with the kraal surrounding it, the Bantu build their houses surrounding the cattle kraal. The Hottentot's houses were domed shaped thus no walls and their doors were made of a mat, on the other hand the Bantu made their houses with walls and they had a door. The Hottentot and Bushman have a yellower colour skin, and smaller eyes. The Hottentot and Bushmen's hair is like peppercorn dots and rather sparse. The Bantu did not engage in rock painting either. (Refer also to J. MacKenzie, Ten Years North of the Orange River)


When the original claims was made that Afrikaners had a small percentage of non-white ancestry, it caused a major polemic. The above reaffirms this claim, with the presence of non-white blood amongst Afrikaners in my own ancestry.
Some books that may be of help in relation to Afrikaners and Slaves and Khoikhoi:

Anna J. Boeseken, Slaves and Free Blacks at the Cape 1658-1700, Cape Town 1977

D.B. Bosman "Uit die Biografie van 'n Hottentotin in beskawing", Huisgenoot, 3 July 1942 and 10 July 1942

Jose Burman, Who really Discovered South Africa, Chapter II, Cape Town, 1968

Margaret Cairns, "Armosyn Claasz of the Cape and Her Family" Familia XVI, 1979, p84 ff

Victor de Kock, Those in Bondage, 1950

G.C. de Wet, Die Vryliede en Vryswarte in die Kaapse Nedersetting, 1657-1707, Cape Town 1981

R. Elphick, Kraal and Castle: Khoikhoi and the founding of White South Africa

R. Elphick & H. Giliomee, The Shaping of South African Society

A.F. Hattersley, An Illustrated Social History of South Africa

Hans Friedreich Heese, Groepe sonder Grense: Die rol en status van die gemengde bevolking aan die Kaap 1652-1795, Belville 1984

J.A. Heese, Die Herkoms van die Afrikaner 1657-1867, Cape Town, 1971

V.C. Malherbe, "Krotoa, called 'Eva': A Woman Between", Communications, No 19/1900, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town.

E.C. Godee Molsbergen, Tijdens de O. I. Compagnie

Audrey Eunice Read, A Research into the History of the Family Bruijns/ Bruyns/ Bruins/ Broens

H.B. Thom, Journal of Jan van Riebeeck, vol III, p. 270

M. Upham, "'In Memoriam': Florida", Capensis 2/2000, pp. 5-22

J.C. Wells, "Eva's Men: Gender and Power in the establishment of the Cape of Good Hope, 1652 -74", The Journal of African History, Vol 39, 1998, No 3

Dictionary of South African Biography, vol II, 'Eva', p 223, 224

Some information provided by Mansell Upham on SAGenealogie

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