Griqua Reminiscences -
Paul Murray (seen right)

Hello from UK,

It is such a delight to find the web page Griquas.com and to see Scott Balson’s work, project and books.

My name is Paul Hendricks Murray and I was born in England in 1952. I have been retracing my steps that bring me back to South Africa, to the Western Cape, and to what I sincerely believe is my indigenous Griqua heritage. Let me briefly tell my story….

My birth mother is British and I was adopted at three months. My father had come to UK from South Africa and though he wanted to raise me he had no resources and most importantly no ‘right’ to claim me in British law at that time. His name is Jacobus Hendricks and he’s 83 three years old. Though Jacobus didn’t bring me up directly and I was adopted by an English family, I was always brought up around my father Jacobus, and my half-brothers. Jacobus decided to settle in UK and married an English woman when I was about 5 years. My father always chose to designate as ‘Cape Coloured’ and was born in Diep Rivier, Cape Town around 1924.

In my youth my father, Jacobus, began to tell me stories. He is an inveterate and charmingly eloquent storyteller. His stories were about Cape Town, about being Coloured in such a racially obsessed environment as South Africa (pre and post apartheid), about his Ma, about his family, his friends and his life until he left Cape Town in 1950. My father was staunchly ‘cape Coloured’ in terms of his identity and was never fascinated by his Afrikaner Hendricks heritage. In many senses my father was quintessentially a ‘District Six’ youth. My grandfather, Robert Hendricks, a poor white, was ‘disowned’ by his Hendricks family when he married my Grandmother. Though I never met him, I‘m proud of his commitment to traitor his whiteness (his white privilege) in raising ten Coloured children, and for his dutiful and loving fidelity to his wife, my Grandmother.

Now to the point of connectivity in my story - My grandmother was Jeanette Hendricks, nee Van Rhyn, a woman of colour. She was born around 1906 on a farm in Sutherland in the Karoo. Her story is that her father was a Boer by the name of Van Rhyn, and her mother whose name I sadly don’t have (my great-grandmother) was an indentured labourer (neo-slave) on the farm. By day the Boer van Rhyn was an upright member of the Dutch Reformed Church and white community. By night, though, he made further use of my Great-grandmother’s working body. From this ‘arrangement’ my Grandma was born and what is pleasingly ironic is that so many of us Hendricks have sprung from what I imagine to have been an abusive relationship between van Rhyn and my great grandmother. My great-Grandmother was Griqua, and in turn my Grandma always and only designated her ethnic identity as Griqua, and never ‘Coloured’. When the boere Van Rhyn died, his white sons immediately moved to have my Grandma sent away from the farm because of the ‘shame’ and stigma she brought to their family. Somehow she found her way to Cape Town and entered service with a Jewish family, until she met Robert Hendrick’s. How this came about is not a story I’ve been privileged to know.

My grandmother told all of my generation of cousins that she was descended from Adam Kok. This was not so much a romantic myth it seems to me, as it was a talisman of her consciousness, her memory of who she was, and her heritage; a storied way of embodying her Griqua identity lest she should ever forget it, if you know what I mean.

I imagine that there have always been romantic and hopeful tales told by people of Diaspora like the Griqua’s whose lineage and identifications have often been difficult to trace, to record and retain. I imagine every Griqua will claim descent from one of the great ancestors Waterboer, Kok, De Fleur or Hendricks. Peoples who have been violently severed from their heritage and personhood, as happened to the Griqua’s as a nation, and to individual people of Griqua heritage, must have needed that one assurance or certainty to cleave to in what was otherwise a sea of disconnection. But I don’t believe my autobiographical ‘family’ story is at all ‘fly by night’. I have a deep sense of connection and pride with my Griqua heritage even though this is mainly reinforced by my passion for historical material, and my heritage is in many senses held in my imagination. But I know my paternal great Grandmother and Grandma were both Griqua. This is enough for me to claim my heritage, proudly, as I have done throughout my later life as I have become conscious of what my Indigenous Griqua heritage means to me in times of rootlessness. I know I am Griqua in heritage because of my desire to find my connection with that heritage. What else would move me, spiritually speaking, unless it was the call of my Griqua ancestors accompanied by my curiosity and desire to find belonging? Of course, I would never have the temerity to ‘claim’ to be Griqua in some essentialist way. But I will always feel proud to be associated with the Griqua history and the renaissance of Griqua cultural memory and consciousness hat you are bringing about through Grqiuas.com. And in these troubled times I think reaching out and connecting is a ‘gift’ of brotherhood I want to share with you. If there is anything I can do to contribute to raising consciousness of Griqua in the UK I will be delighted to assist.

I’ve been married to Asma, my wife and life partner since 1970. She is from Zanzibar and of mixed Arab and African heritage, her own paternal grandmother coming from the WaNyema of Tanzania. My son came to South Africa as a professional footballer in the 1990’s to play for Cape Town Spurs but didn’t settle there.

I met my Grandmother and Hendricks family in 1977 in Cape Town and I became immersed and engaged with this story of our Griqua heritage since then as a way of finding my own traces, my own spoor so to speak, and gaining a sense of my own ethnic heritage – and it leads back to Griqua.

On my web page I have posted a photograph of my father Jacobus (with me as child), and my dear Griqua Grandmother so please do take a look by going to http://royagcol.ac.uk/~paul_murray/

It is wonderful to see Scott Balson’s book launch and this renaissance – and reminder! – of the Griqua’s contribution to the history and rich cultural and indigenous diversity of contribution to the nation of South Africa.

Currently I’m writing a PhD in the UK where I am a university teacher and I would be privileged beyond belief to be able to connect with your web page and your project and to mention this connectivity in my PhD thesis thus demonstrating in the world, and in the academy, how far the spoor of the Griqua’s has spread.

I hope you appreciate me reaching through the mist to my Griqua heritage.

With all good wishes,

In brotherhood

Paulus

P. Hendricks Murray

Reply:

5th December 2008

Hi,
 
My name is Bernice and I am very interested in searching for my heritage 'roots' . I was very impressed with the article of Paul Murray.

I am originally from Cape Town, We grew up in Walmer Estate, My father Christoffel Hendricks was born in district six (Balmoral Street) in 1921 and my father's father was Hendrick Hendricks (born 1840). I was wondering if there was a connection.
 
I would appeciate it if you could possibly find a connection, seeing as you have done some research already.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
 
Bernice J
Melbourne
Australia