Khoi Arrows; Sketches of Farm Servants


These 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. Shown here are weapons used by the Khoi. The accompanying text, in Dutch, remarks on the smoothness and sharpness of the arrows and indicates the varieties of wood used by the Khoi to make the bows. Also shown is an assegai, a long spear that is thrown. The remaining sketches show Khoi farm laborers wearing old European working clothes and special shoes made of raw leather that were well adapted to the scorching African sands. 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 ; 16 x 20 centimeters


  • Presented as Plate 19 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 Khoi dancers and musical instruments (INIL 6261); number 6261v of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: July 2, 2015