Right timing with the sun just above!
History and Heritage of the people of Franschhoek
I just saw on the News, that a big fire is raging in this area Franschhoek to Paarl…“let there be light”, bells ring for prayers!!!
The arrival of the European settlers
In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape to take up his post as commander of the new Dutch East India Company refreshment station. His mandate was to transform the area into a fruit and vegetable plantation, as well as to barter with the indigenous Khoi for their livestock, build a ship-mending facility, and erect a hospital.
To achieve these goals, he required a number of slaves, and sought the local tribesmen for labour. However, the indigenous inhabitants refused to become labourers, wishing to retain their nomadic lifestyle. Thus, the importing of slaves began in 1658 from countries including India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Madagascar and even Angola. The labour force was large, and the Cape settlement was no longer simply a refreshment station for trading ships en route to the East, but a sizeable colony.
The establishment of Franschhoek, and the birth of a new culture
Individual Huguenots began to settle in the Cape from 1671 onwards. From 1688 to 1689, a large number fled religious persecution in France as protestant-reformed Christians and immigrated to the Cape of Good Hope to find a new life. The name “Franschhoek” stems from the Dutch phrase “Fransche Hoek”, which means “French corner”. The Dutch referred to the area as the “French corner” because of the significant number of French nationals living there.
Farms were granted to these new settlers, all bearing French names in honour of their country of origin. Many farms today still have their original names given to them by the French settlers who built them.
Over the following years, the lifestyle and culture of the area became very cosmopolitan. Eastern cultures embraced by the Indian, Malaysian and Asian slaves merged with the European cultures of the Dutch and French Huguenot settlers. Indigenous groups found it impossible to sustain their traditional ways of living off the landscape as their access to grazing land and watering places for cattle became increasingly restricted by colonial occupation of the region. They too became incorporated within colonial life as they worked for farmers on a seasonal basis. Intermarriage between slaves and their masters was common in the early years. The male European population far outweighed the female European population.
The decline of the Khoikhoi and San Bushmen
After the loss of their seasonal grazing ground to European settlement, the fate of these indigenous groups worsened in 1713 when a smallpox epidemic hit the Cape. The San and Khoi would suffer the greatest number of losses, with the smallpox seeing to their near disappearance from the south-western Cape.
In 1701, the Dutch East India Company was in charge of the colony. A law was passed that all schools would instruct in Dutch only, to preserve Dutch culture and identity. Thus, as time passed, French culture was “phased out”. By the middle of the 18th century, the population spoke only Dutch, and French had become an extinct language in the area. Soon, Afrikaner culture began to emerge. The Afrikaans language is the youngest language in the world, and evolved from colloquial Dutch but also included the languages of the slaves and even local indigenous groups.
Afrikaner and Cape Malay culture
Gradually, the Cape Colony began to establish its own identity, and the cuisine, music and traditions that evolved are still widely embraced today. Many South African food dishes and culinary styles of today originate from Europe and the East. An example of this is bobotie, a basic cottage pie with Eastern influences, which is made with curried mince, egg custard and dried fruit. Blatjang (spicy chutney) is another culinary result of the mixing of European and Eastern culture.
Music was a popular form of entertainment during the 17th and 18th centuries. Slaves were trained to play musical instruments to entertain their masters. Many country estates in the Cape Colony had their own orchestras comprised of slaves. ‘Ghoemaliedjies’ were a creolised form of song and music containing Eastern influences and often satirical messages sung by slaves about their masters.
Remnants of history in contemporary South Africa
Much of the current population in the Cape descends from the European settlers and Eastern slaves. Many “Cape Coloured” families have surnames that were given to their ancestors as slaves, as their names were difficult for the Europeans to pronounce. Many South Africans are descendants of the French-Huguenots as well. Surnames such as Le Roux, De Klerk, Malan and Cronje are of French origin and common in South Africa today. Due to prevalence of mixed marriages and relationships between masters and slaves, many South Africans have shared origins.
Venturing to the Cape Winelands, and exploring its historic enclaves, reveals much about the history of the Cape. Towns such as Franschhoek offer fascinating insight into the earliest origins of the Winelands, and strong cultural influences are still felt throughout the region today, both in its architecture and its cuisine.
Be sure to visit Franschhoek’s museums, monuments and vineyards, and explore the historically rich site of some of the country’s top wines and cuisine.