Creed, Culture, Colour – The Construction of Western Cape Women Slaves, South Africa (1843 to 2003)


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Women and Gender Studies


This study focuses on the forging and changing identities of women slaves and their roles and agency in the journey from slaves to citizens in the Cape, South Africa (1843 -2008). A group of slaves formed the St. Stephens church in 1843. In 1857 the Dutch Reformed Church initiated apartheid when their synod passed the ruling that whites and blacks could not jointly have Holy Communion. Yet in that same year, this slave congregation decided to join this White synod which, until 1994, marginalized them. In this highly fragmented, racial, social, political, and patriarchal environment, how did power dynamics play out? What was the role of women slaves in these power games? This project explores the social transformation within the microcosm of the congregation of St. Stephens and explores the agency, lives, and power of women within it, tracing the changing South African political scenario and women’s responses to them.