| Jan van Riebeeck was
sent to establish a fortified trading base and a company garden at the Cape. In
practice he laid the basis of a colony that expanded hundreds of miles beyond
the Cape peninsula, beyond the control of the VOC itself, that ultimately
evolved to became the Republic of South Africa.
Although sailors, soldiers and officials came and went, a population developed
native to the Cape that did not look to other shores, but regarded Cape Town as
home. It was a complex, eclectic and multi-cultural population, ill-educated
and predominantly poor, but resourceful, with a broad base of skills, resentful
of authority, and stratified into different classes. This was not a racial
order, of the type that later developed in South Africa, but an economic order.
It was an economy based upon cheap labour and slavery, enforced by law (more...).
Under the rule of the VOC a situation developed where most Europeans owned
farms or businesses and held a preferred legal status as 'free burghers'. Most
Asians worked as artisans, or held responsible clerical jobs, and were
considered senior slaves or free blacks. And some Asians and most Africans were
slaves living under a harsh rule of law.
Especially in the frontier farming communities a tough, violent, ill-educated
and arrogant culture had developed that destroyed Khoekhoe society. The San
would follow, and today the closest relatives of the KhoeSan live outside of
South Africa, in the deserted places of Namibia and Botswana, groups such as
the !Kung and G/wi. They had also engaged in hostilities with the Xhosa on the
eastern frontier - the first of many wars to follow.
The elegant towns of Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Swellendam, Graaff-Reinet and Cape
Town itself are products of the Dutch era and retain their character to this
day. The winelands owe much to Simon van der Stel, and the Franschhoek valley
was cultivated for wine making by the courage of the Huguenots he brought to
the Cape. South African wines came to prominence long before the end of the
Dutch era, especially sweet desert wines like Vin de Constance, Napoleon's
Cape Town had developed as a busy and strategic port, whose significance would
only grow in the following two centuries. Agriculture was well established and
although local industries were in their early stages, a broad range of
'cottage' trading and manufacturing activities had developed and some
professional services were emerging.
From the 'great babel' of languages a unique form of Dutch began to emerge in
the form of Afrikaans, with words borrowed from several languages, including
Khoe ('Kudu', 'Cango') and influenced by the Arabic spoken by many of the
slaves. Cape food developed as a fine fusion of eastern spice in western meals.
In the following century British puddings would be added to produce the truly
eclectic 'Cape Malay' cuisine.
Unique forms of music, weddings and festivities developed with
Asian influences among the free blacks. A fine architecture, similar to Dutch
but with hints of the East and local adaptations, have given us the attractive
townhouses, homesteads and Drostdy (magistrate's houses) that are enjoyed to
this day and have become known as the Cape Dutch style.
It was truly a 'mixed bag' that the British inherited when they landed troops
at Muizenberg in 1795.
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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History:
Cape Town in the
The Boom of the