Monday, February 19, 2007

The Garieb district - Refuge for runaway Slaves


The Garieb or Orange River district was a gathering place for runaway Slaves and other escapees (Drosters) from the colony. Westward from the influence of the Xhosa and northwards from the impact of European settlers at the Cape of Good Hope, the San and the Khoi also have a shared evolving history with the Sotho-Tswana. The impact of the San and Khoi and the impact on them by other groups in the Garieb district is a fascinating and often violent story that gives us quite a different perspective on heritage and identity formation in South Africa. The dominant influence on the way that we look at ourselves tends to come from the Southern and Eastern parts of South Africa, but we do ourselves a great disservice if we do not closely look at our roots in our own ‘Wild West’.

In the North Western Cape and all along the Garieb River there was a coming together of San, Khoi, escaped Slaves and other ‘runaways’ (drosters), and non-conformist white settlers. The Griqua people emerged from this region, as did the Kora and Orlams Afrikaners. Through various types of relationships children were born and new communities and identity formations emerged under the leadership of powerful personalities. For instance in northern Namaqualand in 1779 there were nineteen settler farmer-families of which fourteen were European-Khoi marriages, formal and informal.

The San and Khoi clans paid a terrible price in this warlord and conflict-ridden region but all was not hostility and war. Slaves of many origins found freedom at the Garieb, Europeans embraced Africa, Khoi escaped the servitude that had become the norm in the Western Cape. Here more than anywhere else in South Africa there emerged a new African identity. From the sun-baked soil, the flowing rivers, the beat of horse hooves and the roving bands came many ties that bind us.

A starting point in coming to understand our Khoi (Quena) heritage is to familiarise ourselves with the clan names of the Khoi inhabitants of the Cape at the time of first Chinese and European encounters:

West Coast and !Garieb River to the Peninsula: Cabona, Eniqua, Korana,
Namaqua, Guriqua, Chariguriqua,Cochoqua, Goringhaiqua, Gorachouqua.

East Coast and !Garieb River to the Peninsula: Hessequa, Chainouqua,
Chamaqua, Omaqua, Attaqua, Cauqua, Houtuniqua, Hamcumqua (Inqua),
Gamtoos, Damasqua, Gonaqua, Hoengeyqua.

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