Anonymous: Portrait of Jan Anthonisz. van Riebeeck, 1st Commander of the Cape of Good Hope (1660)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Jan Anthonisz. van Riebeeck is an important figure in the history of South Africa. He founded Cape Town and is regarded by some as the founding father of South Africa. Although the Cape was discovered by other explorers, somebody seemed interested in founding a colony in that area. The Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) however saw in the Cape a good place to start a way-station to provide fresh provisions for the Dutch merchant fleets sailing between the Dutch Republic and the Dutch colonies in Asia. van Riebeeck volunteered in 1651 to undertake the command of the initial Dutch settlement in the future South Africa. He landed at the future Cape Town on 6 April 1652 and fortified the site (Fort de Goede Hoop or 'Fort of Good Hope'). In his time as commander of Cape of Good Hope he gradually extended the site, planting cereals, fruit and vegetables and obtaining livestock from the indigenous people. From 1662 to 1665 he was governor of Dutch-Melaka and eventually became Secretary of the High Government of Batavia. van Riebeeck died in Batavia at 18 January 1677 but his tombstone was donated to South Africa in later times. This portrait is from 1660.