Khoisan men sing during a poster unveiling of a new name for Cape Town in honour of deceased leader Dawid Kruiper. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)
Johannesburg – An investigation to get the remains of a 240-year-old Khoisan chief repatriated from Australia is under way, the National Heritage Council (NHC) said on Sunday.
“Chief David Stuurman was one of the few known people who successfully escaped more than once from Robben Island,” said NHC spokesperson Danny Goulkan.
He said the chief was incarcerated there for his persistent fight against colonialism as early as around 1808 and 1809.
Stuurman died in the General Hospital in Sydney in 1830 after travelling on a convict ship to the continent.
“We are now working on a programme of bringing back his human remains,” said Goulkan.
The NHC was meeting with a team of community members, including descendants and researchers and hoped to assist them to bring back Stuurman – as well as the remains of another Khoisan man, Jantjie Piet.
The council would approach other organisations including the SA Heritage Resources Agency and the National Prosecutions Authority unit which dealt with international repatriation to assist.
Goulkan said there were unconfirmed locations in Sydney where Stuurman and Piet could possibly be buried – but DNA testing would help confirm where their remains were.
Research indicated that both Stuurman and Piet – along with ten other South Africans – were on the convict ship Brampton that reached Sydney in April 1823.
On Tuesday, a meeting would be held at the South End Museum in Port Elizabeth to discuss current research around the two Khoisan men.
In April last year, the remains of Khoisan couple Klaas and Trooi Pienaar were returned to South Africa from Austria.
In 1909, their bodies were exhumed by Austrian anthropologist Rudolf Poch, who claimed to be doing research on dwarfism.
Poch also took other human remains, as well as San rock paintings, to Austria.
The South African government negotiated for over four years to have the couple’s remains returned, together with other artefacts taken by Poch.