Cobus van Bosch

Forgotten Freedom Fighters
Early leaders of southern Africa


This series of paintings is part of an ongoing project aimed at the recognition of “forgotten” and lesser known, but important, historical figures and episodes in the southern African socio-political past. (more text below...)

Die Afrikaners
Die Afrikaners
(Oil on canvas, 76cm x 102cm, 2011).

Portrait of the Orlam leader Jan Jonker Afrikaner and council members, 1876, Northern Cape or Namibia.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge


Hendrik Witbooi

Hermanus van Wyk

Jakobus Isaak

Jonathan Tseib

AAS le Fleur

Lambert Lambert

Moses Witbooi

Sol Plaatje

Dirk Vilander

Nikolaas Waterboer

Abdullah Abdurahman

Amraal Lambert

Dawid Christiaan

Gasebonwe Botlasitse

Jan Jonker Afikaner

William Christian

Hermanus van Wyk

Simon Koper

Nikolaas Waterboer

Adam Kok III


AAS le Fleur

AndriesWaterboer
Botlasitse Gasebonwe


Hendrik Witbooi


Dawid Christiaan


Jakobus Isaak


Jan Jonker Afrikaner

Moses Witbooi

Simon Koper

Nikolaas Waterboer

Adam Kok III
adamkokIII
Adam Kok III

Hendrik Witbooi

William Christian

Lambert Lambert

Dirk Vilander

Jonathan Tseib
Amraal
Amraal Lambert

Abdullah Abdurahman

Jan Jonker Afrikaner

Hermanus van Wyk
From the series Forgotten Freedom Fighters, oil on board/canvas, 2010/11.

Article in:

Die Burger (translated)

Forgotten Freedom Fighters

These images form a series of painted portraits of some of the prominent captains and leaders of the Griqua, the Orlam groups such as the original Afrikaners, and other mixed race and Nama groups of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century. It includes the renowned freedom fighter Hendrik Witbooi, the Griqua leaders Nicolaas Waterboer, Adam Kok III and AAS le Fleur, as well as the last Afrikaner captain, Jan Jonker Afrikaner.

The arrival of European settlers in the mid 1600's at the Cape led to the birth and formation of people and groups of mixed racial and cultural origin. The ancestors of these people were a mixture of Europeans, slaves from other parts of the world, the Khoi, San and Nguni groups of southern Africa.

During the 18th century many of these people, then known as "bastards" or "Afrikaners", formed groups and, to escape colonial rule, trekked into the African interior, mainly the Northern Cape and further north, as well as the Free State and other parts of southern Africa. Amongst these mainly livestock farmers were also adventurers, outcasts of society, fugitive criminals, army and navy deserters and, of course, runaway slaves. The best known of these groups is the Griqua, initially known as "bastards" but who changed their name to the Khoi word Griqua in the early 19th century.

Other groups from the Cape, of whom many had strong Khoi roots, moved to the interior and settled in the Northern Cape and the south of Namibia. Also known as Orlams, they played a prominent and often dominant role in these territories for many years.

These groups led a rough pioneering lifestyle, and while the Cape colonial authorities were waging war against the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape, prominent groups such as the Orlam Afrikaners and Griqua governed large territories in South Africa and Namibia. But it was the colonizing of Namibia (by Germany), the discovery of diamonds in Griqua and Nama teritories and land-hungry white farmers from the Cape Colony that led to the supression and weakening of the Griqua, Orlam and Nama groups. Most of these groups still exist today but are largely stripped of political and economic power.

Based on often rare monotone photographic documentation from libraries and other archives, the portraits are in the format of large, full-colour close-ups of the faces of the captains. Their fearless and defiant gaze enforces their status as respected and often feared leaders, their weatherbeaten faces echoing the rough and "untamed" semi-desert territories over which they ruled for so many years.

Although many of these leaders and their people are today part of the history of Namibia, rather than that of South Africa, many founding leaders and later captains of well known groups such as the Afrikaners, Witboois, Lamberts and the Rehoboth Basters of Namibia were born in South Africa (Cape, Boland and Karoo). These leaders and their followers were practically exiles who moved out of the Cape Colony in search of greater freedom. But in time German colonialism and later South African rule caught up with them, and their struggle and war against oppression was against similar enemies as those of their comrades in South Africa.

The prominent role played by many of the "bastard" tribes in the early modern history of southern Africa always was, and still is, inadequately reflected in the official written and visual narrative of our past. These portraits not only serve as works of art in their own right, but also as a contribution to a more representative historical documentation of the southern African past.

 

Of interest is the origin of the word "Afrikaner". Initially it was used to refer to a person of mixed racial origin. The first group of people who called themselves Afrikaners were the descendants and followers of Oude Ram Afrikaner (born in the 1690's in the Tulbagh district). Until the death of Jan Jonker Afrikaner in 1889, the Afrikaners were an influential Orlam group in the Northern Cape and especially Namibia, where they founded the capital of Windhoek. It was only about 200 years after the birth of Oude Ram Afrikaner that the descendants of certain white settlers started to call themselves Afrikaners, and accepted Afrikaans, the language of the Bastards, as their own.

Cobus van Bosch