Khoikhoi with Cattle


This sketch 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 drawing at the top shows a Khoi family traveling with their domestic animals. The annotations note the walking stick carried by the man and the rings made of elephant tusks around his arms, designed to parry blows by enemies. In a reference to a known Khoi custom, the note indicates that the man has his hair shaven in strips as a sign of mourning. The drawing at the bottom shows a Khoi herding cattle. All of the domestic animals owned by the Khoi are depicted in these drawings: oxen, sheep, goats, and dogs. 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 black ink, black and grey ink wash on paper ; 31 x 20 centimeters


  • Reproduced as Plate 15 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 milking (INIL 6256); number 6256v of a set: INIL 6250-6264.

Last updated: July 2, 2015