Baas of the Kramat: Muslim place and belonging in 19th and 20th century Cape Town

Monday, 19 February, 2018 - 15:00

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Cape Town boasts roughly two dozen sacred Muslim tombs, known as kramats, which mark the resting places of pious, 17th and 18th century exiles from around the Indian Ocean basin. While scholars have tended to approach the kramats as unchanging monuments, which serve primarily as launch pads for broader narratives of Islam and exile in South Africa, they are in fact places with their own, often complex histories. This paper attempts a history of perhaps the most famous kramat of all, that of eastern Indonesian Sufi scholar and exile Shaykh Yusuf of Makassar (1626-1699). By exploring the site’s establishment and the social dynamics surrounding its ownership and development over two centuries, the paper illuminates the role of sacred place and collective memory in Muslim claims to property and citizenship in South Africa.

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