A painful exhibit comes to Cape Town’s South Africa National Gallery in the partial archival recovery of enslaved women’s lives.


Genre: Exhibit, Performance.

Venue: Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa.

Dates: September 26, 2018 – October 21, 2019.

Sponsors/Curators: Iziko Museums of South Africa in partnership with Centre for Curating the Archive at the University of Cape Town. Curated by Carine Zaayman and produced by Josie Grindrod.


Preview: Focusing on accounts of three women living in the Slave Lodge — Susanna of Bengal, Krotoa, and Zara van der Caab; as well as nine others — the exhibit foregrounds the gendered as well as radicalized experience of colonial subjects and its ramifications for the present.

Susanna of Bengal, a slave in the Company’s Gardens, was charged in 1669 by the colonial administration for alleged infanticide, found guilty and sentenced to death. Krotoa, niece of Khoi leader Autshumao, taken as a child by van Riebeeck, eventually mastered a form of survival in between Khoikhoi and Dutch culture under colonial rule. And the as yet unidentified women also performed permits the exhibit and audience alike to engage with the invisibility of slave woman held at the Lodge without given or substituted names, and who thus died with little in the way for company records and archives to trace them.

The named women are as follows:

  • Anna and Mariij van Madagasker – sold at a profit on auction
  • Ansela who became Engela – born a slave, died a slave owner
  • Armosyn Claasz – Slave Lodge matron who founded a dynasty
  • China, renamed Rosa – from childhood sold five times
  • Dina van Rio de la Goa – escaped from slavery and re-captured
  • Krotoa – trapped between two worlds
  • Magdalena van Batavia – bought the freedom of her daughters
  • Marij van Macasser – wrenched from her culture and religion
  • Rosa van Bengalen – sold for refusing to obey
  • Susanna van Bengal – brutally sentenced to drowning
  • Zara van der Caab – tried and dishonoured posthumously after her suicide

From an article on the opening ceremony:

“These [her]stories of injustice, violence, suffering and abuse, are painful and traumatic. Even today, we see similar horrors perpetuated in the realities of human trafficking and “enslaved” sex workers. Through this exhibition, the lives of the enslaved can be recognised and honoured.”

— Ms Rooksana Omar, CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa.


“The colonial archive tells us much about the facts, figures and artefacts of slavery, uncovering the meanings and understanding the affective aspect of its legacies is an ongoing and possibly life-long journey. In bringing these stories from under the cover of darkness, the Slave Lodge has added another level to it, becoming a place for understanding the people who built our city.”

— Ms Bonita Bennett, Director of the District Six Museum.

For more details, including tickets, please see the event’s official site.

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