Remarkable journey of Krotoa

Director of Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap Basil Appollis, Artscape CEO Marlene le Roux and writer of the play, Sylvia Vollenhoven.

A discussion around the story of Krotoa highlighted the untold stories of the Khoi people that were lost in history, and the lack of interest from the youth to find out more about where they come from.

The musical theatre production Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap, will run at the Artscape Theatre from today, Thursday February 7 until Saturday February 16

The discussion was held at the Innovation Room at the Artscape on Saturday February 3, and was focused on the role of the arts as a way of fast-tracking the changes needed to redress historic injustice, and how the story of Krotoa helps people define the terms of restorative justice.

The event was also held to mark Black History Month, celebrated in February around the world.

Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap is being staged in association with the Dutch theatre collective, the Volksoperahuis. Set in present day South Africa, a Dutch actor and singer and a South African actress meet on the film set of Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap. He takes the role of Jan van Riebeeck,
the VOC merchant commander who established a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652. She plays Krotoa, the young Khoi girl taken into van Riebeeck’s household who went on to become a key negotiator and translator between the Dutch and the local people at a very young age. She was also the first Khoi woman to be baptised and the first to officially marry a European. The production puts Krotoa in the centre of her own story, and is a perspective-changing tribute to a neglected and contested aspect of shared history.

Marlene le Roux, the CEO of the Artscape, said putting together the production was a spiritual and emotional journey for the people involved.

“It is not easy for people to be taken on this journey, but it is important for our ancestors that we tell these stories. The journey of Krotoa is a journey for all of us. It’s a journey to reclaim Africa, and a lesson that we must never discriminate. This space is a space for everyone.”

High commissioner of the Gorinhaicona Traditional Council, Tauriq Jenkins, who is also part of a programme at the University of Cape Town (UCT), which deals with the restoring of justice, said part of the restoration process is a broader conversation about the trauma of the past.

“We all acknowledge the part of arts in the restorative process. Krotoa is an iconic, deep, humane figure, and her story is told by another, for another. Today it is being told with restoration in mind. The history that we share is part of our history as a country.”

He said that when people speak about Krotoa, they speak of a time humanity lost itself. “Krotoa is the centre of who we are as people. Part of the healing process is understanding all that she had been through. This story is one that all South Africans need to know. If we don’t get to know it, we are robbing ourselves of a large part of our history.

“This is more than just a play – it’s a demand for recognition of who we are, about stopping the harm done in the past. We must remember that this is our land. Huge wrong has been done in the past, and it needs to stop.”

Doctor June Bam-Hutchison of the UCT Centre for African Studies, raised the question on how we decolonise people who’ve been erased from the stories of the past.

“We need to look at the fact that some of these people have died with their stories, and look at the kind of colonial life and the stories about our people – especially the women.

“The Khoi people are still alive in the memories of our elderly, and there are still traces of our history in our communities. Krotoa is a story about erasure. She must have had so much untold knowledge, like our people of areas like District Six, where our history and knowledge were bulldozed. Krotoa is a metaphor for getting back our knowledge and the rituals, back into universities. Krotoa is our meaning of restorative justice.”

Also part of the discussion was Chief Krotoa Elenor Smith, a member of the First Indigenous Nations of South Africa. She said the untold rituals and history of Khoi people that were taught by grandmothers had been lost.

“Traditional medicines such as dassiepis and buchu are some of the examples of things that are on our doorsteps.

“When do we take back the stolen knowledge? I appeal to people to take back your power, dignity and land.”

She said the arts were important to highlight parts of the healing process.

“It highlights what Krotoa stood for, what our grandmothers stood for. We need to take back our ceremonies and rituals.”

Kershan Pacham, a PhD candidate and representative of the youth, said art has a way of restoring parts of our lives that were lost. “It’s about loss, and how we deal with that loss. It’s about coming out of the darkness by digging into the past and enlightening ourselves.”

The director of Krotoa Eva van de Kaap, Basil Appollis, said it was important that people have the confidence to tell their stories.

“We live with incredible stories every day, but we think it’s not important to tell. This is where it starts.”

Courtney Lemmert, who recently found out that she was from Khoi decent, said there was
little involvement from the youth at these gatherings. She said that the writers and researchers who have the correct networks should push such content and productions into schools and make it accessible for the youth so that they are aware of where they come from. The discussion was wrapped up with a song and dedication to Krotoa by Courtney’s mother, Amanda Lois Stone, a Khoisan singer and poet.

Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap, was written by writer, film-maker and journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven. The story sheds new light on an ancient narrative, and contends that the story has not ended.The music for the production is by South African Frazer Barry and Jef Hofmeister, from the Volksoperahuis in The Netherlands.

Krotoa, Eva van de Kaap is at the Artscape Arena from today, Thursday February 7 until Saturday February 16, from Tuesday to Friday at 7.30pm and on Saturdays at 3pm and 7.30pm. Tickets cost R100. Book through Computicket or 021 421 7695.