September commemorates the annual Heritage Month in South Africa. The premise for this year’s Heritage Month is ‘Reclaiming, restoring and celebrating our living heritage’.
Heritage Month recognizes aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and intangible. For 84-year-old, Zainab Davidson nee Amlay or ‘Aunty Patty’, as she is affectionately known, her heritage comes with fond childhood memories that are weaved together by spring days on the mountain slopes, picking supple fruits and salty hair after a long day of catching both sun and sardines on the Simon’s Town beachfront.
“Oh, it was beautiful!,” gasped an animated Aunty Patty.
Sitting with her hands folded in her lap, looking out onto her plush Simonstown garden, Aunty Patty recounted how safe children were back then.
“It was a wonderful way for a child to grow up, we had the mountain and we had the beach. We didn’t have crime and vicious experiences. Children were safe to frolic as they pleased, and the saying ‘your child is my child’ was lived in its entirety,” smiled Aunty Patty.
50-year-old Simon’s Town resident, Razia Hoosen explained how Muslim youth needed to travel to receive an Islamic education.
“After the Group Areas Act ensured eviction for everyone who didn’t have business rights in Simon’s Town, the youth were subjected to finding alternative ways to ensure Islamic knowledge was upheld. We used to travel from Simon’s Town to Lotus River, Diep River or sometimes we would go to Ocean View but it was a challenge that we handled with grace,” smiled Hoosen.
However, Aunty Patty is of the opinion that money has caused the destruction of the youth.
“As far as I am concerned, money is a big devil. Money is everybody’s God now. We must have the best cars, best dress, best weddings and the best jobs. No man, We used to serve out guests with paper plates,” chuckled Aunty Patty.
“Everyone wants to show the next person how rich they are, and how much money they have. When we were young all that mattered was that the person you were getting married to had a good character and was a practicing Muslim,” said Aunty Patty matter-of-factly.
Aunty Patty explained how the tradition of food has adapted over the decades.
“Back in my day, Malay people couldn’t make samosas, rotis and biryani. When I got married 60 years ago there wasn’t anyone in Simon’s Town who knew how to make a samosa but now you can walk into any white café and order a briyani or a curry. But I can assure you, it is not the original kind of 60-70 years ago,” beamed Aunty Patty.
Hoosen, who is only one of a handful of Muslim families in Simon’s Town reminds those who are surrounded by their believing brothers and sisters to understand how fortunate they are to share the greetings of peace and blessings.
“I long for a day where I can open up my window and say Asalaamualaykum to the world! I don’t think people who have that luxury realize how fortunate they are to share greetings and to have a warm koesister on a Sunday morning,” laughed Hoosen through teary eyes.