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Also Kapstylhuis, Kapstijl house, Kapstyl house

Is a dwelling which today is usually described as an A-framed house. It has a paired couple frame which is thatched with reeds and thatching grass. The feet of the couples often stand on low side walls to prevent them from decaying as they do when embedded in the ground. The entrance is in one end and it is illuminated by two small windows; one in the end opposite the entrance and one in the side.

(Walton, 1995: 125)

Kapstyl is a C20 neologism borrowed, possibly, from the German 'kapstil' to describe the A-frame structure. The problem is therefore that no term existed in C19 to describe these structures other than the contemporary hartbeest house and the fact that there are no illustrations of these while those of the kapstyl proliferate. An old Pochefstroomer remembers these houses being called 'tent' house1 thus further clouding the issue. Walton2 would have the walled and roofed variety distinguished from the roof alone variety since he sees the former as having European precedent while the latter he sees as a derivative of the dwellings of the Khoi.

As generally described the kapstyl is a thatched shelter carried by eight trusses which, in the simplest form as found in Natal and the Cape, rest directly on the ground. A floor area of approximately 7,6 x 5,0 m is covered by trusses with intermediary tie-beams (hanebalke). To this are attached laths and the entire structure thatched. Low walls may be found inside where roof meets ground. The thatched ends are rounded, with a door in the one and sometimes windows in the other.

Building commenced with them pacing off the dimension of the walls and the four corners were marked. Furrows were then dug between these marks, all of half a foot [150mm] deep; then holes for the poles all along the trench. First they made four holes at the corners of about three foot [900mm] deep and planted long poles. These were the four corner poles of the house. Between these poles they planted other poles every four feet [1200mm] along both long sides; only where the door was to be might they place two poles close together if it had to be wide. At the short sides where the gables of the house would be the poles were put further apart. Once firmly planted and well compacted in, all neatly in a row, then the end of every pair on the long sides would be bent towards each other and bound with thongs. If pliable enough the ends would be bound alongside each other so as not to have the points sticking out; if too stiff to bend then they were crossed and bound and the bits sticking out cut off.

Once all the poles were well secured they began binding laths to the poles evenly at about spacings of a foot [300mm] or a foot-and-a-half [450mm] on which the thatching would rest.

Right at the top, where the poles were tied to each other, they placed a thick piece of wood along the length and tied in the crotch to serve as the ridge. Once the laths and ridge were tied then the skeleton of the house was done. Lengths of trees were left here and there and these could be used for 'hanebalke' to further strengthen the top of the poles.

So that the poles might be bent towards each other the walls were of necessity skew below and now to put a door in the angled wall was a problem. This needed an invention which was well achieved. A proturberance (tuitjie) was made for the door. Where the two poles were planted at the place where the door was to come two more were planted and cut off at the top at the height that the door was to be: and these were put nicely perpendicular since they were to serve as the door-frame. Again short pieces of wood and thongs were bound above and to the sides of the poles for doorframes and the poles of the wall to keep them standing up nice and straight.3

  1. Labuschagne, 1988: ?
  2. Walton: 1987a: 18-23
  3. Spoelstra, 1924: 67-8
abbavuurherd or komyntjie Photographer: Marcus Smit'>