Friday, November 19, 2010

My Cape Malay 'Children'

The Abus (sans Joe, for he's behind the camera) and their newfound Cape Malay 'family' from South Africa. From left: Omar, Zane, Nabilah, Aadilah & Khashiefah.

Chinese dinner at the Royal Lake Club; a new gastronomic experience for our guests who had never "gone Chinese" before. We had steamed tilapia, buttered prawns, lemon chicken, sizzling beef, cili-fried calamari, mixed vegs, fried rice, chinese pancake, longans & sea coconut... the whole works.... all washed down with watermelon juice & piping hot jasmine tea. What a feast!

Zane and wife Aadilah, parents of 4 year-old Zaarah, left at home with doting family members in Cape Town whilst Mom & Dad took a well-deserved holiday. Dad proudly showed us pictures of his little girl; he obviously missed her very much...

Oh, here comes that pesky cameraman again. Joe was our photographer for the evening; can't say he didn't like it, because taking pictures is one of his hobbies..

Our guests enjoying Eid Adha lunch of nasi minyak, ayam kuzi, lemang, rendang and serunding in our humble abode, before Joe and Awwa transported them to One Utama for (more!) shopping..

Naj (in blue baju) holding court. It was lovely to listen to them sharing stories. Naj flew to South Africa countless times during his five years with Malaysia Airlines, so he was quite familiar with Cape Town and Johannesburg.

At Ali Cafe in Hartamas Square, Sri Hartamas, to fulfill Omar's request for teh tarik. He had tasted it before and had developed a liking for it, but had not had the opportunity of capturing the 'pulling' on film.

We told the teh tarik maker of Omar's request; the chap was only to glad to oblige. Everyone crowded around to see the 'pulling', cameras trained on the action!

That's Nabilah, Khashiefah's youngest sister (my baby sister, says she affectionately). Nabilah's 21 and is about to enter college. Asked about her career plans, she says she wants to teach pre-schoolers.

Pak Abu and Zane taking in the 'mamak' atmosphere.

The Cape Malays Who Came For Dinner .. And Stayed (In Our Hearts)

They say the further you travel, the broader your outlook and the more sensible your views. By the grace of God, I have travelled a fair bit, and have had the opportunity of living and working abroad.

I would like to think I am a better person for the experience. Such exposures have helped in broadening my horizon in more ways than I care to imagine; I am definitely less myopic and more receptive of cultures alien to my own.

One of the few places left for me to explore is South Africa. I may not have been to South Africa yet (mark that word 'yet', ha ha), but for the longest time, since my schooldays in fact, I was affected by its colourful, turbulent history.

Growing up, I had read voraciously about this vast, mysterious continent called Africa. I was engrossed by the stories of Baden Powell and Mafeking, the stately Masais and their cattle, the mighty warrior nation of the Zulus, Ian Smith and his Rhodesia, the Boers with their Orange Free State and their Great Trek.....

And then there were all those amazing accounts and visions of Africa's inexplicable natural beauty; Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, The Great Nile, Table Mountain, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti....

If the Africa of my childhood was synonymous with wilderness and vast open spaces, and an amazing diversity of cultures, the next phase of my fascination was more sobering; I tried but couldn't comprehend this despicable system called apartheid.

Why must these proud, independent black people be enslaved in a land that was rightfully theirs, and made to suffer the indignity of segregation, by invading white colonialists, according to the colour of their skin?

Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko became my (and the world's too) symbols of freedom; my heart cried alongside theirs. I can still recall the advisory stamped on our Malaysian travel document then: "This passport is valid for all countries except Israel and South Africa."

I cheered with the rest of the world when apartheid was finally dismantled. South Africa had finally come into its own; it had arrived. The road to recovery was understandably long and difficult but it was free once again.

For the past two days, my family had hosted five delightful people of Cape Malay origin whose forefathers came from our shores. They represent the modern face of South Africa - young, well-educated and worldly - and they wormed their way straight into our hearts.

Looking back in history, the colonization of Africa and Asia by European powers from the 15th to the 19th centuries led to the enslavement of millions of Afro-Asian peoples, and an international slave trade.

This slave trade led to the involuntary migration of large numbers of Africans and Asians to different parts of the world. It was one such stream of people, most of whom were political exiles or prisoners who had opposed the colonization of their countries, that came to the Cape of Good Hope (now the city of Cape Town).

The first such migrants began to arrive in the latter half of the 17th century, mainly from colonies occupied by the Dutch and the British.

The large majority were Muslims, who were captured and sent into exile from colonies such as Ceylon, Madagascar, India and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia as we know it today).

The origins of this migration can be traced to early in the 16th century when, at the end of Indonesia's Majapahit Kingdom, European military penetration and anti-Islamic persecution caused resistance.

The Dutch crushed that resistance and exiled many opponents to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, which was also occupied by the Dutch.

The first Dutch settlers in the Cape of Good Hope arrived in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck came to the Cape to establish a trading post and supply fort in the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape thus became a regular stopover for trading vessels plying the Europe-East Indies route.

The Dutch therefore required labour and utilised the opportunity to import political exiles from the East Indies as slaves. Many of these people were skilled artisans, such as silversmiths, masons, milliners, cobblers, singers and tailors.

They came to be known collectively as Cape Malay, since despite their diverse origins as far afield as East Africa and Malaysia, they all spoke Malay, the traders' lingua franca.

Omar is in the oil and gas industry. His paternal roots lie in Ipoh and he is mighty proud of his Malaysian link, no matter how distant. He knew no one in Ipoh, but that didn't matter. When he visited Malaysia, he felt like coming home.

Omar's South African lineage had been established since 300 years ago when a great great great grandfather was enslaved and forcibly taken to Cape of Good Hope, where he married a woman of Javanese descent.

Listening to Omar was refreshing. To him. there was nothing not to like about Malaysia; He had been here 13 times and counting. He loved it here and he hoped to one day make it his second home.

They kept thanking us for our hospitality but truth be told I think it's us who must thank them for reminding us how fortunate we are to live in this blessed land of peace and harmony.

We need to be occasionally reminded, by the likes of Omar and his ilk, of the beauty of the word 'Syukur Alhamdulillah.'

PS: It was such a strange coincidence that after we sent them back to their hotel last night, we got home and switched on the TV to one of the movie channels on Astro, and found it screening "Cry Freedom", that powerful 1987 British drama by Richard Attenborough, about apartheid. Truly a fitting end to an eventful evening spent with a bunch of beautiful people. Syukran, folks!


Shahieda said...

Such a fitting post, Sis Puteri! Thank you once again for your hospitality! I await their return to CT for their recount on their visit Insha-Allah!

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Thank you Sha. They were such good company too, God bless them all..

Al-Manar said...

I wonder how this group happened to be in touch with you in the first instance. I have read about Mslays in S. Africa but never have had the opportunity to meet one in person.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Al-Manar: Salam Pakcik. Omar went to school with a blogger friend of mine, Shahieda, a Cape Malay from South Africa. We met Sha last year when she visited KL. She asked if we could extend our hospitality to Omar & co since they would be in town during the Eid; we were only too happy to oblige... ajak raya sama2..

asha'man said...

Mak Cik,
in 1997, i was in South Africa , representing UiTM atthe World Universities Debating Championship. We had to stay there for 2 weeks due to the strict flight arrangements. SInce the host university only provided accomodation for 1 week , we were quite apprehensive as what we should do after the end of the debating tournament. However, a good samaritan (a Cape malay) whom we met at a Mosque nearby the university insisted that we should stay with his family during that remainder of time, and boy we had it good!! The hospitality given to us was absolutely fantastic!! They even held a special kenduri baca yaasin the night before we returned back to Malaysia. Such an unforgettable experience, and such an unforgettable family.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

asha'man - subhanallah.. you experienced firsthand their hospitality and kindness...tu lah, I was told the Cape Malays are by nature full of goodness..

Wan Sharif said...

Reading it all.. your entry and the comments.. bergenang air mata saya..
Alhamdullillah.. there are still kindness in this "dog-eat-dog(excuse the term)" world..
May Allah guide us all..

Omar Kamish said...

Terimah kasih banyak Sis Puteri. For all the times that we have been to Malaysia, this is the first time that we feel as if we have taken a piece of Malaysia and stored it inside of our hearts.
Berkat terkaya Semoga Allah akan dianugerahkan kepada anda dan keluarga anda Insya-Allah
I hope Google translate did a good job...LOL - I am confident that Khashiefah and Nabilah will want to add something, however they are struggling to contain the flow of tears...LOL
Omar, Khashiefah, Nabilah, Zane, Aadilah

Sambung bayar car said...

Nice post! god-blessed

Anonymous said...

Your blog on cape Malays attract me. I was married to a Cape Malay and had the opportunity to mix with the community, very well especially while we were in Middle East. They are very closed knitted community which remind me of our Malay community when we were in 1970s. They have time to visit us at home for coffee (almost everyday). Have planned family gatherings every weekend among friends. Which we dont practise in Malaysia anymore. we are too bsuy working in Malaysia! It was nice experience and feel close to them!.
Allah bless.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I would have loved to meet the Cape Malays. Worlds apart yet so very similar in culture. I read an article about the Cape Malays and they are truly a chip off the Malaysian block.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Wan - indeed, I think it's the melayuness in their blood, ayohwang.. no matter where the melayus land, some things dont change.

Omar - the pleasure is all ours Omar. and you know what yoy folks should do the next time you are here.. eh.. it's the islands off Terengganu for diving/snorkeling and Malacca for sight-seeing, among others that is..

sbc - tq.

Anon 10.11 - that was what omar said too.. that they were such a closely-knit community.

Anon 3.55 - you couldn't have been more right..:D