Philida van der Kaap

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Philida van der Kaap

Birthplace: South Africa
Death: (Date and location unknown)
Immediate Family:

Mother of Mamie

Managed by: Private User
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About Philida van der Kaap

Philida’s story - exhibited at the Museum de Caab at Solms Delta farm in Franschhoek

Source: Cape Slave Heritage Blog

The old farm Zanvliet in Franschhoek is now called Solms-Delta. Its been in Mark Solms family’s hands for over a century. Mark, a neurologist, produces a good wine at Delta. But he is a different kind of pioneering farmer. He has established a Trust for the farm workers which recieves 50% of the profits of all wines produced, so that the farm workers children may have other choices than their parents when they grow up. The working community on the farm are descendants of slaves and Khoi people.

The farm has an interesting history. The first farmer was married to a free slave. The second farmer to own the farm was a former slave who had become a Free Black farmer. The farm througout the slavery era had many slaves. Mark has created an interesting museum on the farm that is open to visitors. The Museum de Caab as it is known tells the story of the San and Khoi ancestors of todays farm workers at Delta. Archaeological digs were done on the farm and artefacts found are on display. The museum also tells the stories of the slaves on the farm and has a set of marble plaques naming all of the slaves as a memorial. The museum also tells the story of Apartheid and the struggle to overthrow that obnoxious system.

The following is one of the stories exhibited at the museum about the life of one of Delta’s slaves Philida van der Kaap:

Day Book and Reports of the Assistant Protector of Slaves - Case No, 405 - 22 November 1832

“ Philida, 25 years, female, residing at Groot Drakenstein district of Stellenbosch. Housemaid. Slave of Cornelis Brink & Son of the above place. Agriculturist. Complaint registered by the slave herself on the above date. That her Master’s son Frans Brink had cohabited with her for the last 8 years and made with her 4 children.

That said Brink first seduced her on the promise that he would make her happy by purchasing her freedom, that she is now however sent from her master’s place to look for another master in Cape Town, but as she was not able to find one, she is now to be brought to the Interior in order to be sold there, which is done to break the connection between her and said Frans Brink”.

Phili da’s complaint to the Slave Protector’s Office attests to the complex nature of slave and master relationships that existed on farms such as Delta duringthe early 19th century. Through the piecing together of Philida’s story we can explore what life might have been like for a slave living on Delta during this period: Philida had been living and working as a ‘Knitting Girl’ for Cornelis Brink since she was at least 9 years old, when Brink was still living and working in Cape Town as a wine merchant. By the time Brink moved to Delta to increase his merchant income by making wine himself, he brought with him not only his wife and children, but his slaves too.

When Philida made her statement in 1832, she would have been 25 years old. However harsh her life was under the ownership of Brink and his family, it was perhaps the only family she had ever known.

Philida named her first-born child after a fellow slave, Mamie, who had worked as a nursery maid, probably since the first of Brink’s children was born in 1808. If not Philida’s biological mother, she possibly acted as a mother figure to the young knitting girl.

The threat of being sold to the interior and away from the family that had raised her probably compelled Philida to make her complaint. Sexual relationships between ‘Master’ and ‘Slave’ were not uncommon, especially between adolescent sons of the household and young domestic slave girls. Many such encounters resulted in pregnancy, and Philida herself claims that all her 4 children were fathered by her owner’s son.

As was usually the case, the girl was rebuked for her wantonness, and threatened with dire punishments if she dared to disclose who was responsible for her condition; “nay, she is bribed to put the blame on another man”. Frans Brink denied the entire affair saying that the children were created out of relationships she had with 2 slaves belonging to one of their neighbours.

Frans Brink’s statement to the Slave Protector tends to confirm Philida’s complaint, as he declares that her accusation is “as true as it is false, that he yet could do nothing for her, as she is his father’s slave and dependant not possessed of any means whatever…it was impossible for him to interfere for Philida had already disgraced him so much with his parents… that should he attempt anything, it would most certainly be his ruin, and that she cannot remain in the family after her very insolent and improper conduct”.

Phi lida was informed by the Protector that he could not on any grounds prevent her sale unless she retracted the alleged connection between her and Frans Brink. On the 15 February 1833, Philida and two of her children were sold to B. J.G. de La Bat of the Tulbagh District (now Worcester). Her complaint was made just one month after her 4th child was born and shortly before Frans Brink’s marriage to Maria Magdalena Berrange (the daughter of a wealthy military auditor).


Afrikaanse weergawe van Philida, Andre Brink se roman op die Booker-langlys, nou beskikbaar


Die Engelse vertaling van André P Brink se historiese roman, Philida, is een van die boeke op die langlys vir vanjaar se gesogte Man Booker-prys. Die oorspronklike Afrikaanse weergawe van die boek is nou op die rakke.

’n Aangrypende, meesleurende en diep menslike roman deur een van Suid-Afrika se grootste skrywers:

Philida is gebaseer op historiese werklikheid en sluit wat tema en tydperk betref aan by een van Brink se vroeër romans, Houd-den-bek. Philida was ’n slavin wat tussen 1820 en 1835 op die plaas Zandvliet in die Drakenstein-distrik gewoon het. (Die plaas wat vandag bekend is as Solms Delta). Sy het ’n paar kinders gehad by Frans, die seun van Cornelis Brink, die eienaar van die plaas. Maar toe besluit Cornelis dat Frans met die dogter van ’n ryk Kaapse familie moet trou en dat dit beter is om Philida en haar kinders te verkoop.

Die roman begin waar Philida by die drostdy op Stellenbosch ’n klag teen haar baas gaan lê, ongehoorde optrede vir ’n slawevrou, optrede wat haar duur te staan kom: Philida en haar kinders word in 1833 deur Brink op ’n slaweveiling op Worcester verkoop. Die Britse regering stel kort daarna die slawe vry, maar Philida is vir vier jaar by haar nuwe eienaar, Meester de la Bat, ingeboek. Die swaarkry en vernedering van baie jare het Philida egter gebrei en op ’n dag eien sy vir haarself vryheid toe. Saam met die Moslem-slaaf, Labyn, trek sy deur die barre Karoo na die verre Gariep – “die grote Gariep: hy is die hele land en die hele wêreld …die rivier in onse binneste. My Gariep…” dink Philida. “Hier in sy nabyte is ons almal saam.”

Philida is ’n versetsroman – maar dit is ook ’n bevrydingsroman. Dit demonstreer wat vryheid beteken, en óók wat aan die kern van baasskap lê. En alhoewel daar onthutsende tonele is, is daar ook oomblikke van teerheid en humor. En boweal, die stem van ’n meesterverteller. ’n Interessante aspek van die roman is dat Brink gebruik maak van geskiedkundige feite wat een van sy voorsate insluit.

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Philida van der Kaap's Timeline

South Africa