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Krotoa, or Eva, born circa 1642, was the niece of Autshumato, a Khoi leader and trader. When she was young, she worked in the household of Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor of the Cape colony. As a teenager, she learned Dutch and Portuguese and like her uncle, worked as an interpreter for the Dutch who wanted to trade goods for cattle.
On 3 May 1662 she was baptised by a visiting parson, minister Petrus Sibelius, in the church inside the Fort de Goede Hoop. The witnesses were Roelof de Man and Pieter van der Stael. On 26 April 1664 she married Pieter van Meerhoff, a Dutch surgeon. She was the first Khoikoi to marry according to Christian customs. There was a little party in the house of Zacharias Wagenaer. In May 1665 they left the Cape and went to Robben Island. Van Meerhoff died on 27 February 1668 on an expedition.
Eva returned to the mainland on 30 September 1668 with her children. Suffering from alcoholism, she left the Castle in the settlement to be with her family in the kraals. In February 1669 she was imprisoned at the Castle and then banished to Robben Island. She returned to the mainland on many occasions just to find herself once more banished to Robben Island. In May 1673 she was allowed to baptise a child on the mainland. Three of her children survived infancy.
She died on 29 July 1674 in the Cape and was buried on 30 September 1674 in the church in the Fort.
There is evidence that many prominent White South Africans descended from Krotoa, despite being legally whites. These included Transvaal President Paul Kruger, Prime Minister Jan Smuts and President F. W. de Klerk. Public figures seldom revealed their Khoi ancestry, either as a result of ignorance or out of legal necessity.
The novel Eilande by Dan Sleigh (1938), translated from Afrikaans by André Brink (in Dutch: 'Stemmen uit zee'/in English: 'Islands'), describes the lives of Krotoa and her daughter Pieternella from the viewpoints of seven men who knew them.
- "What's in a (South African) name?". SouthAfrica.info. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- "Islands: Ambitious novel surveys South African struggles". 2005-07-01.
- 'Die Suid-Afrikaanse Biografiese Woordeboek', by W.J de Kock and D.W. Kruger, Volume 2, page 227 - 228
- 'Jan van Riebeeck en sy tyd', by E.C. Godee Molsbergen
- Sleigh, Dan (2002). Eilande, Tafelberg.
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