African Ox and Khoi Couple


These two sketches depicting an African ox and a Khoi couple are from a set of 27 drawings on 15 sheets that was discovered in the National Library of South Africa in 1986. The drawings are important for presenting the earliest realistic depictions of the Khoikhoi, the original inhabitants of the Western Cape. The annotations provide details about African cattle and about the differing dress worn by Khoi men and women. The cattle owned by the Khoikhoi were of the Sanga breeds, which resulted from the interbreeding of the indigenous wild cattle found in North Africa and the Sahara 8,000 years ago with the humped Zebu introduced to Africa from Asia more than 2,000 years ago. The drawings in the collection were made in situ and, unlike most of the few early European depictions of the Khoikhoi, were never filtered through the eyes of European engravers. The artist most likely was a Dutchman, born in the 17th century, who was attached in some capacity to the Dutch East India Company and possibly en route to the Dutch East Indies or on his way back to the Netherlands when he visited the Cape. Evidence suggests that the drawings were made no later than 1713, and possibly a good deal earlier. Most of the drawings have annotations, in Dutch, made by another person, also unidentified, after 1730.

Date Created

Subject Date


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : pen and sepia ink, black and grey wash on paper ; 31 x 20 centimeters


  • Reproduced as Plate 14 in The Khoikhoi at the Cape of Good Hope: Seventeenth-century drawings in the South African Library / text by Andrew B. Smith, from which this description is adapted. On verso of Khoikhoi in a storm (INIL 6255); number 6255v of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: July 2, 2015