Joyfully remembering Claremont of old

Robert Abrahams, left, and his brother, Carl Abrahams, look at old pictures of Claremont.

People who once called Claremont home but were forced out of the area by apartheid, meet once a year to remember the old neighbourhood.

There were more than 230 of them at last Saturday’s reunion, held at the Claremont Town Hall. It’s the third reunion since Shireen Sanders started the Former Claremont Residents Reunion (FCRR) group to create a place where people can reconnect and have fun.

There was festive atmosphere at the function with music, karaoke and dancing.

“Usually when the former residents of Claremont get together, it’s for a funeral or janazah, and you can’t be laughing and having fun as it’s not the place for it,” she said.

Many of the former residents, including Ms Sanders, were teenagers when the Group Areas Act forced their families out of the neighbourhood in the 1970s.

“It really brings back memories, and you meet people that you haven’t seen for years,” said Carl Abrahams, of Retreat, who was at the reunion with his brother, Robert.

Shireen Salie was 16 when she left Claremont. She attended Rosmead Primary School and Livingstone High School.

“It was heartbreaking moving out, I still cry when I think about it,” she said.

Moegamat Benjamin said he had ended up living with family in Harfield Village after being thrown out of District Six, only to be moved again.

He said it was “wonderful” to meet up again with all the “lovely faces” from the old neighbourhood.

The outgoing chairperson of the Claremont Reunited Alliance, Boebie Cassiem, said the FCRR would adopt the alliance’s name and continue with the work it did.

“We formed this organisation about five years ago to reunite former members of Claremont,” said Mr Cassiem.

The story of the old Claremont was one that still needed to be told, Mr Cassiem said.

Ms Sanders said the decision to merge had followed a meeting with members of the Claremont Reunited Alliance.

“They will have the annual general meeting next week. The executive will step down and a new executive will be elected,” she said.

At the reunion, the former residents looked over old pictures of Claremont in the early 1960s before the forced removals.

Salegga Patel, from Claremont Histories, arranged old photographs and newspaper articles from the past for people to reminisce as they entered the hall.

“It is so important to keep in touch with your old friends and neighbours. I am still in touch with my old friends from York Street, Claremont.

“We are all grannies now, the closeness we had then, we don’t find in communities today,” she said.