The Five Commissioners at Kokstad Griqua Church

Head Commissioner Aaron Martin William Messelaar

Commissioner Olifant Portfolio: Defence;Safety & Security

Commissioner Benedickt Kabab and Andries Olifant

Rigth Commissioner Mouton Portfolio:Traditional and Cultural Affairs

Commissioner Mangale Portfolio:Finance & Economic

The Griqua Church at Matatiele

Members of The Western Cape Griqua Traditional council


With the advent of European civilization, much of the original Hottentot culture has disappeared. Their clothing especially has been almost everywhere completely replaced by garments of European pattern, and it is rarely, if at all, that the old native dress can still be seen. But from the descriptions of the earlier writers it is possible to obtain a fairly clear picture of what the Hottentots wore before European clothing became as widely adopted as now to be their universal dress.

The clothing of both men and women consisted principally in front and rear aprons of skin, depending from a leather thong tied round the waist. The front apron of the men was a small piece of jackal or wild cat skin, shaped somewhat like a pouch, with the fur turned outwards, and barely sufficing to cover the genitals; while from behind hung a large triangular piece of soft dried skin, with the broad part downwards, which they would draw under them when they sat to hold a few personal possessions, such as the pipe and tabacco.

The women wore large triangular rear apron, two ends of which were tied in front, while the third, hanging down behind, fully covered the buttocks and reached down to the knees. From the knot in front depended another apron, not quite so big; its lower part was cut into long thin strips to form a fringe, and was variously decorated with shells, beads, and other trinkets? Beneath this is a smaller apron, not ornamented, was sometimes worn as well; it served more strictly the ends of modesty, and was drawn beneath the legs when the women sat down. A leather strap or sometimes a long string of perforated ostrich eggshell beads was also passed round the waist above the aprons, and on this girdle were tied tortoise-shell boxes containing powered buchu. The upper part was generally left bare, but in wet or cold weather a kaross was worn by both men and women. It was made preferably of sheepskins or of several jackal or wild cat skins sewn together with sinews, and was tied with a strap across the breast so as to hang over the shoulders. In winter the hairy side was turn in, in summer it faced outwards.

Nowadays all the men have European coast and trousers, and women wear fashioned cotton apron or woollen petticoat and print dress. Sandals of thick skin, tied round the ankle with thongs, were put on for long marches. The women wore at all times a pointed skin cap, and the women keep their head covered, although now they prefer to use large coloured kerchiefs, which have become one of the most common articles of trade with them. The men generally went with their heads uncovered, although in wet or cold weather a sheepskin cap might be worn with the hairy side turned inwards. Today the broad felt hat is largely worn.

Ornament was equally change, in prefer of the past. Both men and women carry small leather pouches hung round the neck, containing the knife, pipe, tobacco, money etc. Little horns, tortoise-shells, and other odds and ends are also worn as finery or as charm. Formerly armlets of ivory and copper were found amongst men, while women wore rings and armlets, as well as necklaces of ostrich eggshell beads, teeth, or shells. They sewed strips of raw hide round their legs in the form of rings, when dry it rattle against each other and made noise when they moved



Where a burial takes place, it is accompanied by a series of rites. A person when in the last agonies of dying was surrounded by his or her friends and relatives, who wailed and writhed in lamentation, the outburst of grief reaching its climax as soon as actual death had occurred.

The body while still warm was bent so as to bring the head between the legs, and in this position it was wrapped and tied up in the Kaross worn by the dead person during life.  Burial took place soon after death, if possible on the same day, or at least the following morning. There were no special burial grounds or recognized grave-yards. Immediately after the death had taken place, the head of the kraal, with several of the men, went out to look for a suitable spot, where the grave was at once made. It took the form of a deep hole, in one side of which was hollowed out a special niche for the reception of the body. Sometimes they did not trouble to dig a grave, but selected a convenient cleft in a rock or the hole of some wild animal instead. The body was prepared for burial in the manner noted.

When everything was ready, three or four men were appointed by the kraal head or by the relatives of the deceased to carry it in their arms to the grave. The deceased was never taken out through the door of the hut, but rather by an opening specially made for this purpose by removing part of the mat-covering at the back. While this was going on, all inhabitants of the kraal not concerned with the funeral preparations gathered before the hut, in front of the entrance, men and women apart, all lamenting loudly. As soon as the body was brought out, the followed in two separated groups to the place of burial, still lamenting and wailing.

Here the body was stuck into the hole or lowered into the grave, and place into a sitting position in the niche. The grave was then filled in with earth, and afterwards covered over with a heap of large stones and branches, so as to prevent wild animals from getting at the body. Apparently no objects of any kind were place in or on the grave. When they are done everyone returned to the kraal. The men and women apart in front of the hut, repeating the wailing and calling frequently the dead person on his or her name.

Subsequently, when at last silence fell, the oldest of the men arose, entered the circle first of the men than of the women, and besprinkled them. He then entered the hut through the door, took some ashes from the hearth, came out by the opening previous made, and strewed the ashes over all of them, who rubbed them on their bodies. Some relatives also took cow dung and smeared it over their arms, legs and body. Then they went to their huts, the love ones of the deceased, however, did not dare not to enter the hut where the person died, but seek accommodation with other people. The heir of the dead person must slaughtered a sheep, and such all other relatives who can afford it did the same. All who were present at the funeral were feasted by this meat. The caul of the sheep were thickly strewn with buchu, twisted into accord, and hung round the neck of the heir, where it will rotten away. Those relatives who were not able to afford the slaughtering of a sheep must shave their heads in furrowed ridges as a sign that they too were in mourning.   

The following day all the huts in the kraal were taken down and the people left the locality, but the hut of the dead person was left standing with all its belongings. Nothing must be taken from it.    


Circumcision as in the case of the Bushmen, was although both the San and the Khoi circumcised. Only the elderly men is intrusted with this ceremony. The custom were practice because the women belief to have intercourse with a man who had not this operation performed upon him they will bear twins, the men beliefs it’s a purpose to increase the swiftness of the man in running


After some love one passed on the eyes of the dead person are closed, then the body is washed by the old women, and stretched flat on its back, the arms lie along the sides, and the hands, palm downward, are folded over the bosom.

The body is then wrapped and sewn up in skins, whose hairy side, strewn with buchu, is turned inwards. The face remains free till shortly before burial, when it is covered with a bit of skin which has been set aside and which is now loosely stitched to the others. After 1854 the body was sometimes sewn up in old bags, if obtainable, in a small amount of salt is placed on its chest, to prevent it from decomposing.  

 Burials take place as a rule on the afternoon following the day of the death. Till then the corpse is left alone lying on skins on the ground in the hut, while the relatives, neighbours, and friends spend the whole night together outside the hut singing.

A suitable spot is selected in the vicinity of the kraal, where a grave is dug in the sand by means of a gemsbok horn and a roughly made wooden shovel. The grave is about three feet broad and six feet deep, with along narrow niche along one side. The body is taken out of the hut through a special opening made for the purpose at the back, and is carried to the grave by the deceased’s relatives and friends.

At the graveside, one of the elderly women who is appointed by the relatives will approach the body and ask a relative if the deceased ever do good while he was alive, then all the women will replied “da” means yes, the deceased will be praised even he wasn’t a good person. The women walk towards the grave and sprinkle buchu-leaves on the body.

The body is then lowered into the grave by means of riems, and two men climb in after it to push it into the niche. It is laid on its back, with the grave itself on the right hand side and the head facing east. The niche is closed in with thick bushes or with twigs and stones which cover the whole floor of the grave. Large flat stones are next placed over these in such a way that no ground can fall upon the body. The grave is then filled in, everybody present picking up handfuls of earth and sand which they throw in. Finally amount of stones is heaped up over the covered grave, the customary explanation being that this prevents wild animals from getting at the corpse. These mounds are often raised very high. A big stone, planted upright in the heap and projecting about a foot or so, indicates the head end of the grave, the gemsbok horn used in excavating the grave is placed in this position. Everybody add a twig of a stone to the mound, which is afterwards strewn with buchu. Everybody relative to the dead person unable to be present at the funeral will also, on visiting the kraal, go to the grave and placed something on the mound. No women with babies or children will attend the funeral rites.

When the people come back from the grave, all inmates of the kraal wash their hands with cold water, which is placed in front of the dead person hut, the water will also be sprinkled where the dead person has lied before buried, it means by washing hands to prevent to get sick, and the sprinkled is to prevent that the sickness from spreading, except the bereaved family and closed relatives who are not allowed to touch water.

The relative’s slaughtered animals collected the blood into one or more pots. The entrails are collected in other pots and the meat in other pots, all different families who are taking part providing pots. The blood is heated to boiling point, and mixed with a certain herb, and stirred about with a chopper, which has been heated red hot, in order to make the steam rise. The relatives covered their heads with karosses over the pots so that they perspire. One of the elders of the kraal will take the pot black and make a mark on the stomach of each person, for preventing to get stomach pains when eating the meat. Only the relatives of the dead person will eat the meat the rest will eat the entrails, all these rites are committed at the dead person hut.

Cold water is likewise thrown on the grave of a newly buried person; often the men return the next day to thrown water on the grave, the reasons is to harden the grave so that wild beast could dig there.  The removal of the kraal is not with the Griqua’s or the Namas. They beliefs that who treads on a grave, passes on unmindfully, or points at a grave with the finger, has disturbed the rest of the dead  and must expect the revenge of the dead.,


The series of rites connected with the death and burial among the Nama have been more fully described, but as found at present they undergone some disintegration. They have been telescoped, as it were, into one another, so that often enough as many of them as remain are all carried out on the same day, after the burial. These rites fall into the category of those associated with conception of a !nau, and in them the sacramental meal and cleansing are still of importance. After the death not only the immediate relatives are effective, but also the larger family circle of the deceased. If it is the husband who has died, the wife becomes !nau, his relatives- brothers, sisters, parents- also have to perform certain special rites before the ceremonial meal, and in a lesser degree all members of the kraal who take part in the proceedings. Similarly, if a woman dies her husband becomes !nau, while her own blood relatives perform certain rites, when the child died both parents become !nau and have to undergo the usual rites associated with this condition.

As soon as the death has taken place, the body of the person is prepared for burial.

The son of the death person must first slaughter a goat and smeared the body of his father with blood.  Formerly, the hands were crossed over the breast, and the head bent forward between the legs, which were sharply folded at the knee. The body was then fastened together and wrapped in skins. 

Write a new comment: (Click here)

Characters left: 160
DONE Sending...

Clarynie Barendse- Freeman | Reply 20.02.2013 14.04

Is the Giqua Royal house only for the Kok's families? What about the Barendse families which are also an important family in the Qriqua history

NICO[PRINCE CHAINO]ADAMS | Reply 03.01.2013 13.50


Claudine Fourie-Grosvenor | Reply 04.04.2012 19.51

Dear Commissioners, I NEED a seperate e-mail address to advise you further about a possible Financial Claim to make to UK.
Ms. Claudine Fourie-Grosvenor

See all comments

| Reply

Latest comments

20.05 | 15:46

send an email to :griquacommissariate@gmail.com

17.05 | 03:46

I am researching my Great Great Grandfather Missionary Christoph Andreas Sass who married an Orlam Kaaitjie Engelbrecht in Silver Fountain 1817. Any help please

17.05 | 03:33

I am doing research of my Great Great Grandfather Christoph Andreas Sass who was a missionary in Namaqualand from 1811 and moved to Captain Cornelius Kok's Kraa

15.05 | 14:16

Thanks Joe

You liked this page
Make your own website like I did.
It's easy, and absolutely free.