Bastaards or Humans is an attempt to answer three questions almost all human beings ask of themselves at some stage in their life: Who am I; Where do I come from; Where I am going.
In this case, the author, a person classified Cape Coloured by South Africa’s apartheid government, takes the reader on a journey into an unspoken (and unknown) historical past and meticulously traces the heritage of coloured people.
The journey takes the reader to the almost forgotten past and marginalised cultural heritage of the Khoisan people – a cultural ancestry and identity many coloured people have denied, preferring to identify with their European ancestry.
Tragically, the greatest casualty of almost four centuries of colonial and white minority rule in South Africa is identity. The new democracy is trying to rectify centuries of deliberate destruction and the undermining of especially indigenous identity.
In that spirit, Bastaards or Humans is written as a contribution to the healing and restoration of South Africa’s fractured past and the forging of a new identity as a nation.
This two-volume work is thick (more than 500 pages each) and filled with historical information not commonly known. It is a reference book with personal stories in between. The journey into the past is both painful and exciting. The focus of volume one is specifically coloured heritage whereas volume two locates that parochial heritage within the broader crucible of South Africa’s history of the past 500 years.
Uniquely, the author retells the history of South Africa’s past from the perspective of intimacy and not hatred or antagonism and invites readers to recommit to building a non-racial and truly free South Africa; one that respects and treasure the contribution of its forebears including the Khoe and San people, indeed the first nation people of South Africa.
Bastaards of Humans breathes life into the dry bones of indigenous history and heritage – a resuscitation of an almost forgotten past.
The book title draws on a series of debates in South Africa
about the humanity of people of colour. In particular,
it draws on a 17th century debate between two Dutch men
(Jan [Johan Anthoniszoon] van Riebeeck and Mathew
[Matthijs] Proot) regarding the humanity of the people of the
Cape (Kaapmans [Dutch term for Khoisan inhabitants
around Cape Town]) – a debate which in the 21st century
rages on, albeit in a different form. The pertinent question
then was: What are the people of the Cape –
Bastaards or Human? Are they godless savages as
van Riebeeck believed or are they humans just like
Europeans, as Proot argued?
This is a book that retells 500 years of historical interaction
between South Africa and its European visitors. It does so
in the form of short stories linked to specific dates and retold
here from the perspective of intimacy rather than hatred
and enmity. In theoretical terms, I am entering the
meta-(impersonal) historical narrative from a micro-(personal)
experience. History is after all the story and journey of a
people and not the retelling of abstract emotionless events.