Ebrahim Rhoda receives the inaugural UWC Gold Medal for Commitment to Community Service in 2018.
Ebrahim Rhoda receives the inaugural UWC Gold Medal for Commitment to Community Service in 2018.

'Heritage activist' Ebrahim Rhoda honoured for work in revealing Cape’s hidden Muslim history

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jun 9, 2021

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Cape Town - The University of the Western Cape (UWC) has recognised one of its researchers, dubbed “heritage activist”, for work done in revealing the Cape’s hidden Muslim history.

Ebrahim Rhoda did not only contribute to academia with robust research but through active citizenry, said the university.

In 2018 and at the age of 80, Rhoda became the first recipient of the university’s Gold Medal for Commitment to Community Service in recognition for his dedication to the Strand Muslim Community.

From Strand, Rhoda was a former teacher and principal of the Strand Moslem Primary School for 35 years.

Sheikh Muhammad Faadil Latief, one of Rhoda’s former learners and lecturer at the International Peace College South Africa, said: “He was my teacher and mentor during my primary school years at the Strand Moslem Primary School.

“He was an integral part of our school’s development over many years and he still remains a pillar of support, despite having retired from active service.”

Ebrahim Rhoda has published various books over the years.

Rhoda’s work conveys how histories can be rediscovered through the oral narratives of community sources coupled with archival research. He cites consulting his 90-year-old paternal aunt, Ragiema Crombie, in 1990 about their forebears.

“She could not read nor write, but was endowed with an encyclopaedic memory. Almost all of the names she mentioned I would later corroborate with archival documentation,” said Rhoda, whose quest resulted in him “tracing the slave matriarch of our family”.

Rhoda’s interest in the Muslim genealogy led him to co-found the Cape Family Research Forum (CFRF) in 2002 with other researchers. The aim of the CFRF was to encourage people to research their genealogy, resulting in several families being able trace their ancestry to slaves and exiles brought from Indonesia and other Indian Ocean territories.

Rhoda published a number of articles and three books on the history of Islam at the Cape: From Slavery to Citizenship: a walk through the history of a Strand community (2011); The Strand Muslim Community: 1822-1966 An Historical Overview’ (2014) and The Wentzels: a pioneering family of the Muslim Community of the Strand (2018).

Cape Argus

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