In the course of the eighteenth century new communities – defined by race, religion and culture, and differential access to land and power – began to emerge. In the almost complete absence of the written word, they lacked the prophets or scribes who could ‘imagine’ a new community and exhort followers to pursue a particular mission. They were tied together as a community through the spoken word.
Among the communities in the colony who began to crystallise in the eighteenth century were the ‘Bastaards’, Muslims and Afrikaners. Along the northern and eastern frontier, people of mixed origins lived alongside and sometimes among the frontier burghers. They were commonly called ‘Baster’ or by the Dutch word ‘Bastaard’, which referred to the offspring of liaisons between Europeans, slaves and Khoikhoi, but also to subordinate blacks who could speak Dutch and ride and shoot.