The Koopman Family

Plot 3

Magdalena (Lena) Koopman (nee Swarts)
Husband:Cornelius Koopman
Had 10 children:Johannes Koopman - deceased
Gert Koopman - deceased
Petorius Koopman - deceased
Rachel Koopman - living
Lena Koopman - living
Lydia (Lea) Koopman - living
Marie Appollis (nee Koopman) - living
Elizabeth Koopman - deceased
Andries Koopman - living
Martinus Koopman - deceased
Magdalena Koopman (nee Swarts) came from Nieuwoudtsville. According to family history she was given to a white family to look after their children. Magdelena was still very much a child herself at the time. She learned to read and write by watching the children as they practiced their writing skills in the sand.

Extract from Andries Koopman interview:

“I was born in Oukloof into a family of 10 children where I am the second youngest.

My father was originally from Calvinia and my mother is from Nieuwoudtsville. My mother came to work for Jewish people and my father was also working around this area. They got married and lived in Malmesbury before moving to Riebeek West. A senior of the Old Apostolic Church asked my father to establish a church in Riebeek West. Once the congregation was running, we moved to Riebeek Kasteel with the same purpose.

As far as I know, my father built our house in Oukloof. We were the third house from the top. There were big blue-gum trees at the end of our street. Our house was made from stone and clay bricks. It was very spacious with five rooms. The lounge was big enough to hold our church services on Sundays. The boys stayed in an outside room that was built next to the main house. My parents had a room and the girls had a room. All the rooms were very spacious. The ceiling was made from reeds and there was even an attic to store some of our stuff. The house was comfortable for that time.

Our yard was big enough to keep animals. We had pigs, goats and chickens. I still have a mark above my eye from when a goat kicked me. We just didn’t have the comfort of water inside the house or on the property. There were taps in certain areas where we collected water. It was actually a better existence that what we have here now because we had space. Okay there were no tarred roads or electricity but that also only came much later in Esterhof.

The Old Apostolic Church held its services in our house and the congregation in Oukloof was made up of three households. It wasn’t easy starting a new church in Oukloof because the land and area belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church. I remember one day while all the men were at work, Dominee Venter from the Mission Church came to see my mother and our neighbour. He told them that there wasn’t place for another church in Oukloof and we should rather think about joining the Dutch Reformed Mission Church. They defended themselves and put forward their case.

In the Oukloof everybody knew each other and because it was such a close community, if somebody talked in the dark, you didn’t need to see him to know who it was from the sound of his voice. Also if he laughed. If he coughed, you would know who it was.

It was mostly farm workers and some artisans who lived in Oukloof. I can’t remember any professionals, like the teachers living there. The teachers who taught at the Mission Church School were white and came from Malmesbury and Wellington. They stayed in the white area of Riebeek Kasteel.

Most of the families were big households, not like today with two or three children. Back then families had 10, 12, sometimes 17 children in the house.

Even though I was an Old Apostolic, I went to school at the Dutch Reformed Mission Church. When I was in standard one we moved back to Riebeek West. It was just before the forced removals.

What happened in Oukloof is almost like it happened yesterday. Even though we went to live in Riebeek West, we still came to visit people in Oukloof regularly.

In 1965 when the forced removals took place, I was already an adult working in Cape Town.

The Ouklowers were broken when they moved from Oukloof. It wasn’t just the houses that the white people broke down. They broke the people’s spirits as well. The money they earned was not a lot but from the livestock they had, it made them proud income earners. All of that was taken away. It really put them back. The little bit of opportunity they had in Oukloof was taken away and they had to start from the bottom again.”