Free tours at the Tana Baru on Heritage Day

The Tana Baru is offering free guided tours of the oldest Muslim cemetery this Heritage Day.

The Tana Baru is offering free guided tours of the oldest Muslim cemetery this Heritage Day, Sunday September 24.

The Tana Baru is regarded as the most hallowed of Muslim cemeteries in the Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. It holds a rich and illustrious history of Islam in South Africa.

The Tana Baru Trust that manages this heritage site will offer hourly guided tours as part of its public participation programme. The first tour will start at 10am and the last tour at 2.30pm. The duration of each tour is approximately 45 minutes.

The trust will also unveil a plaque at the grave of Omar of Ambon. Omar of Ambon was incarcerated on Robben Island for revolting against the Dutch VOC occupation and colonisation. The ceremony will be attended by descendants of Omar of Ambon.

Chairperson of the Trust, Dr Adil Bassier, said the Tana Baru has the distinctive feature of being the cemetery in which probably the highest concentration of Robben Island prisoners since the 18th century is buried.

These include Tuan Guru, or Qadi Abdus Salaam, born 1712, and who was a prince from Tidore in the Ternate Islands, of Indonesia. He was brought to the Cape on April 6, 1780 as a “state prisoner”.

Other Muslim luminaries who are buried there are Tuan Sa’id Aloewie, Tuan Nuruman (Paay Schaapie) who both served time on Robben Island, Turkish born scholar Abubakr Effendi, along with prominent Muslim women of the time, such as Saartjie van de Kaap and Saamieda van de Kaap .

“At least seven stations of interest will be visited during the tour. This will include the graves of Tuan Guru, Tuan Said Aloewie, Sheikh Abubakr Effendi, Carel the Pilgrim, the Chinese Tomb, and the grave of the Rhode Child. The Rhode Child was buried at the Tana Baru despite the authorities at the Cape banning, on January 15 1886, any burials on the precinct. Aggrieved Muslims demonstrated their defiance by burying the boy at the Tana Baru on January 17 1886 and afterwards displayed public displeasure through what the authorities called ”riotous behaviour,” Dr Bassier said.

Although closed since 1886, the Tana Baru continues to reveal invaluable information about itself. The trust in conjunction with the Cape Family Research recently discovered the grave of another exile, banished in 1772 from Ambon in Indonesia to the Cape. Omar of Ambon’s grave was discovered next to the shrine of Tuan Said Aloewie.

“It is not just in the interest of the Muslim community that we preserve the heritage of the Tana Baru but in the interest of the wider South African and global Muslim communities.

“The histories of peoples of southern Africa are so intertwined and over time that interconnectedness has been reinforced. The future will tell us even more,” Dr Bassier said.

For more information, call or send a WhatsApp message to 072 157 4534.