Ansela van de Caab
The story of Ansela van de Caab still resonates through the South African winelands as one of the most endearing chapters in the history of this country’s wine culture.
When the Cape of Good Hope was established as a Dutch colony in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck, the international slave trade was in full swing. With a new port at the southern tip of Africa, slave ships trafficking people from African countries to a life of slavery at the Cape and other parts of the world were a common sight. Ansela’s story begins during this dark period in history with the Dutch colonists capturing a Portuguese slave ship carrying slaves that had been forcibly taken from their home country of Guinea.
One of the slaves, a woman, was enslaved in the Cape’s notorious Castle. Here the woman gave birth to a baby girl who was named Ansela. During those time slaves born in the Cape were only given Christian names, followed by Van de Caab – Dutch for “from the Cape”.
Ansela spent her infant years as a child slave in the vicinity of the Cape Castle, the Cape Gardens and the market area of Greenmarket Square. Yet each evening she and hundreds of other slave children and women were locked up in the notorious slave quarters.
Having reached womanhood, Ansela fell in love with Laurens Campher, a dashing German soldier in service of the Dutch East Indian Company. They obviously had to keep their illicit love affair a secret and could not even afford to dream of getting married.
Laurens had a deep love for the soil and had always dreamt of becoming a farmer. So when the Cape Governor Wilhelm Adriaan van der Stel granted a farm to Laurens in 1685, he moved to this piece of land at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains, some 40km from Cape Town and 6km from the town of Stellenbosch.
Whilst setting up his farming venture, Laurens was, however, committed to the love of his life. He would regularly set-off on the three day trek by foot to visit Ansela in the Cape’s slave quarters. Three children were born to Laurens and Ansela, and Laurens’s one wish in life was to see his family set free from slavery and to bring them home.
In 1699 Ansela was released after being baptised in the Castle. Laurens came to collect her and their three children – Cornelius, Jacoba and Agenetjie – and to take them to their new home of Muratie.
During her lifetime on Muratie, Ansela played a major role in building-up the farm into a successful enterprise where the family spent the rest of their lives celebrating their freedom in the shadow of the Simonsberg Mountains.
Today, Ansela van de Caab, Muratie’s multiple award-winning wine, pays tribute to one of the most remarkable stories – and individuals – in the history of South Africa’s wine culture.