Boer legacies in Southern Angola (1)

Old Boer cemetery in Humpata (Huíla). Photo © Ruy Llera Blanes, November 2020.

This old cemetery is located in the area of Roival in Humpata, a few kilometers southwest of the city of Lubango (Huíla). Most of the funerary plaques have disappeared, and, despite its high historical archaeological value, the cemetery is in a state of neglect. It is a cemetery belonging to the Boers, former settlers of South African origin, descendants of the first Dutch settlers in South Africa who undertook an exodus to the north (known as the Trek), looking for land to set up their farms. They arrived in Humpata in 1881, where they remained until the 1930-40s – when there was a new generalized exodus from the community towards other regions.

Boer settlers on the Huíla plateau. Image taken from the Africandar blog.

The legacies of the Boer presence in Humpata are not limited to this cemetery: they are also inscribed in the landscape, with agriculture and above all the herding they practiced, and the technology they introduced. For example, they are remembered for introducing ox carts to the region as a means of transport; they were also responsible for building the first channels that distributed water from Serra da Chela; and even some names of current oxen come from this community.

Detail of funerary plaque. We read: “Grafplaats van mijn geliefde zoon Jan Harm Robbertse, geboren in het jaar 1848 de 10e september, en overleden in het jaar 1899 de 4e mei na een ziek bed van 5 dagen” (“Grave of my beloved son Jan Harm Robbertse, born in the year 1848, 10th of September, and deceased in the year 1899 on 4 may after being bed-ridden for 5 days”). Photo © Ruy Llera Blanes, November 2020.

There is still much to discover about this story. There are at least three more similar cemeteries in the region. It is urgent to study it and preserve the patrimonial legacy of the Boer presence in southern Angola.

Books:

Guerreiro, Manuel Viegas. 1958. Boers de Angola. Lisboa: Centro de Estudos Políticos e Sociais.

Stassen, Nicol. 2012. The Boers in Angola 1928-1975. Pretoria: Protea Boekhuis.

Blogs:

Os bóeres no planalto da Huíla @ Africandar Blog (2009).

Last edited: 19 January 2021.


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