Traces of the Ottoman Empire in UCT Libraries Special Collections
On Tuesday 22 October 2019, UCT Libraries Special Collections launched a new exhibition of manuscripts and books in our holdings exploring traces of the Ottoman Empire in the Cape of Good Hope. The exhibition was launched at a special luncheon in the Jagger Library which aimed to commemorate and celebrate this rich untold history and its influence on the Muslim community of Cape Town.
The event was spearheaded by UCT scholar, Dr Halim Gencoglu, based in the African Studies Centre. He conducted his postgraduate research on the history of Sheik Abu Bakr Effendi and has written extensively on his life and work (1814-1880), an Ottoman professor of theology who was sent by the Ottoman Sultan to the Cape in 1862 to teach and assist the Cape Malay Muslim community. He also published an early Arabic Afrikaans theological work Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens (“The Exposition of the Religion”) or Bayan ad-Din in 1877, and other works.
The display also commemorates the role of anti-racism activist Mahmud Hashim Pasha, of Ottoman origin, who played a significant role in shaping the history of South African Black identity. Pasha protested alongside the likes of Sol Plaatje against racial discrimination, particularly the Land Act of 1913.
Dr Gencoglu had also identified extensive records in Arabic and Turkish in the existing archival papers of Admiral Baldwin Wake Walker. He was given permission to accept a command in the Turkish Navy between 1838-1845, in which he was known as Walker Bey and later as Yavir Pasha. The Sir Baldwin Wake Walker Papers (BC356) held in Special Collections contains extensive records on the Turkish period of Sir Baldwin Wake Walker’s naval career. Walker, who later served as Commander-in-Chief at the Cape of Good Hope Station in Simon’s Town between 1861-1865, is also acknowledged for playing a critical role in the Royal Navy’s suppression of the slave trade from their base at the Cape.
The event provided a wonderful opportunity to highlight such material as rich untapped alternative sources for South African historiography. More importantly, it provided an opportunity to bring together the descendants of the Effendi, Pasha and Walker families for an intimate gathering. This occasion was made particularly special with the handover of manuscripts and rare books in Arabic-Afrikaans dating back to the late nineteenth century by members of the Effendi family.
Guest feedback from the event
Very interesting talk. Fascinating to hear all about the Ottoman connection to South Africa and all the families involved in its history.
On behalf of the Effendi family we would like to congratulate the Special Collections of the Jagger Library in highlighting the contribution of our family into the South African history. We would also like to thank Dr. Halim. Keep up the good work!
Thank you Halim for hosting an interesting discussion on the Turkish families and Admiral Walker. I really appreciate your efforts in researching the collection.
One of the more than 100 great-grandchildren of Professor Dr. Seyid Abu Bakr Effendi originally of Erzurum, Turkey and the first Turk to be sent to South Africa by Sultan Abdul Mejid-ibn Mahmoud. He arrived at the Cape in 1863 during the reign of Sultan Abdul Aziz. He is reputed to be one of the 3 pioneers of the Afrikaans language.