Windows on the World of SipaKV

Malagasy slaves in Cape Town

Posted on: September 13, 2005

Your names are “Andia Nomba, Andia Manonge, Adriaan Havanan, Andian Sungowan”,or Massavana and Koesaaij. The dates range from 1652 to 1796 when 33 slave voyages delivered you among other 2820 Malagasy slaves to Cape Town. Reading the documents available on the internet, one can get a fairly good picture of what your life as a slave might have been in Cape Town.

Were you war prisoners or debt-ridden and sold into slavery? Were you born into slavery? Who knows? You were sold and hurdled aboard Dutch slave ships leaving North West Madagascar (Majunga?) and heading towards Cape Town. It is documented that the first slave in Cape Town was one of you, a Malagasy man, who went by the name of “Antony van Madagascar”.

Yes, you were rarely allowed to keep your Malagasy names, the one your parents gave you. Instead you ended up with names like Friday, Saturday, October, Titus, Hannibal and the likes. You were then given a surname indicating your country of origin. And so Andia Nomba may have died known under the name of Hannibal van Madagascar ! If you were a woman, you better hope not to be too pretty because then the ire of your master’s wife would be on you !

Then there is you “Clein Eva” who were but five years old when you were brought to the Cape in 1654. Your story shattered my heart. You were gifted to van Riebeeck, a Dutch man, by the King of Antongil where the Dutch had a factory from 1641 to 1647. I wonder what became of you. Did you work as a companion to van Riebeeck’s children or were you assigned to other grueling tasks?

Your master was prejudiced agains Malagasy slaves. He thought them unreliable and very likely to desert. He was probably right, because the Internet is rife with stories of Malagasy slaves who revolted or attempted to run away:

  1. Tromp van Madagascar. In 1713 he led a group of slaves who deserted the Cape Colony and attempted to establish a life for themselves. He was captured, sentenced to death by impalement and preferred to commit suicide. The other slaves who followed him had their Achilles tendons severed or their feet broken on the wheel.
  2. There is also mention of another Malagasy slave, Anthony, who ran away and was never seen again (1655). [Hooray for you Anthony!]
  3. Reijnier van Madagascar ran away when Sabina, the daughter he had with another slave, Manika van Bengal, was cruelly abused by her mistress (perhaps because she was too pretty and the eye of the master was on her?). He was caught in 1749, after 22 years of freedom, living from fish he caught in the river.
  4. In 1690, four slaves revolted in a farm, killed a farmer and fled with firearms. During their pursuit, three of them were killed but the wounded survivor said their plan had been to “seize some white women and make their way to Madagascar. But after their first attack they had panicked and taken to the hills”.

As slaves, you were not allowed to wear shoes, long trousers or hats, so you wore handkerchiefs or turbans instead. Females among you had to abide by strict clothing rules. The Dutch did not want you to look better than white women ! In addition, you had to walk in the middle of the road.

In 1834, the Cape was British again and slavery was outlawed. But you and your descendants still owed four years of “apprenticeship” to your masters before regaining your freedom.

Other pieces of information on Malagasy slaves and where they were sent :

  1. Other Malagasy slaves were shipped to Oman. Yet others were sent to America (Virginia and the Carolinas).
  2. This paper mentions that “Arab traders exported as many as 3,000 slaves per year from northwestern Madagascar, including 800–1,000 slaves to Oman, while at least 40 English voyages (mostly interlopers evading the monopoly of the Royal African Company on the west coast of Africa) left Madagascar to the New World between 1675 and 1700 with slaves as cargo”.
    “In 1726 the Sea Horse and the St. Michael lost more than 600 of their 1,030 slaves they were carrying, from Madagascar to Cartagena, due to the horrendous conditions on board.”
  3. A census taken at Barbados in the West Indies at the end of the 17th century found that half of their 32,473 slaves were from Madagascar.
  4. In 1717 small pox broke out among the slaves from Madagascar. They were quarantined in Lemon Valley.
    And here is the story of children of a Malagasy slave woman sold by their free father.
    Here’s another link to the interview of Katie Jacobs, the daughter of a Malagasy slave. The interview took place in 1910 when Katie Jacobs was 96 years old. I found it terrible that her father did not live long enough to experience freedom.

Today I remember all of you and your descendants who lived unimaginable horror and died away from the land of your ancestors. This post is dedicated to you.

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3 Responses to "Malagasy slaves in Cape Town"

Yes slavery existed and slavery still exists. Today I am afraid that it is on our door… here I refer to the “Zones franches” which is established in our country… I am afraid for our brothers and sisters, pushed by poverty … A company of fishing in Seychelles employs only girls imported from Madagascar (Saying that they are hard workers and cheap… hundred girls please)
Without saying about the style of management of our politicians…
Any person who tries to say or to make believe in the other that they are higher is wrong. However, the diversity of the human race is a fact, and must be respected and even developed .It’s only by education and by open-mindedness that we’ll make it happen one day, and to make so that the human beings stop believing that they are better than others.
We worth all the same thing: a human life.

Beautiful post!
I’d like to add that if human trades were once possible, Malagasy people, I mean “notables”, would be also the first to blame.
Human trades still exist through prostitution, adoption, and in a certain way, through immigration.
Right now, casts division is a sort of heritage from this old custom: “andevo” (slaves), andriana (nobles) are familiar words for all of us…
I only wish that our own history (where we all really came from) could help us to consider all Malagasy people “free” and “equal”.

Michener, le grand romancier historique raconte dans sa fresque sur l’Afrique du Sud (je ne me souviens pas du titre) la vie d’une esclave Malagasy

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  • Anonymous: Michener, le grand romancier historique raconte dans sa fresque sur l'Afrique du Sud (je ne me souviens pas du titre) la vie d'une esclave Malagasy
  • Anonymous: mahagaga fa misy album nataon'i nicolas vatomanga izay tany amin'ny taona 1999 tany fa tsy nivoaka ilay izy : redalandy (red island) no nataony anaran
  • Zanatany: j'ai hérité (de mes grands parents qui vivaient à Mada depuis 1927)d'une oeuvre phénoménale de Maurice Le scouezec peinte à Madagascar (Mahamas)

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