The practice of perspective in the Netherlands and its application in the areas of land surveying and cartography at the Cape of Good Hope during the 17th century as a means of appropriating colonial land

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The practice of perspective in the Netherlands and its application in the areas of land surveying and cartography at the Cape of Good Hope during the 17th century as a means of appropriating colonial land

Estelle Alma Maré

Department of Architecture

Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria
Pascal Dubourg Glatigny

Centre Max Bloch, Berlin

This paper deals with the vastly different attitudes of the Dutch colonisers at the Cape during the second half of the seventeenth century and the indigenous Khoi tribes who were nomadic herders, toward land use and possession. While the boundaries of the Dutch settlement at Table Bay and the land allotted to farmers were professionally drawn by land surveyors, the locations of the dwellings of Khoi tribes on maps and views of the Cape of Good Hope, drawn by Dutch and other cartographers, are distributed in various ways. Three categories are identified: those that ignore the presence of the Khoi; those that locate the dwellings as if in a fixed position, and those that tend to take account of the temporary status of Khoi locations. By attempting to map the sites that the Khoi occupied for periods of varying length the colonisers certainly obtained an understanding of a concept of land use and property that was vastly different from their own.

Perspective may be divided into two categories: the first, a theoretical category, known as “speculative”, is linked to reflection on the principles of mathematics as practised during the Italian Renaissance; the other, a practical category resulting from the diffusion of perspective outside Italy, refers to the work of 16th century prospettivi or perspecteurs whose professions were concerned with the practical application of this discipline to earth sciences. At Antwerp in 1604-1605 Jan Vredeman de Vries published a manual on perspective which differed from Italian methods. Later Simon Stevin of Bruges shifted this technique to the ambit of engineers and surveyors.

Surveyors who had been trained in the Dutch school as perspecteurs were employed by the United East India Company (VOC), founded in 1602. In the territories where the company established settlements such as the Cape of Good Hope, they had the task of surveying the new land to demarcate the acquisition of the territory. The tools they used not only derived from the Western concept of perspective, but from methods that were more specifically Dutch in that they were linked to the judicial and political regime of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The specifics of this method as revealed in VOC maps may be understood as deriving particularly from the conflicts with the indigenous populations, most pertinently the Khoi, who based their sense of land use and ownership on different criteria.

In his travel account, written in 1686, Willem Ten Rhyne states: AThe Khoi are separated from one another by no boundaries... .@1 Centuries later I. Shapera (1930: 286) also attests: AIt is clear from accounts of the early Dutch and other travellers that every Hottentot [Dutch name for the Khoi] tribe in the Cape had its own territory... . There is, however, no concrete information as to the demarcation and control of these territories. The reading of history shows that the Hottentot tribes moved about freely over the country in search of pasture, and the boundaries between the different tribes, as far as can be ascertained, do not seem to have been clearly defined.@ This observation of these nomadic people encountered by the Dutch colonisers at the Cape during the second half of the seventeenth century is apt because their attitude toward land was communal possession. In contrast, AEuropean immigrants carried with them ethnocentric attitudes that were deep-seated in Western culture. Ignorant of the needs of local societies, they assumed that they were not depriving inhabitants of anything if they occupied land that was not already built on, cultivated or grazed by domestic animals@ (Thomson and Lamar 1981: 17). Under Roman Dutch Law the Dutch colonisers had a right to property and land use which they applied by means of title deeds based on accurate land surveying and the mapping of territories. This right they also applied at the Cape during the seventeenth an early eighteenth centuries.

In order to give expression to the demands of Roman Dutch Law which required the registration of title deeds and the boundaries of places, land surveyors, a special category of skilled professionals who collaborated with architects, town planners and cartographers, was necessary. In the Netherlands their training included a thorough knowledge of geography and mathematics - especially of perspective. Since surveying was so important for the Dutch in establishing land use on which a permanent settlement at the Cape could be based, the first Governor, Jan van Riebeeck, imported trained land surveyors very soon after his arrival in 1652 to establish a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. The names of some sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century land surveyors who worked at the Cape in the service of the VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or Dutch East India Company) are known, but most are anonymous and a few of them may have visited the Cape for only a short period. Our purpose is to inquire into the location of the Khoi as represented by VOC cartographers, which is here undertaken for the first time. The sources we are dealing with include a variety of well-known printed maps as well as published and unpublished drawings in the National Library in Paris and Cape Town. A great many maps indicating the location of the Khoi are made from descriptions in the texts of travellers who encountered them in the vicinity and outskirts of the Cape settlement.

Since the locations of the Khoi tribes that are indicated on the selected maps were mainly based on descriptions, the contradiction we are dealing with in this study is that on a map places are fixed according to the conventions of cartography, while the Khoi were nomadic with shifting habitats. A brief survey of their culture and evidence of their locations is therefore necessary before the maps on which they appear are categorised. The Khoi, often referred to as Khoikhoi or, more politically correct as Khoekhoen since Akhoe@ means Aman@ in their language, were nomadic pastoralists who had already made the transition from foraging to cattle breeding when they encountered the Europeans who visited the Cape prior to and after 1652. By collating evidence in various sources about the origins, numbers, tribes (each with its own name) and whereabouts of Khoi tribes in the Western Cape at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, one gathers the following:
- The current consensus appears to be that the Khoikhoi originated in a region approximately on the junction between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, as proposed by Westphal (1963) on linguistic grounds, and elaborated by Elphic (1977 and 1985).
- In the mid-seventeenth century, when the Dutch colonisers came to settle in the Cape of Good Hope, the Khoi population numbered about 200 000 (Shkllazh 1989: 129).
- They lived along a narrow strip of coastal area of the West coast, from Walvis Bay to the north (Van Winter 1936: 10).
- The Hessequa tribe in the vicinity of Cape Town was probably the largest and most powerful (Carstens 1969: 96).

- In the Cape Peninsula the Goringhaicona tribe in Table Valley was the first group to be encountered by the colonists (Bredenkamp and Newton-King 1984: 7).

- According to Andrew B. Smith (1983: 3) the first Saldanhars (or Ochoqua) arrived in the vicinity of Table Bay for the spring pasture in October 1652.
- The Khoi initially supplied cattle to Van Riebeeck and his company, but were also inclined to raid the Europeans= herds so that the so-called First Hottentot War was fought from 19 May 1659 to 6 April 1660.
- There are also many references to the whereabouts of the Khoi in published texts of the period, and the fact that Governor Jan Van Riebeeck (Leibbrand 1898) refers to specific locations in his journal on 10/02/1655 and 11-12/05/1656, this information is not very helpful in finding a VOC map which shows these specific locations. Even a modern map indicating their presence by the names of their tribes is not very helpful for our purpose.

Figure 1 Detail of a painting Cabo de Goede Hoop. Johannesburg, Africana Museum

e are not dealing with the iconography of the presentation of the Khoi people themselves, but early depictions of their dwellings by illustrators at the Cape are relevant to our theme, which is the depiction on VOC maps. Most illustrations of the kraals show a circle of huts (figure 1) and fits a description such as the following by P.W. Laidler (1936: 109): AIn 1661 there was a kraal of seventy-three huts a little to the north of Olifant=s River. They formed a circle, outside which stood three huts occupied by Hottentots who possessed no cattle and who acted as messengers between that and the other kraals. The community consisted of three hundred men who possessed four hundred thousand sheep with which they moved from pasture to pasture.@ While 400 000 sheep in one herd seems vastly exaggerated, no other information could be traced about sizes of cattle or sheep herds.

On many VOC maps a Khoi kraal is depicted by means of a simplified iconic system of a small circle formed by rounded dots. However, other systems, such as simple dots or small pyramids, are also used and with the information available at present the locations of the circles or other signs on various maps cannot be supported by geographical or archaeological evidence that the Khoi were at that specific place at the time that the map was drawn. However, the maps can be studied as cartographic documents since a map is not necessarily identical with the land it represents: A... a map is necessarily an abstract representation@ (Ziman 1978: 85).

Classification of the maps
We propose three categories, based on the way that Khoi habitats are depicted:

Figure 2 Detail of Carte de la baye de la Table, showing a circular Khoi kraal

Figure 4 Detail of Plan du fort, du bourg, du jardin, 1687, by Lamare Ingénieur, showing Khoi huts on the slopes of Lion=s Head,

Figure 3 Detail of Plan de la forteresse, du bourg et partie du jardin, showing five small huts Khoi huts

Figure 5 Detail of Pierre van der AA=s Carte Le Cap de Bonne Espérance, on which the Khoi Akraalen@ are depicted as small circles

Figure 6 Detail of Habitations des Hollandais au Cap by Volan, Ingénieur du Roi, on which the Khoi huts are schematically rendered by means of two rows of three irregular black dots

Figure 7 Detail of Carte des Colonies de Drakenstein & de Waveren, on which as succession of the kraals are indicated by means of circles formed by small triangles

1 Maps that ignore the presence of the Khoi

The vast majority of maps fall into in this category, even though the country depicted is called that of the AHottentots@, for example the map by Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772) titled Carte du Pais des Hottentots aux Environs du Cap de Bonne Esperance.

2 Maps that locate their dwellings or kraals as if in a fixed position

On Western maps fixed positions are assigned to known territories and elements. However, allocating fixed positions to Khoi dwellings and kraals ignores the cultural specificity of these tribal people who were nomadic hunter-gatherers.
- On Carte de la baye de la Table (Map of Table Bay) (Ge DD 8290) the Khoi kraal is shown by means of iconic huts arranged in a circle, placed along Salt River (Riviere de Sel), close to a Dutch farm (figure 2).

- On Plan de la forteresse, du bourg et partie du jardin (PF 114, Pièce 17D, Div. 6) the Khoi are situated on a hillside behind the fort; their small huts (five altogether) are iconically represented, but randomly arranged. All permanent buildings, such as the fort and houses, are in red, but the Khoi habitat is in black (figure 3).

- On Plan du fort, du bourg, du jardin, 1687, by Lamare Ingénieur (PF 114, Pièce 14, Div. 6), the Khoi presence is indicated on the slopes of Lion=s Head by means of a concentration of small red points in an irregular circular cluster (figure 4).
- On Vue du Cap de Bonne Espérance (PF 114, Pièce 10D, Div. 6), by Poius de Verce who was on board a French ship from India calling at the Cape, the Khoi are located on the slopes of Lion=s Head by means of small circular dots arranged randomly. The legend identifies these as Acases des Hottentots@.

- Pierre van der AA=s Carte Le Cap de Bonne Espérance (suivant les nouvelles observations de Messieurs de l=Académie Royale des Sciences, augmentée de nouveau), Leiden, after 1710, depicts the Akraalen@ as small circles formed by circular dots, each indicated with that legend (figure 5). It is important to note that this map was inspired by Isaac de Graaf, 1700, MS map in Algemeen Rijksarchiv, showing the same iconic system and location of the Khoi.

- On the Vue du Cap de Bonne Espérance et des vaisseaux de la marine qui étaient mouillés en 1689 (PF 114, Pièce 4D, Div. 1) the Khoi on the slopes of Lion=s Head are depicted by means of two symbolic huts. The fort, houses, the pier, and also the Khoi huts are shaded for emphasis. It is important to note that this map inspired that of Kolbe, 1719 (Africana Library, Johannesburg, K31 a i). Locations are the same on both maps, but the iconic system is more developed in the latter, showing small iconic Khoi huts in a circle. The Vue du Cap (GeDD8297) follows the same pattern. The locations on all these representations are based on Habitations des Hollandais au Cap by Volan, Ingénieur du Roi (GeDD2987), on which the Khoi huts are schematically rendered by means of two rows of three irregular black dots (figure 6).

A transitional map
- On the Carte du pays du Congo et des Cafres, Paris, 1708, by Visscher, all the locations (of both the European settlement and indigenous locations) are indicated by inscriptions on broad areas.
3 Maps that tend to take account, in one way or another, of the temporary status of Khoi locations and their peculiar relationship to territory
- Carte du Pais des Hottentots, aux environ du Cap de Bonne Espérance, by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, Ingénieur de la Marine is a topographical map of the Western Cape area with inscriptions of the names of the tribes on large areas and the location of the Dutch (towns and farms) in a chorographical style. The Khoi settlements or Avillages@ are indicated by two parallel rows of small triangles. On another edition of this map in the Bibliothèque national de France, Paris (Ge DD 2987(8276)) it is stated: ACette carte est dressée sur celles de Kolbe et sur quelques manuscrits du Dépost des plans de la marine.@
- On the sea chart of False Bay, Cap de Bonne Espérance (Ge DD 8296 B), c. early eighteenth century, there is no specific indication of Khoi locations, only a chorographic inscription: AHollandais appelés Hottentots@.

- On the Carte des Colonies de Drakenstein & de Waveren the kraals are indicated by means of circles formed by small triangles but those along a river are not exact locations. It is probable that the succession of kraalen along the river was intended to suggest the mobility of the inhabitants (figure 7). This map belongs to a series of maps depicting other areas such as the Carte de la colonie du Cap (Ge DD 8287) and the Carte de la colonie de Stellenbosch (Ge DD 2987 (8300)) which follow the same pattern but with a less developed way of depicting Khoi locations.

By attempting to map the sites that the Khoi occupied for periods of varying length the colonisers certainly obtained an understanding of a concept of land use and property that differed vastly from their own. Nevertheless they maintained their ideal of title deeds and established it in a continent where cultural differences among groups of people perennially focus on the question to whom the land belongs. Thus the end of the story can be summarised in the words of Leonard Guelke and Robert Shell (1992: 803): AThe Dutch East India Company legitimised settler occupation of Khoikhoi land by granting exclusive land use of lands they acquired in freehold or on loan. The settlers took advantage of this permissive policy and their connection to the Cape Town bureaucracy to acquire choice well-watered land in the interior. These lands and the water resources and pasture they contained were denied to the Khoikhoi pastoralists who found it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves in a land in which access to limited water resources was necessary for survival.@ It certainly did not take long for the Khoi to realise Athat they were up against a completely new type of person whose impact was more fundamentally devastating than anything they had previously experienced@ (Thomson and Lamar 1981: 18). They eventually succumbed to disease transmitted by the Europeans who were also armed with superior weapons. Thus they were soon subjugated and finally, as could be expected, became extinct.
1. ACaeterum hottentotis inter se nulli fines@ (Ten Ryhne 1933:112).
Note on the illustrations
The maps and details from maps are reproduced from facsimiles in a private collection.


Bredenkamp, Henry C. and Newton-King, Susie, 1984. AThe Subjugation of the Khoisan During the 17th and 18th Canturies@, Conference on Economic Development and Racial Domination, 8-10 October, Paper 1. Bellville: University of the Western Cape: 1-40.

Carstens, W. Peter. 1969. ASome Aspects of Khoikhoi (Hottenntot) Settlement Patterns in Historicoecological Perspective@, in David Damas (ed.), Proceedings of the Conference on Cultural Ecology, Ottowa, 3-6 August 1966, National Museums of Canada Bulletin (230): 95-101.

Elphic, R. 1977. Kraal and Castle: Khoikhoi and the Founding of White South Africa.New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Elphic, R. 1985. Khoikhoi and the Founding of White South Africa. Johannesburg: Raven Press.
Laidler, P.W. 1936. AThe Kraal and the Hut of the Nama Hottentot of the Little Namaquasland@, Man 36(146): 109.
Lamar, Howard and Thompson, Leonard. 1981. The Frontier in History: North America and Southern Africa Compared. Yale: Yale University Press.
Leibbrandt, H.C.V. (ed.) 1898. Precis of the Archives of the Cape of Good Hope. Letters and Documents Received 1649-1662, Part I. Cape Town: Government Printers.
Schapera, I. 1930. The Koisan Peoples of South Africa. London: Routledge.

Shkllazh, I.M. 1989. AThe Last Chief of the Hottentots@, African Studies in the Soviet Union: 128-44.

Smith, Andrew B. 1983. AThe Disruption of Khoi Society in the 17th Century@, Africa Seminar, 23 February 1983. University of Cape Town: Centre for African Studies: 1-16.
Ten Rhyne, Willem.1933. ASchediasma de Promontorio Bonæ Spei@, in I. Schapera and B. Farrington (eds), The Early Cape Hottentots. Cape Town: The Van Riebeeck Society.

Van Winter, P.J. 1936. Geschiedkundige Atlas van Nederland. Zuid-Afrika onder Nederlandsch Bewind. >s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
Westphal, E.O.J. 1963. AThe Linguistic Prehistory of Southern Africa: Bush, Kwadi, Hottentot and Bantu Linguistic Relationships@, Africa 33: 237-65.

Ziman, John. 1978. Reliable Knowledge: An Exploration of the Grounds for Belief in Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Abbreviated curricula vitae
Estelle Alma Maré studied literature, architecture, town planning, and art history. After a brief career as an architect, was appointed in the Department of Art History at the University of South Africa where she retired at the end of 2004. She published widely in the fields of literature, architecture, classical culture, art history and aesthetics. She is at present a research fellow and visiting lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Tshwane University of Thechnolgy, Pretoria.

Pascal Dubourg Glatigny is a researcher at the Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin, CNRS). He taught early modern history of art and architecture at the Universities of Paris X Nanterre, Poitiers and Lausanne. His research interests focus on the relationships between art and science and on visual culture, including cartography.
The authors undertook research on VOC mapping at the Cape of Good Hope on an exchange bursary funded by

the NRF (South Africa) and the CNRS (France) in 2002.

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