Khoi Dancers and Musical Instruments


This series of sketches 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 sketches show Khoi activities, including facial painting, drumming, and dancing. The annotations, in Dutch, provide details of the designs used in face painting and of the different drums played by men and women. The right side of the sheet is devoted to dancing. The annotations, in Dutch, describe the dance performed by Khoi women and give the dance tune, with a very simple musical annotation in the lower right. 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 sepia ink on paper ; 20 x 32 centimeters


  • Presented as Plate 12 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 Khoi arrows; Sketches of farm servants (INIL 6261v); number 6261 of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: July 2, 2015