Author: Boeta Moosa Patel (Snr)
So many family histories have been lost to present and future generations, because we fail to keep a proper record of what older people tell us about the past. When I was recently requested to give a brief talk about my own father, many of those present remarked that they knew absolutely nothing about their own grandfather or great-grandfather. Then my brother asked me to find out about the history of somebody else in Paarl, who passed away about fifty years ago. This gave me the idea about contacting my wife’s aunt in Cape Town, who celebrated her 99th birthday on 9 February 2009. This grand lady had a crystal clear mind about the past and what I am about to reveal in the following pages, is chiefly due to her recollection of the past and her patience with the questions that I posed during my visit to her. The lady that I am referring to is none other than Hadja Jamiela Mohammed, fondly known to us as Auntie Myla, the sister of my late father-in-law.
I started off by requesting to know about her own roots, which, incidently would also be the roots of my wife and our own children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. I was quite amazed that she could remember names and places in such detail. She herself was born in Paarl on 9 February 1910. She was part of a very large family. She attended a primary school on the eastern side of the Berg River, while residing in the Ou Tuin area. Her principal at that school was Mr Matthews. In 1917 the Paarl Moslem School was built adjacent to the Breda Street Mosque. This school was originally erected as a Madrassah. The Ustaad, who taught them Islamic and Arabic lessons, was Imam Abdul Gakiem Gamieldien, fondly known as Imam Kiemie. It was here that Aunty Myla developed her fondness for the Qur’an.
Boeta Gamat “Asma” Abrahams & Sis Gabieba (nee Anter)
In 1930, at the age of 20, Auntie Myla married Boeta Umar Abrahams, the son of Boeta Gamat “Asma” and Auntie Gabieba Abrahams. Boeta Mogamat Abrahams was a tailor, who was born in Cape Town. His adopted father was Khaliefa Mansoer of Cape Town. Boeta Gamat’s tailoring brought him to the humble town of Paarl, because there were so many tailors among the Muslims of Cape Town, that competition was rife. The young man would meet his wife in Paarl and the destiny of his offspring would be sealed by this move to the country town.
The late Boeta Gamat would in later years become known as Gamat Asma. Even his daughter-in-law, Aunty Myla, to this day cannot recall why he was given this nickname. I even ventured to ask her whether he suffered from asthma, and she laughingly denied this as a reason for the nickname. Boeta Gamat’s wife, was a very good looking young lady from the large Anter family. Her name was Gabieba. She could make the most delicious koeksisters. She had many brothers, such as the late Esa, Bakaar, Moosa, Abdurahman (Manie), Sulaiman. Most of them were tailors themselves. This could be the reason how the young couple became known to each other. Their sisters were Gabeba, Gadija, Rukeya and Koebera.