Secretly I Will Love You More
For most of my
life, I have lived in a suburb of the city of Cape Town, South Africa, within a
thirty-minute walk of where I was born. Much of the work I do as a creative
person is based on exploiting the latent potential of this out-of-the-way place
I call home. Before 1652—when Dutch colonists arrived at the bottom of Africa
where Cape Town now stands—the area had been the ancestral home of the Cape
Hottentots. Within fifty years of the Dutch arriving, the ancient culture of
the Hottentots (who called themselves Khoikhoin) had been all but extinguished
in their encounter with the Europeans. Over the centuries, the pre-colonial
life of the Cape Khoikhoin has been erased from popular memory. They have been
My artwork at the Venice Biennale draws on the secret utopian potential
of the historical encounter between the Hottentots and the Dutch at the Cape in
Shortly after her
arrival in 1652, Maria de la Quellerie—wife of the first Dutch commander at the
Cape—took Krotoa, a Khoikhoin girl-child, into her home to live with her
family. Krotoa had learnt to speak Dutch by talking with sailors who had come
past the Cape on their way to the East. Even though a child, she played an
important role as an interpreter between her people and the Cape Dutch. (Sadly,
her role between cultures ultimately led to her rejection by both the Khoikhoin
and the Dutch, and she died abject and destitute).
My artwork begins by imagining that Maria de la Quellerie loved little
Krotoa so much that she learnt to speak the child’s language. In the artwork,
Maria sings a gentle Khoikhoin lullaby to an out-of-frame, sleeping Krotoa. The
lullaby is full of the characteristic click-sounds still found in Nama, an
endangered Khoikhoin language spoken in present-day Namibia.
We have no record of any Dutch
colonist ever learning to speak the language of the Khoikhoin people whose
ancient territories they annexed at the Cape. It was always the other way
around: the Khoikhoin were forced to speak Dutch. Due to these—and related—pressures
the language of the Cape Khoikhoin has long been extinct.
In the artwork,
we catch Maria in a moment of reverie and realization, singing of her profound
connections with this strange pseudo-daughter and the exhilarating potential
that exists between two people facing each other across incommensurable
Lyric for Secretly I
Will Love You More (written by Andrew Putter)
Do not fear me little one –
welcome into our home!
How beautiful you are,
little shiny one, with your woolly hair,
smelling of sweet buchu.
Your differences from me make you so
Your smallness belies your
Meeting you has changed us forever.
I will love you as I love my own
Secretly I will love you more.
The warm summer wind blows and it
makes me dream.
I dream of your people and my people
changing each other.
Welcome into our home precious child.
Nama translation of lyric for Secretly I Will Love You More (by Pedro
Ta !ao ti ‡khariro -
//Kore //kare-he sida oms !nâ.
Mati koses a exa naparas !abuxa /ûn/kha
‡khon buxuba rahâm.
Sa !kharasasib ge.
//n_tikose sasa ra !gom/gausa kai.
Sa !kharisib ge ra sa !gom /gausasiba ra ‡hûmi kai.
Sasa /hau-us ge sida huka-/gui ra /khara/khara.
O ta ni /namsi ti oâna ta /nam khemi:
‡Gan!gâsa se ta ni /namsi !nasase.
/Gamsa //khanab di ‡oab ta !gom tsî ra //habo kai te.
//Hawo tara o ti khoin tsî sa khoin xa ra în /khara.
//Ore //hares sida oms !nâ !gom/gausa /_oa.