Baster - History - South African Period

South African Period

The Basters were mainly persons of mixed descent who at one time would have been absorbed in the white community. It was, however, as much an economic and cultural category as a racial one and included the economically most advanced of the non-white population at the Cape. Among these were persons who acted as supervisors of other servants and were the confidential employees of their masters. Sometimes these were treated almost as members of the white family. The group also included Khoi, free blacks and persons of mixed descent who had succeeded in acquiring property and establishing themselves as farmers in their own right. The name Orlam was sometimes applied to persons who could also be known as Baster but was a more general name for Khoi and Coloured persons generally who spoke Dutch and practised a largely European way of life.

In the early eighteenth century it was not uncommon for Basters to own farms in the colony, but with the growth of competition for land and colour prejudice they came under increasing pressure from their white neighbours and were either absorbed into the Coloured servant class or moved to the fringes of settlement where it was still possible to maintain themselves in independence. From about 1750 the Khamiesberg in the extreme north-west of the colony became the main area of settlement of independent Baster farmers, some of whom had substantial followings of servants and clients. After about 1780, increasing competition from whites in this area led to the migration of a number of Baster families to the middle valley of the Orange. The Basters of the middle Orange were subsequently persuaded by London Missionary Society missionaries to adopt the name Griqua.

Mostly Calvinist, Basters from Mainline churches sing hymns almost identical to those heard in the seventeenth-century Netherlands. The religious fervour of the Basters is clear from their motto: "Groei in Geloof" (Grow in faith).

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