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South African Stamouers/Progenitors - Slaves

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Project Objective Identify and add the slaves who were Progenitors of the South African population to this project. For all other slaves please add them to the connected project South African Slaves.

The VOC brought slaves to the Cape of Good Hope from mainly the Indian Ocean Basin, but also elsewhere. Countries included: Abyssinia, Angola, Bangladesh (Bengal?), East Indies (Indonesia), Guinea, India, Japan, Madagascar, Mozambique. They are a special group of people who link us all back to far off people and places, and provide many South Africans with DNA roots in Africa that are the oldest in the world - that, at least, the White South Africans would otherwise not have.


In 1654 the VOC gave permission for van Riebeeck to import salves to the Cape. The slave ship Roode Vos was sent to Mauritius and Antongil Bay in Madagascar to get slaves but returned empty. Four years later in 1658 the first slaves arrived at the Cape, brought by the Amersfoort after being captured from a Portuguese slaver. 170 of an original 250 slaves survived the journey. Later in the same year another 228 slaves from West Africa arrived aboard the Hassalt - these two 'shipments' were the only slaves from West Africa as subsequently the Dutch East and the Dutch West India Companies agreed not to encroach on one another's slaving grounds.

Between 1658 and 1808 an estimated 63 000 slaves were imported into the Cape. Many slaves were born into slavery and further "stock" was only brought in to maintain levels. The slave population was apparently 40 000 at its height - far outnumbering the burgher population at the time.

  • Inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope consisted of:
    • Indigenous peoples
    • VOC officials
    • Freemen
    • Slaves
    • Prisoners and bandits
    • Political and religious exiles and others

Population Growth in Dutch SA:


  • Colonizers incl servants: 90
  • Slaves: 0 1658:
  • Colonizers incl servants: 80
  • Slaves: 80 1672:
  • Colonizers incl servants: 221 (Of which 64 were Free Burghers)
  • Slaves: 200 1679:
  • Colonizers incl servants: 289 (Of which 142 were Free Burghers)
  • Slaves: 191 1699
  • Colonizers incl servants: 1232 (Of which 414 were Free Burghers)
  • Slaves: 536
  • Soldiers: 751 1717
  • Colonizers incl servants: 2500 (Of which 500 were Free Burghers)
  • Slaves: 2500 1733
  • Colonizers incl servants: 2598
  • Slaves: 2518 1795
  • Colonizers incl servants: 16000
  • Slaves: 16839

The slaves were mainly brought in from

  • India - mostly from Bengal, Malabar and Coromandel (36.4%),
  • the East Indies (31.47%),
  • Ceylon/Sri Lanka (3.1%),
  • Mozambique, Madagascar and the East African coast (26.65%)
  • Malaya (0.49%)
  • Mauritius (0.18%)
  • The rest were from unidentified places

Because the slaves at the Cape came from such diverse backgrounds there was no common language or custom. This influenced -

  • Religion - Hunduism, Islam and Catholcism (brought in by slaves of the Portuguese colonial possessions) were introduced.
  • Language - the languages spoken by the Cape slaves influenced the development of a lingua franca, firstly called Kaaps and later Afrikaans, to make communication possible between all the people not sharing a mother tongue.
  • Food - The Cape has a diverse cuisine influenced by the widespread origins of the people who lived there - in particular the Indonesian slaves who were favoured as cooks by the Dutch.
  • Architecture - [Needs developing]
  • Furniture - Early furniture at the Cape was heavily influenced by the Dutch, but became more ornate and ostentatious as the ornate Islamic and Hindu decorative motifs were incorporated.

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