Re-membering Krotoa and Autshumato by Deela Khan (poem)

Divested of names and birthright
Autshumato and Krotoa were ferried
oor die see, oor die see, in die eiland stemertjie 
every time they incurred the wrath of their insatiable masters.
As island-prison you were too small to hold Autshumato
(considered to be the devil himself & called Harry die Strandloper)
whose nostrils retained the odour of the wild.
 

The irresistible allure of the ancestral spirit-land compelled him
to snatch a boat, brave the froth and blinding spray 
of vessel-snapping swells and with fellow Khoi-comrade row into 
Blaauwbergstrand, unspotted, dazed, but in one piece!
Swift as an air-slicing pestle, he was not re-captured
but his land had already slipped into Dutch hands.
 

Robbed of her Khoikhoi identity at eight 
Krotoa, pygmalioned into a Dutch girl,
was baptised and re-named Eva.
Subtly programmed to manipulate and betray
her people and to serve the Dutch East India Company
Krotoa became the most spirited traitor-diplomat of her time.
But when the Dutch had eventually grabbed all
her political use-value declined.
A sudden turn of the wheel of fortune made her service
at the Castle obsolete, put her master-mistress foster-parents
Jan & Maria Van Riebeeck on a ship to Holland and lured 
her husband, the respected Posthouder, into a premature death.
 

Thus shaken awake she found no hooks to hold her
at the castle, but to what alternative place was she to trek
lugging her bewildered self and her young?
 

Estranged from Autshumato and her fast-disappearing
people, there remained no Khoikhoi kingdom
she could return to. Caught as she was between
two cultures, tottering on the rim of the Dutch world,
the Khoikhoi world, the Khoi-Dutch world,
she threw herself into a cask & hit the bottle hard
as she struggled to drown the niggling imagoes
of her Khoi-princess past.
 

Khoi princess Krotoa, wrapt in the glory
of her favourite skins, chattering away in musical clicks,
limbs oiled, vital and glowing, would only be seen as a smelly
inboorling, a Hotnot meid wholly and innately dangerous―
Never could she dream of reclaiming
her birthright, she had irretrievably
lost her natural identity―

The Company buried baptised Krotoa
away from her kindred spirit-soil. Thus
‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
in sure and certain hope of the resurrection
to eternal life...’ Eva, propped into a Dutch
coffin, was planted in a remote corner of the
Castle-fortress where she had served,
had loved & married, was widowed,
lost her children, lost her people,
her head, heart & carved-up soul―


Deela Khan

Extract from: Engaging the Shades of Robben Island, 
(Realities, 2002. pp.22-23)