The Effendi Legacy: Bridging Cultures at the Bo-Kaap Museum

Dr Halim Gençoĝlu (right) and Nathri Effendi at the opening of the exhibition, The Effendis of 71 Wale Street Bo-Kaap, in the Bo-Kaap Museum. File Picture: Brenton Geach/Archives

Dr Halim Gençoĝlu (right) and Nathri Effendi at the opening of the exhibition, The Effendis of 71 Wale Street Bo-Kaap, in the Bo-Kaap Museum. File Picture: Brenton Geach/Archives

Published May 23, 2024


Last week, Soraya Effendi donated some family belongings to the Bo-Kaap Museum, and Social History Curator at the Iziko Museums of South Africa, Annelize Kotze, accepted the family belongings from Soraya Effendi.

Muhammed Dervish Effendi, a key figure in the Bo-Kaap community, used to leave his house on Dorp Street through the back door for the morning prayer (Fajr) and would lead the prayer at the Auwal Masjid.

His granddaughter, Soraya Effendi, recounts this tradition, highlighting the close-knit nature of the Bo-Kaap community and the importance of the mosque in their daily lives.

This story connects the personal experiences of the Effendi family with the broader historical and cultural significance of the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood.

The Bo-Kaap Museum showcases the history and culture of the Bo-Kaap community, which is known for its vibrant, colourful houses and its rich Muslim heritage.

In 2014, I wrote about Ottoman influence in Cape Muslim society and the Effendi families in South Africa.

These Effendis, actually Turkish descendants, moved to South Africa in the nineteenth century to educate Muslim children at the Cape of Good Hope.

The first was Abubakr Effendi, who established a school at the corner of Wale and Bree Street and died in 1880 after serving the Cape Muslim community for 17 years.

The Ottoman Caliphate continued to support Cape Muslims and appointed another Turkish scholar in Cape Town.

Mahmud Fakih Effendi from Bo-Kaap pursued Islamic education in the Ottoman Arabic school while living at 71 Wale Street, today’s Bo-Kaap Museum.

Due to the title “Effendi,” people often confuse these two prominent Turkish scholars in South Africa.

When I searched these families in Turkish archives, I noticed that the property at 71 Wale Street used to be the house of Mahmud Fakih Effendi, the last Ottoman scholar in South Africa.

Mahmud Fakih Effendi taught his students in Cape Town for more than twenty years and was the first to translate Surah al-Mulk from Arabic into Afrikaans.

The late Ahmed Davids stated that Ghatib Mahmud was a popular teacher among Cape Muslims and resided at 71 Wale Street.

In 2016, I provided historical consultation to Iziko, and we opened the Effendi Room in the Bo-Kaap Museum. The grandchildren of Mahmud Fakih Effendi donated their personal belongings to the Bo-Kaap Museum.

Another descendant of Muhammed Dervish Effendi, Fadli Wagiet, stated that he was “sad because of the removal during the Apartheid regime but glad that the history of 71 Wale Street was corrected due to the research of Halim Gencoglu and efforts of Iziko even if many years later.”

Today, the Bo-Kaap Museum, situated in Cape Town, showcases the cultural heritage of the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood.

It offers a glimpse into the unique history and vibrant identity of the Bo-Kaap community and Ottoman relations with South African Muslims.

The Bo-Kaap Museum is not only a historical building for the Muslim community in the country but also a cultural bridge and heritage for Turkish descendants at the Cape of Good Hope.

* Halim Gençoğlu.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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