Sketches of Khoikhoi


These two sketches 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 sketch on the left depicts an older woman with a walking stick and poorly kept leggings; the sketch on the right depicts an elegantly dressed younger woman. The text, in Dutch, reads: “When the Hottentots are newly born their noses are pushed in, and they set so much store by this that a child from a certain Hottentot woman by a European father has been deemed to have been murdered, because the mother and child went inland and never reappeared again.” This idea is probably fanciful, and may reflect racial concepts of the Dutch in the 18th century. The building in the background in the sketch at left is probably also unrealistic, as such a large structure would have been extremely unusual at the end of the 17th century. Hottentots was the name used for the Khoikhoi at the time of white settlement and is now considered derogatory. Much information about the Khoikhoi is available from early European accounts, but few illustrations exist. The drawings in the collection were made in situ and, unlike most 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, made by another person, also unidentified, after 1730.

Date Created

Subject Date


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 drawing : pen and black ink on paper ; 24 x 36 centimeters


  • Reproduced as Plate 9 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 recto of White horsemen; Lion hunt (INIL 6264v); number 6264 of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: July 2, 2015