Brook-Lynn Norkie

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

El Draque and the Drake’s of the Eastern Cape

For years my family has believed that we are descendants of Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. According to my grandmother’s sister, Daphne, upon Drake’s arrival in South Africa, him, and his brother – Thomas – had a fight. So enraged by his brother, Thomas felt that it was better for him to stay – he settled on the east coast, which today is the Eastern Cape. Thomas then began his new life and married a Khoi woman, with whom he started a family. They went on to have many children, of which one came to own a farm in Hankey, which is coincidentally where Sarah Baartman was from. A few hundred years later, my great-great-great-great uncle, Boet, apparently received a letter from Queen Victoria stating that a representative of the family should make their way to London, as it was confirmed that we are descendants of Francis and need to claim our inheritance. Unfortunately, uncle Boet feared the sea and the money was never claimed. An alternate story that circulates my family, according to my great-great aunt Anne, is that the Drake’s are descendants’ of 1820 settlers – who originated in Plymouth and were descendants of Drake’s brother Thomas. The settlers settled in both East London and Grahamstown. Today, some of the family still resides in Grahamstown and others in Port Elizabeth. Whichever story may be true, the ardent belief in this myth has given my family a great sense of pride.

However, compelling these stories may be, they still lack hard evidence, such as records of the letter from the Queen and records which state that the Drake’s never settled in South Africa, in 1820. Therefore, through this body of work, I investigate how claiming a European genealogy might affect a family of colour, especially within the landscape of post-apartheid South Africa, where petty apartheid and the colonial matrix of power still function. By using a decolonial lens I try to imagine an alternate reading of my family’s history, one in which their imagination works as a tool of liberation - in that they can transcend apartheid’s imposed racial groupings by claiming a more trans-national identity.

This cape is a most stately thing, and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth, and we passed by it the 18 of June. Fletcher & Drake, 2017:252