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Book on forgotten Griqua captain to be launched

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The story of Barend Barends, one of the Griqua captains, has long been forgotten. His descendants are not even aware of his existence

THE BOOK, Barend Barends: Die Vergete Kaptein van Danielskuil, (The Forgotten Captain of Danielskuil) written by Dr Bart de Graaff, of the Netherlands, will be launched today at the Mynhuis Restaurant in Danielskuil.

The book is a huge contribution to the understanding and appreciation of the heritage of the “Ghaap” region.

The book is also being launched in Gauteng and at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley.

The story of Barend Barends, one of the Griqua captains, has long been forgotten. His descendants are not even aware of his existence.

However, Dutch historian and journalist De Graaff breathed new life into Barends’ legacy with his book, Barend Barends, the forgotten captain of Danielskuil.

“I felt Barend deserved his rightful place in the history books,” De Graaff states.

The book is based on interviews De Graaff conducted with the inhabitants of Danielskuil.

De Graaff launched his book on November 6 at the ATKV’s headquarters in Randburg.

The ATKV will distribute copies of the book to communities, schools and libraries in the Northern Cape.

“There are many of the Griquas who are not aware of Barend at all. Who don’t even know they are descendants of this giant figure,” De Graaff said.

According to De Graaf, Barends’ story is not only important to the Griquas, but to the whole country.

“He was the first leader of South Africa’s rainbow nation. Griquas, Tswanas, Scots, British, Namas and even Damaras came to seek his protection.

“He’s the epitome of what a leader should be,” De Graaff added.

According to Go-Ghaap, the Griqua were galvanised, as a people, by Adam Kok, born about 1811. He probably was a cook in a prestigious home – a slave – but he bought his freedom. By around 1850, he was wealthy, living on the West coast, with vast herds. He gathered up the Khoi people called the Grigriqua, and he was granted a staff of office by the Cape authorities. He lived most of his life along the Orange River, trading with nearby Tswana tribes.

Adam Kok I launched the dynasty of the Koks, including his sons, Cornelis Kok. Cornelis’ son would become Adam Kok II.

His clan also attracted other dispossessed Khoi people, including Klaas Barends, the grandson of a slave. Klaas married Adam Kok’s daughter, and his son was Barend Barends, who became an important leader of a section of the Griqua.

Adam Kok II would later be based at Griquatown and Campbell, and Barend Barends at Danielskuil.

The Griquas were Dutch-speakers and knew about the advantages of modern technology – horses, wagons and guns. They also adopted western manners, habits, dress and livelihoods, including stock-rearing. Some travellers, such as Heinrich Lichtenstein, noted that the Griquas were superior in morals and religious observance, compared to the white frontier farmers.

The Griquas were, initially, a nomadic people, migrating in small parties to find pasture for their cattle, and sometimes undertaking extended hunting expeditions.

They wanted to live in peace with their neighbours along the Orange River.

Cornelis Kok employed local Koranas and Bushmen as herders, giving them sheep as payment, so they could build up their own flocks.

Cornelis Kok, Barend Barends and their Griquas settled at Klaarwater (now called Griquatown).

In June 1823, the BaThlaping found themselves threatened by thousands of Basotho – the Phuting and the Hlakwana. They were also refugees, fleeing the Difaqane (the “forced migration” set in motion by the rise of the Zulu Kingdom in the east). Tribes fought each other for dwindling supplies of cattle and corn. They were armed, hungry and intent on raiding the BaThlaping’s cattle. This conflagration was rolling westwards – in the direction of Kuruman.

Reverend Moffat rushed from Kuruman to Griquatown to persuade the Griqua to assist the BaThlaping. Reverend Waterboer in Griquatown, assisted by other Griqua leaders (Barend arends from Danielskuil and Adam Kok II from Campbell) rode northwards with about 200 men. They were accompanied by BaTlhaping warriors.

About 200 Griqua horsemen, armed with guns, faced the massed ranks of the Basotho armed with spears and cowhide shields. The BaTlhaping age regiments were held in reserve as the Griqua launched their attack.

The Griqua demonstrated their particular form of fighting: They would ride up to just outside spear-throwing range, then fire a volley with their muskets and then withdraw to reload while another group rode forward.

The Basotho suffered terrible casualties – possibly up to 500 men. After seven long hours, the BaThlaping were sent in to finish off the opposition. Those who fled were pursued by the Tlhaping warriors, up to the Vaal River.

Not a single Griqua was killed in the fighting. Significantly, the Battle of Dithakong had turned the tide of the Difaqane in the Northern Cape.

For the BaThlaping, the Battle of Dithakong showed the crucial importance of firearms in modern warfare. From then onwards, they did everything in their power to acquire guns, gun powder, horses and ox wagons.