Khoi Family


This sketch of a Khoi couple and child seen from behind is 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 woman wears a pointed skin cap, large earrings, double kaross (a blanket or cape made of skins), and skin leggings. The man has ornaments in his hair, a skin bag as well as the roll sack, a short kaross, and an assegai (spear). In the Cape this would have been a long spear with an iron head for throwing, unlike the Zulu assegai, which was a short stabbing spear. 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, in Dutch, 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 ; 18 x 15 centimeters


  • Presented as plate 11 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. Number 6251 of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: July 2, 2015