The RW Wilcocks building of Stellenbosch University (SU) has been renamed the Krotoa building. This building on the Stellenbosch campus houses the departments of History and Psychology, the Division of Research Development, SU International, the SU Archives, as well as the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology.
Krotoa (1642–1674), a woman of the Khoe people, lived at the Cape in the time of Jan van Riebeeck, who came to establish a settlement for the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) at the tip of Africa in 1652. Named “Eva" by the Dutch, Krotoa served as, among others, an interpreter and interlocutor between her people and the VOC. Click here to read more about her.
SU's Executive Committee of Council (EC(C)) approved the renaming at its meeting of 16 August 2021 after the Rectorate received a shortlist of proposals from the Committee for the Naming of Buildings, Venues and Other Facilities/Premises in June. Following extensive debate and taking various aspects into consideration, including Krotoa's complex personal history, the Rectorate proposed the name to the EC(C).
“The name Krotoa is particularly significant now that we are celebrating Women's Month. Apart from a few residences, no SU buildings have previously been named after women," says Dr Ronel Retief, Registrar and chair of the Naming Committee.
“The Rectorate also considered it important that the name, although linked to a historical figure, has symbolic value and, as such, represents more than simply a person. The name Krotoa is not only linked to a woman, but also to an entire underrepresented group of people indigenous to Southern Africa and the area now known as the Western Cape. As such, it acknowledges the heritage of the First Nation people of our region, and we also acknowledge something of our shared and complex history.
“In addition, Krotoa's role as interpreter between different cultural and language groups is a demonstration of bridge building, which is particularly relevant to conversations on multilingualism, inclusivity and creating a mutual understanding between different groups of people," Retief concludes.
“So, with this name, we wish to send a strong message about our commitment to transformation and redress at SU."
Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director of Social Impact and Transformation, and member of both SU's Visual Redress and Naming committees, adds: “SU acknowledges the role and place of the First Nation people in the broader history of Southern Africa. The significance of linking the name Krotoa to a prominent building on campus should also be understood against the backdrop of ongoing conversations about supporting and formalising Khoekhoegowab language-related courses at SU.
“SU decided in 2019 already to call the new dining hall of Goldfields residence Sada Oms, a Khoekhoegowab term for 'our home'. Therefore, this added symbolic acknowledgement through the Krotoa building forms part of our ongoing partnership and engagement with the First Nation people of Southern Africa.
“Conversations about the name, also with the relevant Khoe structures, gives recognition to Krotoa as an important figure, but does not ignore her complex, tragic history as a person."
Installations contextualising both the Wilcocks and the Krotoa stories are being planned for inside and outside the building.
Back in 2019 already, the Rectorate gave approval for the Registrar and the Senior Director of Social Impact and Transformation to follow an institutional and inclusive process for the renaming of the Wilcocks building.
As part of the process, various stakeholders were interviewed. The University also notified more than 100 community organisations and institutions of the planned renaming. These included the Stellenbosch Co-management Forum (including Die Vlakte Forum), Stellenbosch Municipality, the Western Cape Education Department (Stellenbosch), the Stellenbosch Civil Advocacy Network, and the Stellenbosch Ratepayers' Association, all of whom have seats on the University's Institutional Forum.
A call for proposals was distributed among all staff and students as well as members of the community (as represented by the structures serving on SU's Institutional Forum) in July 2020. In October 2020, the Naming Committee, which had been expanded for the purpose of renaming the RW Wilcocks building, agreed on the process to arrive at a short list. The 17 proposals received were subsequently whittled down to the most suitable options, which were presented to the Rectorate.
The Rectorate also requested that the relevant stakeholder groups be approached to determine whether there would be any opposition to using the name Krotoa in the context of SU. Keen support for the use of the name was expressed by the relevant leaders and representatives of the First Nations structures.
A date for the unveiling of the new name is yet to be determined. In the meantime, SU's new Visual Redress Policy will serve before Council for approval in September.
The RW Wilcocks building was opened in 1966 and named after Prof Raymond William Wilcocks, who was Rector of the University from 1935 to 1954.
The renaming of the RW Wilcocks building forms part of a long-term and extensive visual redress process on SU's campuses in an attempt not only to remove certain symbols, but also to introduce new visual symbols that point to a shared history, our diverse stories, and public spaces that are welcoming to all.
This process was launched a few years ago, and much progress has been made in recent years to create student and staff-friendly living and work spaces that meet the needs of a diverse group of students, staff and other stakeholders, and at the same time promote a welcoming campus culture.
Recent name changes at SU:
Some name changes over the past few years include the Coetzenburg Centre (previously the DF Malan Centre), the Stellenbosch University Library (previously JS Gericke Library), the Adam Small Theatre Complex (previously HB Thom Theatre), Pieter Okkers House (7 Joubert Street, now named after the first resident of the building, Mr Pieter JA Okkers, 1875-1952) and Simon Nkoli House (39 Victoria Street).
Recently constructed buildings have been given the following names: Russel Botman House (named after the late Prof Russel Botman), Ubuntu House, Nkosi Johnson House and the Jan Mouton Learning Centre.
Other recent projects:
- “The Circle", a bronze art installation featuring 11 phenomenal South African women thought leaders (including Krotoa), which was erected on the Rooiplein towards the end of 2019
- Welcoming messages carved on benches in public areas on campus in 15 languages, including in Braille, South African Sign Language and San
- Installation of a map of Die Vlakte at the entrance of the Arts and Social Sciences building, which is built on land from where families were evicted under the Group Areas Act in the 1960s
- The creation of the Lückhoff Living Museum
- Displaying the University's Centenary restitution statement at the SU Library