Stuurman’s spirit laid to rest: Final homecoming for Khoisan chief

After decades advocating for Khoisan chief Dawid Stuurman’s spirit to be repatriated from Australia where he died while imprisoned, the Eastern Cape government finally brought his spirit home this week.

ANC MPL in the provincial legislature Christian Martin and sport, recreation, arts and culture MEC Pemmy Majodina travelled to Australia to repatriate Stuurman’s spirit.

The two led a delegation, which also included members of Stuurman’s family who performed a ritual at the Central Railway Station in Sydney where Stuurman was allegedly buried.

Stuurman was a political activist detained under the British colonial administration in South Africa in the 1800s and sent to Robben Island from where he managed to escape three times.

He became an icon and formed a pivotal part of Khoisan history.

During his third escape attempt in 1820, he was again recaptured, jailed and three years later transported to New South Wales.

He was recorded to have died at the age of the 51 in the Sydney Infirmary 10 years after being jailed.

The delegation met with the Progressive Aboriginal Cultural Group and shared ideas of the repatriation process.

Stuurman’s spirit was returned to South Africa with the use of umphafa tree branches which carried the spirit earlier this week.

Martin, who vowed not to cut his hair until Stuurman’s spirit was returned to South African soil, had his hair cut by Majodina during the ceremony, the department’s spokesman Andile Nduna told the Dispatch yesterday.

Speaking from the East London Airport this week, Majodina said the Eastern Cape government also repatriated the spirit of Xhosa prophet Makhanda Nxele who drowned while trying to escape with Stuurman.

“This is history in the making, we are rewriting our own book.

“We were sent from pillar to post in Australia while trying to find the remains of Chief Stuurman. First we were told the remains were in a mass grave and then we were told that it was being stored in a museum. But when we sent our delegation there, there were no bones.”

She added that when they eventually located the remains, they only returned with “a fragile little box that represents who Tata Stuurman was”.

Speaking to the Dispatch from Hankey yesterday, Martin said he was thankful to representatives from The South End Museum in Port Elizabeth who made the trip possible through their research.

“It was a great moment indeed and we appreciate the efforts of Errol Heyns and Collin Abrahams who made it possible,” he said.

Yesterday, Stuurman’s spirit was put in his final resting place in the Sarah Baartman’s Heritage Centre in Hankey. —

Please sign in or register to comment.