The performance of Prof Sylvia Vollenhoven's play Krotoa: Eva van die Kaap at the 2022 Toyota SU Woordfees resonated with Stellenbosch University's renaming of the RW Wilcocks Building to the Krotoa Building in 2021. It allowed learners, students, teachers and academics to not only better understand the person that was Krotoa but also to get a better understanding of her story as well as the rationale behind the said renaming process.
With the play as backdrop, Khoisan Chief Hendrik van Wyk visited the Stellenbosch campus as part of the continuous engagement linked to the contextualisation of the Krotoa Building.
This engagement process is guided by the Stellenbosch University (SU) Visual Redress Policy and brings together various internal and external stakeholders to deliberate on the story, legacy and impact of Krotoa on our academic disciplines, our research and our visual landscape, among others. It therefore is an open, public process that allows for input from various sectors and voices.
The October gathering in the Krotoa Building was attended by Khoisan leaders, representatives from various community forums based in Stellenbosch, as well as staff and students from SU and other universities. It marked the next phase of public engagements that will in the end lead to the scheduled ceremonial opening of the Krotoa Building that will be guided by ritual processes of the Khoisan.
“A university can never become a place where you stop learning," said Dr Leslie van Rooi, SU's Senior Director for Social Impact and Transformation. “In the words of Chief Van Wyk this morning: 'Nothing is static. You must move. You must change.' And that is not to say that you leave a part of what you are, but it is to say that you can eventually become yourself, find your fuller being.
“Finally, after so many years of pushing itself away from its historic being, our University is slowly but surely moving into itself … realising itself, becoming a national asset, universal and also local, engaged, sharing its stories through the cracks of its history, allowing something new to be realised."
The ceremony also included a mesmerising rendition of Khadija Tracey Heeger's poem “Krotoa" by the poet herself; a typically thought-provoking address by SU's Prof Aslam Fataar, who recently spoke at the 3rd International Social Justice Conference; as well as a keynote address by Prof June Bam (University of Cape Town), who spoke of the value of indigenous knowledge that is still echoing through women today.
“Our role, as far as I'm concerned," said Bam, “is to bring Krotoa back in a way that shows how she was the multilingual diplomat – and a peacemaker."
Krotoa was mentioned more than 200 times in the early Cape Archives – mainly in the diaries, journals, and letters of the VOC Commanders Jan van Riebeeck and Zacharias Wagenaer, but those were just footnotes to her full story, which Vollenhoven is currently rediscovering and sharing in collaboration with the first nations people and the broader South African society.
Click here to read more about the building renaming process: