Krotoa: A Fictional Story Inspired By Real-life Historical Events About Jan van Riebeeck's Khoi Interpreter

South African film, Krotoa which premiered in cinemas on 4th August has sparked dialogue on issues of cultural heritage, colonial history and identity politics amongst other relevant themes portrayed in the movie.

Inspired by real-life historical events, debated theories regarding Krotoa as well as work from historians, the story explores the life of the only recorded female interpreter of her time; which is not only depicted by a female lead, but was also written, directed, produced and edited by women.

The film tells a story of Krotoa ( Eva, a name given to her by the Dutch), a feisty, bright, young 11 year old girl is removed from her close-knit Khoi tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck, her uncle’s trading partner. She is brought into the first Fort established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There she grows into a visionary young woman who assimilates the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck who became the first Governor of the Cape Colony. As such Krotoa ends up being rejected by her own Khoi people and destroyed by the Dutch when she tries to find the middle way between the two cultures.

Krotoa was written by Kay Anne Williams and Margaret Goldsmid and directed by renowned South African filmmaker, Roberta Durrant starring Crystal Donna Roberts who plays the lead role alongside actors such as Armand Aucamp, Deon Lotz, Marcel van Heerden, Jacques Bessenger, Brendan Daniels, Roeline Daneel and Ernest St Clair.

From watching the trailer, this looks like a very moving story.  Such stories are crucial in the restoration of indigenous culture as well as educating and enlightening the masses about their roots. Of course with such a intriguing storyline comes a number of questions; why isn't Krotoa's story popular given her impact in South Africa's history?  Or could it be the common narrative where, unlike their male counterparts, women are virtually erased thus not acknowledged for their contribution in history? What does this film symbolize to the indigenous people of this land?

Today, 9th August, marks International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples and such stories remain imperative for the culture; as one of the main challenges continues to be a gap between the formal recognition of indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies on the ground. As a result, indigenous peoples continue to face exclusion, marginalization and major challenges in enjoying their basic rights.

I hope Krotoa inspires more untold/unknown stories of its kind. Such stories should be at the center of SA history archives and libraries not to mention the school curriculum.

Watch the trailer:

The movie is available in cinemas. For more about Krotoa, click HERE
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