Aäron Martin William
Published by Aäron Martin William Messelaar
©Aäron Martin William Messelaar, 2015
Cell No: 078 992 2722
First published 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means,
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the prior permission of the publisher and copyright holder.
ISBN: 978-0-620-51515-3
Book and cover designed by Nozuko Mbana
Book edited by Mvuyisi Mdoda
Printing and binding in South Africa by Mega Digital
I am truly honoured to write the foreword to this book on His Excellency,
High Commissioner Aäron Martin William Messelaar. The author was
born in Campbell, a small Griqua town approximately 105 kilometres
from Kimberley in the Northern Cape province. The town may be small
but enjoys pride of place in the Griqua history and heritage; as it is
where the culture and tradition of the Griquas is still being practiced.
His Excellency's family has a long-standing relationship with the Kok
dynasty, which dates to the time his uncle, Aäron Messelaar, served as
Chief Advisor to my late grandfather, Adam Kok iv and today it is a
privilege to have him as my Chief Advisor.
The life and history of the Khoi, in particular the Griqua, as told
by a Griqua for the Griqua, as well as for the Khoi and San people.
For far too long the history of our people has been portrayed by
outsiders. It is heartening to, at last, have it told by a true son of the
Griquas; a man who has devoted most of his adult life to the cause
of the Griqua and Khoisan nations.
The information he uses in this book is drawn from what he
experienced during his upbringing at Campbell, and what he
gathered from the research into the lives of the Khois and the Sans,
in particular the Griqua peoples. These are facts that have been
captured and documented throughout the years. He passionately
describes the culture and tradition of a nation that is indigenous
to this country but that nearly vanished under the oppression of
apartheid and is diminishing in this new dispensation.
We as Griqua people have been fighting for our recognition for years;
and through the efforts of many and in particular the author’s; our
plight and existence has become known to many in South Africa.
It is through these efforts that we, the dormant descendants of the
Khoi and San people, have come to realize that we have a history to
be proud of and not that as reflected through foreigners. We have
traditions unique to us and not practices adopted from others, we
have (had) land that was taken from us and have a right to proclaim
and live out our traditions in the country of our forefathers.
It is a privilege to know and to be associated with this person, a man who
places the people first. He always says it is not the “I” or “me” factor but
the ‘’us’’ factor. We that have something should also look out for those
that have less or nothing. The fight for the rights and acknowledgment
of the Khoi and San in particular the Griqua has been of paramount
importance and through his perseverance the peoples (Griqua) have
rallied behind me to pursue their emancipation.
It is with great sadness that some have misused the knowledge that
they accumulated from within and misrepresented the Griqua. In
doing this some have enriched themselves, to the deprivation of
others, in the name of the Griqua nation. May this book be an eyeopener
and a reflection of who the Griqua people are and the true
bloodline of the dynasty of Adam Kok as told by a humble servant
of the Griqua people.

The idea of penning down my thoughts, memoirs and perspective about
the subject matter did not come overnight. During an address at the
Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town on the 07th of August 2011 in which
among the audience was the president of the republic, Honourable Jacob
Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, I was asked by the president if I ever thought of
putting this information in a book. I purposely delayed my reply till this
moment when the book is firmly held in your hands.
I get frustrated to see and hear how people discriminate amongst the
Griqua people due to the misbehaviour of those who called themselves
the leaders of this nation without a clue of traditional leadership and nor
any experience of the customs of the Griqua nation. Some people will
see it differently but the reality is that most of them do not actually know
what the traditions, customs and rites of the Griqua nation are.
During my childhood I came across a man called Adam Adei Kok, the
elderly people called him Captain Adam Kok IV. As I picture this man
today, he was a humble man who had fought hard for the people called
the Griquas. Due to his humility some mistook that for a weakness and
disrespected him and fought him in newspapers and in meetings. He had
done his utmost to negotiate for a better life for the Griqua nation. His
dream for self-determination was demolished and destroyed by those
who were the slaves of the masters. I didn’t understand why he never
took a stand while some of his advisors told him to do so, he always said
let the people not see how divided we are.
During my childhood I experienced how Apartheid created poverty
amongst the Griqua nation; how land and livestock was taken away
without any compensation. But the passion of this old man for his people
has inspired me, he took his donkey cart to load fire wood used by the
people, he took his donkey cart and drove 30 kilometres to Douglas and
assist community members with applications for grant. How this man
stood firm due to his circumstances and the ignorance of others. He had
never sought the lime light or wants to be acknowledged, he was very
humble and anyone could engage with him.
His knowledge about herbs, culture and tradition was amazing. He could
look to something and give you a full explanation about it. I regret that
my passion for the history and culture comes so late, while most of the
elders have already passed on.
When I write this book I looked through several research documents
and books. I realized that many authors have written about the Griqua
nation but have never capitalized on their culture, except one person, Alf
Wannenburg, who wrote only one paragraph of this generous man.
I hope this book will shed some light on many questions; particularly on
what has happened after the death of Adam Kok III and Cornelius Kok
II. But most importantly inspire many Griquas to practise their culture
and tradition without feeling ashamed.
Your humble servant
Aäron Martin William Messelaar
To the community of Campbell and the Griqua Royal House and
Nation at large this is yours.
I’m truly yours
Aäron Martin William Messelaar
Let me take this opportunity and thank everyone who made this book
possible, my family, my wife Roseline who had offered many nights,
my mom who raised me in this culture, my brothers and cousins for
their support in this position. My children for their moral support, the
leadership of the Congress of Traditional Leaders, as well Advocate Nkosi
Phathekile S. Holomisa for his leadership and encouragement. Nozuko
Mbana for her role in the design, layout and the overall publishing of
this book. Vuyisile Mdoda for his meticulous work in knocking to shape
the thoughts and narrative style, I want to say thank you so much for your
patience. The Kok family like Sarah Naidoo, Yvette Kok, May Paulsen
and Maggie Gibbs and His Excellency Adam Kok v. Special thanks to
Susan Williams and Sarah Eland.
The Griqua nation like any other got its rituals, customs and traditional
practices that are unique to the people, something commonly named
- culture. I thought it is my duty to not only write but also educate
the up-and-coming generation, who seemed eager to learn but don’t
know where to start, about the Griquas and their rich history. I have
decided to share what I know about my culture for the benefit of people
who do not know that Khoi and San are different tribes. Tribes that are
distinct from each other in certain respects and thus do certain things
differently. As a proud and true Griqua I consider myself fortunate to
have grown up in Campbell near Kimberley. To be raised among the
old people close to Captain Adam Kok IV whom I salute and take him
as the custodian of Griqua Nation. This man made sure our rituals and
customs were practised and preserved, even when everything else of
ours was not taken seriously because of apartheid. He taught us exactly
how things are done in my culture.
In this book I’ve written about the period when a woman is pregnant up
to time when a child is born. How the girl child is brought up until she
marries and the rituals that are observed in all the stages involved. Also
with the boys, how they are brought up until they are at the stage of
taking a wife. I managed to talk about how the Griquas bury their loved
ones and the things that are done in the burial process. A section of the
book is a biographical look at Adam Kok IV and the role he played as
the leader of Griqua Nation. I think that people must know and pay
tribute to those who have done us proud about our culture.
There’s a lot that I’ve added here including pictures that I think people
will learn a lot from and more especially about our tribe. I’m giving it
to you to read it and come back telling me what you think of it at the
moment it is all yours.
Yours in Culture
Aaron Martin Messelaar
1.The Arrival of a Child 13
2. Raising a Girl 15
3. A Girl Turning Twenty-one 22
4. Raising a Boy 28
5. Marriage 34
6. Burial 44
7. A tribute to Adam Kok IV 48
8. Unveiling of the Monument of Adam Kok IV in 2014 65
9. Paper clips 76
10. Wall of Remembrance 80
11. Conclusion 90
12. References 91
The Arrival of a Child
The Griquas manifest a unique culture around a woman's pregnancy and
during the subsequent birth of a child. When a woman gets pregnant
and passes three months everything that she does needs to be monitored.
She is not supposed to carry certain heavy objects. She is not allowed
to sweep the floors or the yard; nor permitted to sew clothes or knit
garments or do crocheting. This is not without reason. The old women
are very strict on this as they believe such activities spell a misfortune for
the unborn child. It is feared that going against that protocol might cause
the umbilical cord to tie around the baby. The person who is supposed
to do this monitoring is the grandmother or her mother-in-law. By that
time a midwife (!Kho!a-ao-s) in the community also checks the woman
through this process, to see if everything is alright.
This monitoring will go on until nine months and until it is time for her
to go into labour. When her time has arrived the women will make a fire
and fill up a big pot with water. By that time the people who are allowed
in that house, besides the midwife, are old ladies, and some women will
be sitting by the fire until everything is done inside the house. When
the baby is delivered they will come out of the house and announce to
the other ladies and then to the men if the child is a boy or a girl. But
nobody is allowed to enter the house where the mother and child are,
even the father of the child is not permitted to see the child. The women
will choose someone who is going to cook food for the lady as she is still
weak to do anything. By that time she has got her own plates, mugs and
everything that she is using must be separate from those that are used
by other people in the house until the baby is three months old. The
midwife gets paid for her work; also the father of the child slaughters a
goat as an offering and the spine of the goat goes to the midwife.
After three to five days and the umbilical cord has fallen from the baby,
the old ladies mix it with buchu (a herb that is used for certain rituals
conducted by the Griquas) and wrap it in a piece of paper and bury it
in the yard of the family as it is believed that this will bind the child with
his or her roots. The mother of the baby is not called by her name, after
giving birth she is called Daisi. Meanwhile the mother with the baby
remains indoors for fourteen days and by that time the mother and
the child are bonding and the woman is taught how to breastfeed and
handle a child . On the fifteenth day only the mother is allowed to
come out of the house the baby is not suppose to come out and only
the father of the child is allowed to see the child. The woman must
wear long skirts and dresses and she must cover herself with a shawl
for three months after birth.
When the child turns one month old the family will host a ceremony of
introducing the child and for everyone to see the child, the ceremony
is called //Pin. During this ceremony a goat is being slaughtered and
the grandmother brings the child to the grandfather. The grandfather
introduces the child to the people and gives the child a name. From then
on everybody is allowed to see and hold the baby.
Sometimes it happened that the woman is not married and got a baby,
the woman’s parents take the child and raised the child as their own. The
child will use her mother’s surname when she is not married.
Raising a Girl
Young girl going to the fountain
Arrival at home from the fountain
Arrival at home from the fountain
(Purity of a Young Girl In The Griqua Culture)
The girl grows until she reaches a stage where she becomes a woman.
When she get into this stage there are certain things that she needs
to know as a Griqua woman and that is the !nabasas.
The !nabasas are called, “Die Hok Meisie” (girl in a cage) which is an
activity that encourages and promotes respect among other people.
This custom is still respected by Griqua the women who love and
treasure their heritage.
In the Griqua community the elderly women will see a sign and they
will know that a !nabasas needs to be done in the community. When
a whirlwind starts or ends at a certain house the old ladies know that
in that house there is a girl who had her menstruation period for the
first time. They gather in that house with the mother of the girls to
discuss which one of the daughters got her period for the first time
(//nxorisi) if the woman has got more than one daughter.
Sometimes the girl starts her periods when it is raining, the
women will take her outside, they'll form a circle and the girl
would be told to run in the rain. The reason they are doing
this is because they believe she must be known by thunder
and lightening whom will know her smell and not strike her.
The women of the community will build a round hut called //ghaisi
ngu with grass and sticks and they'll put more grass on the floor.
To keep the hut warm they cover it with blankets and plastics.
Inside the hut there will be a mattress where the girl will be sleeping.
On the day the girl enters the hut, in the afternoon a sheep or a goat
would be slaughtered. It is believed that the blood must be shed
before she goes in the hut. In the hut this girl will be staying with
a young girl who is called a bridesmaid whom is chosen by the old
women depending on what she is capable of; they can’t just take any
girl to be a bridesmaid. It is this bridesmaid's duty to attend to all her
needs. They will stay in this hut for fourteen days.
During this time the old women teaches the girl as a woman of
culture how to do things and behave herself. Some of these women
will tell them about their life experiences. They will teach her how
to dance, cook and everything that is expected in a Griqua woman.
They also grind a red stone (maal rooiklip), buchu, burn the bark of
a camel thorn tree, clear Vaseline as makeup and use this mixture
on her face. No men are allowed to see her as she will go out in
the evening to help herself in nature's demands by that time she is
covered with a blanket.
On the thirteenth day the sheep is slaughtered and the blood is kept in a
bucket, a big fire will burn the whole night as people will be dancing until
five in the morning. While they are busy dancing others are preparing food
for the celebrations. When they cook the meat they are not supposed to
break the collar bone of the animal that is slaughtered.
On the fourteenth day the old women will take the girls to the river
or fountain where one of the women will speak in Nama to the
water, put some buchu and other things in the water. After that
she will hit the water with a stick, by that time all the women are
watching the water and if the water splits over the //nxorisi (cage
girl) they will know that her purity is being accepted by ancestors
as splitting of the water is a sign of that. There will be ululations,
singing and dancing.
When they finished at the river or fountain the delegation goes back
to the community. By that time the face of the young girl is covered
by veil, wearing a long white skirt that covers her ankles, as long
sleeve blouse and a long veil. If it happens that the community has
street taps the Cage Girl must drink water from every tap with her
hand until they arrive at home.
On their arrival everyone who is in the homestead must get out, by
that time the Khoi and San music will be played by the old men using
their traditional instruments. The dancing will be started by the old
women in front followed by the youth wearing their traditional
clothes, behind them will be the cage girl and her bridesmaid and
the rest will enter the homestead. Two old women will unveil the
cage girl and they will dance with them, they will exchange dancing
with old men until the food is served.
In tradition there is a way how they will sit when the food is served, the
old people sit aside and the youth will sit in a circle. That collar bone will
be served to the old people and they have their traditional way of eating
it. After the food the celebration continues until people are tired.
The girl is not supposed to wear her old clothes, she gives them to
her siblings and she wears new clothes. Her friends are also changing
as she can’t play with her old friends who are younger than her or haven’t
gone through the rites. Everything would change, how she speaks, walks
and how she is doing things. After that day her family would wait for the
man who will ask for hand in marriage and the parents are excited for the
readiness of their daughter to become a wife.
A Girl Turning Twenty-one
The arrival of the missionaries at the Griqua communities changed
a lot in our culture and traditions as they wanted us to believe that
what we were doing was not civilize. They wanted us to believe what
they brought to us was the most important thing that needed to be
practised which was a distraction of mind-set that all of us fell into
it. Even the Griqua people were the victims of this, though there
were elders who were not buying the colonial believes, but their
voices were not heard. As a God fearing nation and many could
speak Dutch and English, it was very easy to infiltrate them. So the
Griqua people adopted the colonial life style and do away with their
A 21st is not from Griqua culture but was adopted from the British
When the Free State, Griqualand East and West were annexed by the
British they forced their laws upon the Griqua people so that they can
do away with their cultural practicing. But some of them wanted their
culture to be practiced and make a combination of cultural practicing.
To become 21 years of age without a child was seen as loyal towards
yourself and must be celebrate. Parents take this opportunity to
introduce their pride to other community members. It is very easy
to have cultural celebrations in rural communities but in urban areas
you must make a combination of it.
The Griqua people welcome celebrations for someone into the realm
of adult life start with preparations. When it is in an urban area, a
hall must be booked for this occasion invitations are extended to
families and friends. The erecting a hut with reeds grass and cover it
inside with animal skin. Slaughtering of a goat and sheep’s, preparing
of ginger beer, khadi and mageu.
On the day of the ceremony the guests get seated the music start
and the dancers take the floor the girls with brooms and the boys
after them. Then the flower girls enters after them the parents of
the birthday girl or boy then the birthday person. They dance on the
music to the front. The prayer session start and the scripture reading,
the mother crown the girl and the father hand over the key, most
of the time this key is brought in a pot. The uncle of the birthday
person deliver a speech by explaining the culture to the guest, the
dancers lead the birthday person to the hut. Here the person changes
from western clothes to cultural attire.
At the front of the opening of the hut stands two people one of the
elders and the boy or a girl as watchmen. If it is a girl the sister of her
mother help her change, if it is a boy the brother of his father, when he
or she is ready the elder lead the dancers while the birthday person dance
with a partner afterwards. The birthday person gets now the opportunity
to speak and do the word of thanks, the celebrations starts.
Raising a Boy
When a boy turns twelve and the nipples on his chest started to be
swollen and became sore; when his voice has started breaking to
a thick hoarse voice, it is during that time when his mother would
talk to one of her brothers about it so that the uncle can perform
a ritual. The uncle will make a mug out of a tin or out of a root of
the Sheppard tree and take the boy to a separate or private room.
By this time the uncle would have gone to a wetland to pick rushes.
When he comes back with the rushes, he will tell the boy to undress
himself. After that the uncle will milk the breasts of the boy and
then hit it with the rushes until he feels no pain. Then the uncle of
the boy will break the rushes in pieces and put them in the mug, dig a
hole in the yard and bury it with everything that he was using in this
ritual. Before he entered the house he would wash his hands with
goat milk and rinse them with water. But the boy will wash using
water and soap.
The boy’s father will serve his brother-in-law with !kadi (a homemade
beer out of honey, water, leaven and sugar) and the woman will serve
food. The Griqua people believe that young boys who go through
this ritual will never rape a woman, because these boys have a dislike
for woman for more than eight years, some of them take longer.
The other way is when the boy shows interest in hunting. When the
elders consider him as old enough and in their hunting trips they will
conduct a ceremony in the bush, where it will be far from women and
children. This was seen as the initiation time period where the bees
will be producing honey. Sometimes all the boys in that particular
Griqua community would show interest in hunting and the whole
group would go through the initiation process. The boys would be
told to build a hut, few leaders would be looking after them while
they are prepared for the circumcision. When they believe they are
ready the initiation will take place. They stayed almost a month in the
bush and there won’t be any contact with their families. They would only
eat milk, honey and the meat they caught from hunting. The circumcision
was done using a sharp stone or a homemade sharp knife.
They will be taught how to behave as a man; how to treat women,
what is expected in a man and mostly to build a home for his family
and how to look after it. Also how to behave around other men and
what is expected of a man he is invited in another family’s ceremonies.
After a month the father of each boy would slaughter a goat and
invite the Captain (chief) and his council, asking permission that
his son be accepted as a man in the community. The Captain and his
council would look at the boy and see if the boy didn’t do anything
and if there’s a case against him the father will have to pay for the
damages and then once that is settled the chief will take a decision.
The celebration of the boys who are man would be started and the
day when they came back everybody would excited, especially their
mothers as sometimes they don’t come back and they would be told
they were eaten by animals in the bush while they were hunting.
Their behaviour would change and it was easy to notice them as
they would stop while they talk to the elders. Women would start
befriending their daughters with the family they wish their daughter
will get married to, as they know that anytime soon will be looking
for a wife.
The unfortunate thing is that today that ritual doesn’t exist in the
Griqua culture anymore as many leaders turned their backs on the
Griqua culture. The custodians of the culture who strive to keep the
griqua culture alive are busy dying out and the nation will be left
without customs and rituals to remember that they are still a nation.
It is believed that once a girl and a boy reaches a certain stage they
are ready to start their new lives and raise a family. In the olden days
the parents of a man used to look at the home that will be suitable for
their child as there was a belief that a daughter whose parents don’t
have anything won’t be suitable for a big household. In other words
rich people will only marry a daughter from an affording family.
During that time the wealth of a man was not about money, but
about the cattle and the way his fields were producing crops. Even
the parents, most especially the women, who have got daughters will
befriend well-off families so that one of their daughters must be
seen and get a good man to look after.
In those times sex before marriage was not allowed, and the Griqua
nation was so strict about that to the point that if two people
were found having sex or anything of sexual nature there were
consequences. There were customs that were being done regarding
that act. It was a disgrace and a shame to the family of a girl who
fell pregnant before marriage and that girl used to be trashed by her
parents in front of her boyfriend. Some used to get married when
they suspect pregnancy and to avoid pending sanction they would
quickly cover their tracks and by the time things are out they are
already married.
Rapists were scarce. If that person was found he got a severe
punishment; and it was worse if he raped a child as punishment for
that was hanging, in public. If the woman who got raped was married
a husband was given permission to kill the perpetrator without fear
of being charged or tried in court. Homosexuality was not allowed
amongst the Griqua nation; if the family saw that something was
not right with their son the father would call certain men to speak
to him with an aim to steer him in the right direction. And that was
not serious as a boy would change to become a man, get married and
have children and his past forgotten.
A girl is not supposed to be in any relationship until she has passed
the puberty stage. Also a boy is not supposed to be in any relationship
until he had been through the initiation custom. When a boy finds
a girl that he wants to marry he will give that girl a small stick and
the girl will understand; if she loves the boy she will break the sticks
and throw the other half in his chest. That meant she was accepting
his request, there were no talks and a girl would take the stick home.
This will take a while as the elders should intervene and the negotiations
take place. It is the uncles and aunts who are involved in these negotiations
from day one, and they must see to it that all ends well. The family of
the boy is obliged to give gifts to the girl’s parents during negotiations.
It is in these negotiations that the parties set a date for the wedding and
everybody now can look forward to the wedding. Both families then
work hand in hand preparing for their children’s big day. Since everyone
doesn’t want any embarrassment so everybody is doing their best to
make sure the ceremony is without glitches.
Within seven days before the wedding the bride is not supposed to
be seen outside, especially not by her fiancée. She will stay inside
the house with her two bridesmaid; while they are there they will be
mixing the red stone, buchu and other herbs and use that mixture
in their faces. Even during these seven days the girl is being taught
by the older women about how to behave when you are married.
They will even tell her that when the people of her new family are
witches she must do likewise. She would get lessons on how to treat
her husband and what she could do to keep her house warm and
everything that is related to the marriage.
A day before the wedding the bride had to go and meet with her inlaws;
this must be done before twelve noon as they believe that if it’s
after twelve there will be bad luck. So the bride’s family will prepare
their daughter to leave the house. When they leave the house one of
the bridesmaids will play the reed flute as a sign to tell the people
that the bride is leaving the house of her parents. They would be
accompanied by her relatives to this meeting. When they arrive, the
bridegroom would wait for the mother to enter the doorstep and
send a goat in as a present, then the groom would go to the kraal and
wait for the bride and her relatives. The King or chief, in the absence
of the King who is called Captain, would standing with the groom in
the kraal. Once they arrive the Captain will place a necklace in their
hands and the groom would take the necklace and the Captain would
tell him to place it over the head of the bride and then the bride over
the head of the groom. If there was no disturbance or anything that
happened during this ceremony the Captain would bless them and
they would be pronounced as husband and wife.
When the procedures are done the relatives of the bride and groom,
including the community women, would sweep the road with different
types of brooms, pots and mugs would be used as instruments for
dancing. Some would chase goats, sheep, cows and chicken to the
hut or house of the couple. These animals must enter the kraal of
the couple before the couples enters. The celebrations will begin and
they will continue until the following day as they will be starting their
lives as husband and wife.
When someone passed on there are things that need to be done by the
relatives before they bury the body; and also when they are burying that
person. These things are done in the Griqua nation, in a manner that is
in line with what is done to the loved ones who are late.
When a person died, an older person in the community is being called
to declare that person has really passed on. When that is done, the
older person will close the eyes, the old women will wash the body
and stretch the body 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. In the old days they
used to sew up in old bags and sprinkle a small amount of salt over
the chest to prevent the body from decomposing then the body will
be left alone in the hut while the mourners spend the whole night
together outside the hut singing.
The funeral will take place the following afternoon. By then the
relative will choose a suitable spot in the vicinity of the kraal, where
a grave would be dug using a gemsbok horn and a roughly-made
wooden shovel. The grave would measure about three feet broad
and six feet deep, with a long 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 an elderly woman who has been appointed by the
relatives will come and stand by the body and ask any relative if the
deceased ever did good while he was still alive and all women will
reply “da” which means yes. From there the deceased will be praised
even if he wasn’t a good person. And the same woman will walk
towards the grave and sprinkle buchu leaves on the body. After that
the body will be lowered into the grave by means of thongs and two
men would climb in to put the body into the niche. The body would
be laid on its back, with the grave itself on the right hand side and the
head facing east. The niche is then closed with thick bushes or with
twigs and stones which cover the whole floor of the grave. Large flat
stones are next placed over these stones 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 an 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 digging the grave is placed in this position. Everybody would add
a twig or a stone to the mound, which is afterwards strewn with
buchu. Everybody related to the dead person unable to be present at
the funeral will also, on visiting the kraal, go to the grave and place
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’s hut. The water will also be sprinkled where the dead
person laid before burial. The washing of hands is done to prevent
people from getting sick, and the sprinkling of water is done to
prevent that the sickness from spreading, except the bereaved family
and closed relatives who are not allowed to touch water.
The relatives slaughter animals, the blood is collected 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 provide pots.
The blood is heated to boiling point, and mixed with a certain herb,
and stirred about with a chopper, which has been heated until its
red, in order to make the steam rise. The relatives cover their heads
with karosses over the pots so that they perspire. One of the elders
of the kraal will take the pot’s soot and make a mark on the stomach
of each person, this is done to prevent stomach pains from eating
the meat. Only the relatives of the dead person will eat the meat the
rest will eat the entrails, all these things are performed at the dead
person’s hut.
Cold water would be thrown on the grave of a buried person; often
with the men returning the next day to throw water on it, this is done
to harden the grave so that wild beasts could not dig there. The
removal of the kraal is not with the Griqua’s or the Namas. They
believe 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.
Some of the things have changed due to the westernization of the
Griqua nation. People live in homes built by bricks, but believe
in a front door and a back door. On the death of a loved one the
relatives call in the elders to make sure that this person has passed
on. Previously they would close the eyes and put two coins (shielings)
on. The old ladies washed the body and dressed it up with pyjamas /
nightdress. They took (goinasak) backs dipped it in water make a bed
on the floor. The deceased would be put on it with the front facing
upwards, an iron placed at the head and one at the bottom at the feet,
covered by a sheet. The arms would be folded and the hands put on
the chest; a nappy or towels are bound over the head and chin, as
well as the feet were also tied. The lighting of paraffin lamps, later
candles, were used day and night around the body.
Some men with relatives dig the grave and sometimes it takes some
days due to the area. In most instances a hill would be chosen. The
family slaughtered sheep or goats. The genitals will be cooked with
home-made bread for the community who gather every night to
comfort the bereaved family, till the last evening before the funeral.
On the last night of the vigil they would stay till sunrise. Every
person who had attended the funeral must throw earth into the
grave; after the grave is filled it is packed with stones like a mound.
The close family will form a circle around the grave, Then everyone
is obliged to go back to the deceased’s house to wash their hands, but
no one is allowed to do it individually, you must wait for others and
do it as a group to put the hands together same time in the water.
Meat and samp is then served to everyone or maize rice. Today rice
and meat is served.

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20.05 | 15:46

send an email to

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

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