S 28°47’58.71  E 23°43’10.41

The Barlett Mission Church

The Barlett Mission Church

The Heritage Foundation (HF) has a special interest in all Afrikaans-speaking communities, and recently became involved in a project on the Griquas of Campbell. Campbell is a small town on the edge of the Ghaap Plateau in the Northern Cape, 48 km east of Griquatown. It was first known as Knovelvallei and then Groote Fontein, but later renamed after John Campbell, a missionary who visited the Cape Colony in 1813. Later Cornelius Kok II (brother of Adam Kok II, both sons of Cornelius Kok I), left the Khamiesberg in the Cape Colony to settle in Campbell, together with a following of 500 people. In 1816 he became the first Griqua chieftain of the settlement. Between 1827 and 1831, the missionary John Bartlett built a mission church in Campbell, and in 1960 this building was proclaimed a national monument. Famous explorers like Robert Moffat and David Livingstone both preached in this church. In 2007, the remains of Cornelis Kok II and 34 others Griquas were reburied at the church grounds.

The HF has been involved in a large project, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), to help rediscover the rich history of this forgotten community since 2013. The HF, in partnership with the Campbell Grounds community, want to help ensure that Campbell’s heritage resources are developed, both in order to stimulate tourism and to ensure the enrichment of local knowledge about the diverse history of the region’s residents.

Griekwas van Campbell


The origin of the Griqua Nation

The origin of the Griqua people can be traced back to the 17th century. This group originated when local Khoi people mixed with Dutch emigrants who settled at the Cape in 1652. They were initially known as  “basters”. They were a nomadic people and as they migrated northward they were joined by members of various other groups, such as the Koranna, Batlapin, San and freed slaves.

In the 18th century, Adam Kok I (1710-1795) united this population group. He eventually settled in the Griqualand West area. His son and successor, Cornelis Kok I (1746-1822), inherited his massive herds and enjoyed great wealth and prestige. In his time his followers began referring to themselves as Griquas, derived from the name of the ≠Karixurikwa Khoikhoi. 

The family tree of Cornelius Kok II according to Niklaas Jaftha: (Click on the image to enlarge)

Kok Familie Stamboom

The development of Campbell

In the early 19th century the Griquas settled in the Campbell area due to the abundance of springs and wildlife.  They first named it Knovelvallei and later Groote Fontein, but in 1813 it was renamed after the missionary John Campbell (1766-1840). It was an outpost of Griquatown, about 48 km east thereof. Several missionaries visited the area, and services were held under an almond tree before a stone church was constructed in 1831.

Plots were first sold in the settlement in 1875, and Campbell was officially surveyed in 1881. Members of the Kok, Stenekamp, Balie and Bartlett families were among the earliest landowners. By the late 1890s, Campbell had its own primary school, police station and jail. As of 1928 a Local Town Council was placed in charge of Campbell. Today the Siyancuma Local Municipality (including Campbell) has about 38 000 inhabitants, of which the vast majority are Afrikaans speaking.

 Cornelius Kok II

Photograph of the grave in which the remains of Cornelis Kok II [or what was believed to be his remains], as well as several other Griquas were reburied. This grave is located right next to the Bartlett Mission Church.

 By 1750 Adam Kok I (1710-1795) had moved from the Cape to Piketberg where a number of Griquas, Namaquas and Bastards joined his family.  The Cape Government acknowledged him as chief of the various groups and handed him a sceptre as a symbol of authority.

He later moved to the Kamiesberg in the ‘Klein-Namakwaland’ where his son, Cornelius Kok I (1746-1822) joined him.  When Adam Kok I passed away in 1795 he had already passed his chieftainship on to his son, Cornelius Kok I.  In 1816 he and his son, Cornelius Kok II settled in Campbell.  Cornelius Kok I acted as independent captain of Campbell until 1820 when he transferred his authority to his sons Adam Kok II and Cornelius Kok II.  Cornelius Kok II was second in charge.

In 1824 Adam Kok II moved away from Campbell and roamed around until he settled in Philippolis in 1825.  Cornelius Kok II was the captain of Campbell from 1825 until his death in 1858.

The rich Griqua tradition

The Griqua culture is a rich blend of African and European traditions. In the first half of the 18th century missionaries and travellers reported that some Griqua people were still clad in traditional wool and leather clothing, whereas others had adopted European fashions and practices. Today, the majority of Griqua people are Afrikaans speaking, and some still speak the Griqua language. Christianity is deeply ingrained in the Griqua identity.

Two of Campbell’s residents, wearing traditional patchwork clothing.

The Water Snake, a traditional belief of the Griquas.

The Griqua people also practise unique customs, such as female initiation known as Nxabasas. The use of herbs as medicine is common, and traditional beliefs such as the existence of the Water Snake have survived.

This nation came into existence by means of the adoption of different cultural practices and today, people are still “adopted” into this culture, which makes the Griqua people a remarkably diverse group.

Campbell today

The Campbell of today

The present state of the Campbell settlement stands in stark contrast with its rich and fascinating history. Unemployment and poverty is a daily reality in Campbell, and this goes hand-in-hand with the community’s growing ignorance regarding its own past. The creation of a cultural and social awareness and cohesion can perhaps be attained by sparking interest among the Griqua people of Campbell in their communal history.

The time has come to re-evaluate the history of this forgotten people, and to write a transformed history, all the while showing respect for oral tradition and local beliefs. This should go hand-in-hand with giving the clan and descendants of Cornelis Kok the respect and acknowledgement that has so long been withheld from them.

The Griqua People of Campbell: A project funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF)

The project in Campbell was originally proposed to the NLDTF by the Heritage Foundation (HF). The Lotto allocated R580 720.00 for the writing of a research report on the history of the Griqua community of Campbell, as well as the creation of an informative exhibition and website.

During the course of the project the HF aimed to provide short-term benefits to the community in the form of training and job creation. This included the creation of temporary jobs for local project managers, local research assistants and workers contracted to clean historical sites in and around Campbell.

It is hoped that this preliminary work may serve as a basis for a follow-up project, drawing additional funding for community projects in this area. 

Balthi Du Plessis with the Griqua Committee after the project was launched at the meeting on the 16th January 2014.

Persons involved with this project:

Balthi du Plessis – Project Manager

Catherine Snel – Coordinator: Oral history

Jan Kok – Local Project Manager

Niklaas Jaftha – Local Project Manaer

Griet Kock – Local Project Manager

Bruce Younger – Local Research Assistant

Elretha Rossouw? – Local Research Assistant

Liesl Bester – Researcher (Heritage Foundation)