AiW Guest Toni Stuart
Africa in Words is thrilled to be able to share with you this audio-visual poem by Toni Stuart, an excerpt from her collection-in-progress Krotoa-Eva’s suite – a cape jazz poem in three movements.
In this powerful, beautiful piece from Krotoa-Eva’s suite, Toni Stuart explores the history of the Cape through the figure of Krotoa-Eva. We are enormously grateful to Toni for sharing this extraordinary poem with us, and for writing the piece below explaining the context for the poem.
Krotoa-Eva was a 17th Century Khoi woman, who lived and died in what is known today as Cape Town. At the age of 11, she was sent to work in the house of the Dutch Commander, Jan Van Riebeeck. He was the first official commander posted at the Cape by the Dutch East India Company. Krotoa was her Khoi name, and Eva is the name the Dutch gave her. She spoke Koina, Dutch & Portuguese fluently and worked as a translator between the Khoi & the Dutch, especially during the Dutch-Khoi cattle wars. She moved between both communities, constantly navigating these two different and clashing identities, and ultimately was disowned & distrusted by her own people, and the Dutch. She was the first Khoi woman to be baptised into the Christian faith, she was the first Khoi woman to marry a white settler, and her children are the first documented children of mixed heritage, at the Cape.
Despite the pivotal role she played in our history, her story is largely unknown and is not taught in our history curriculum. This work seeks to re-imagine her story through her own voice, in an effort to disrupt the white male colonial gaze through which her story has largely been told.
Toni Stuart is a South African poet, performer and spoken word educator. Her work has been published in anthologies, journals and non-fiction books locally and abroad. Her performances include, a group show at the Paris Autumn Festival 2013 (as part of France South Africa Seasons 2012/2013), poetry installation Here To Listen (London, 2015), poetry & film exhibition From My View with filmmaker Shelley Barry (South Africa, 2013); Stretching Silence with visual artist Firdous Hendricks (South Africa, 2013); sound installation Between Words and Images with curator & visual artist Ernestine White (South Africa, 2013). In 2014 she was part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s Commonwealth Poets United exchange. In 2013 she was named in the Mail and Guardian’s list of 200 inspiring Young South Africans. She has an MA Writer/Teacher (Distinction) from Goldsmiths, University of London, where she was a 2014/2015 Chevening Scholar. She is one half of international poetry/music duo Gertrude & Jemima with UK poet/drummer Remi Graves. She was the founding curator of Poetica, at Open Book Festival.