Uncovering Camissa - The Making of a Museum
The story behind the Camissa Museum.
The history, parallels, inspiration, people, motivation and aim of this online museum and the seven tributaries of Camissa heritage.
(22 April 2021)

The Camissa Museum tells the stories of the peopling of the Cape. It reveals the rich and complex history of Camissa Africans, those classified as ‘Coloured,’ who have been portrayed by others for centuries but never by themselves. This history and these stories, that have been buried and hidden for centuries, are now told for the first time.

The museum is a place of memory and restoration; it uncovers a hidden ancestral and cultural past, crucial for communities to understand themselves and for a common understanding among different communities.

We believe that knowledge of our history and origins builds vital self-understanding that fosters that important sense of belonging and connection to place. We believe that a people who know their history and origins are better able to navigate their present and future.  

Bringing these stories of the Cape, and its people, to life will bring healing, affirmation, and restoration of human dignity, after centuries of suffering colonialism, slavery, forced removals, restrictions on freedom of movement and imposition of the first pass laws, nineteen wars of dispossession, ethnocide, genocide, de-Africanisation and Apartheid.

The Camissa Museum invites you to take a journey with us to explore the emergence and progress of Camissa Africans from the year 1600 to the present, by tracking seven broad tributaries of peoples brought together from over 195 roots of origin, by forced migrations. These peoples faced great adversities together, but their collective story is of a people who rose above adversity and thrived.

The home of the Camissa Museum is the Castle of Good Hope, a Cape Town landmark which was the seat of colonial power for 200 years and which was built using the exploited labour of the enslaved. This project is one of a basket of projects emerging at the Castle as part of a process of transformation and restorative memory. Without restorative memory it is difficult to fashion the necessary restoration and transformation required across the broader South African social landscape.

World map of the roots of origin of the Camissa Africans.

Kaaps Trilingual Dictionary
Kaaps Trilingual Dictionary
The Trilingual Dictionary of Kaaps (TDK) is a descriptive corpus project that will develop the first dictionary of Kaaps. It defines Kaaps as one of the languages in Southern Africa created in the 1500s. It is today an important linguistic resource for its speakers found in the Western Cape and beyond. But it also one of the most marginalized languages in the history of our country.

Camissa in Development

Calling for donations for the Camissa Museum

The Camissa Museum is
a project in development.

Any organisation, business or individual who may want to support this project by making a financial donation, please read more by cicking on the link above. All contributions are greatly appreciated.

Shared Waters Exchange Project

Shared Waters Exchange Project

Through the Shared Waters exchange project, you will explore you and your family’s journey to where you are today. The creative project is a joint venture between the Netherlands and South Africa.

The Castle of Good Hope

Entrance of the Castle of Good Hope

The Camissa Museum is located within the Castle of Good Hope. Known locally as "The Castle", it is a bastion fort built in the 17th century in Cape Town, South Africa. The Castle was originally located on the coastline of Table Bay but, following reclamation, the fort is now located a short distance inland within the Central Business District. It is considered the best preserved example of a 17th century architectural structure in the entire world.

> View the Castle's website here <

Os is! Ek is! Is dja!
Camissa Africans!

The Race Classification system as elaborated on in the Population Registration Act of 1950 defined “Coloured People” as being those who were not! Marieke de Klerk, the wife of Apartheid era President de Klerk, infamously said that “Coloured People are the leftovers”.

Among the youth on the streets, the rallying cry against this definition was simply expressed by a cry of outrage saying:
Os is! Ek is! Is dja! Camissa!
We are! I am! Oh yes, we are! Camissa!

"Os is... Ek is..." is a proud cry of self-affirmation in the Afrikaaps dialect.

A decade ago this was given amplification in the multi-media stage show Afrikaaps.

Afrikaaps - Ek Is
Ships in Table Bay in the early days


This is the first part of the core exhibition, dealing with identity, race classification, pre-colonial history, the Dutch colonial footprint, the meaning of Camissa, an introduction to the seven tributaries, an introduction to the 195 roots of origin in Camissa African heritage, as well as a look at the multi-cultural impact on language at the Cape - Afrikaaps.


Camissa Museum seven tributaries column
Camissa People - the seven tributaries

The Seven Tributaries

This is the second part of the core exhibition, dealing with the Seven Tributaries of Camissa African Heritage still referred to as ‘Coloured’ and includes – Cape Indigenous Africans; African-Asian Enslaved; The Free Blacks; The European Non-Conformists; The Maroons, Drosters and Orlam; The Exiles, Refugees and Convicted; The Apprentices, Sailors, Indentures and other Migrants of colour. Under each tributary there is an elaboration on a total of over 195 roots of origin, and examples of a few of the historical personalities of those times.

Camissa Museum YouTube Video Channel

Throughout the exhibition the Camissa Museum exposes you to video resources in the public domain which many voices share with you their explorations, experiences and views involving the subject matter in each section of the museum. These are authentic voices of people who open up windows of exploration. The museum does not necessarily endorse any of the expressed viewpoints but wishes to underline the right of all to explore and share what they have found for themselves. So it may assist you in each of your own journeys that look at the past to bring you peace of mind in the present.

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