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The Story of the Cape Malay
South Africa and Indonesia have only enjoyed formal diplomatic ties since August 1994, but it is not a well known fact that our links stretch back close to three hundred years.
Looking back in history, the colonization of Africa and Asia by European powers from the fifteenth tonineteenth centuries led to the enslavement of millions of Afro-Asian peoples, and an international slave trade. This slave trade led to the involuntary migration of large numbers of Africans and Asians to different parts of the world.

It was one such stream of people, most of whom were political exiles or prisoners who had opposed the colonization of their countries, that came to the Cape of Good Hope (now the city of Cape Town). The first such migrants began to arrive in the latter half of the seventeenth century, mainly from colonies occupied by the Dutch and the British.

The large majority of these migrants that came to the Cape of Good Hope were Muslims, who were captured and sent into exile from colonies such as Ceylon, Madagascar, India and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia as we know it today).

The origins of this migration can be traced to early in the sixteenth century when, at the end of Indonesia's Majapahit Kingdom, European military penetration and anti-Islamic persecution caused resistance. The dutch crushed that resistance and exiled many opponents to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa, which was also occupied by the Dutch.

The first Dutch settlers in the Cape of Good Hope arrived in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck came to the Cape to establish a trading post and supply fort in the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape thus became a regular stopover for trading vessels plying the Europe-East Indies route. In fact, remnants of the settlement can be found

in the city of Cape Town today, such as the Castle or Old Fort.
The Dutch therefore required labour and utilised the opportunity to import political exiles from the East Indies as slaves. Many of these people were skilled artisans, such as silversmiths, masons, milliners, cobblers, singers and tailors. They came to be known collectively as Cape Malay, since despite their diverse origins as far afield as East Africa and Malaysia, and they all spoke the "traders' lingua franca"- Malay.

One such prominent, figure among the Cape Malay, or Orang Cayen (Men of Repute), who resisted the Dutch occupation of the East Indies, and is hailed as a hero in modern day Indonesia, was Sheikh Yusuf. He is credited with having brought Islam to South Africa. Sheikh Yusuf (or Sheikh Yusuf al-taj alKhalwatial-Maqasari, as he is known in religious circles) was born in 1626 in Goa on the island of Celebes (today known as Sulawesi), the son of Makassarese nobility, and the nephew of King Bissu of Gowa.

Sheikh Yusuf spent several years studying Arabic and traditional religious sciences in Mecca, and eventually returned to Banten, West Java, where he taught the Islamic doctrine of "Khalwatiyyah", which he had learned during his years spent in Mecca.

He eventually sided with Sultan Ageng in his fight against attempts by the Dutch to gain complete control of the Sultanates in the East Indies. Sheikh Yusuf was captured in 1683, and exiled to Ceylon and eventually the Cape of Good Hope, where he arrived aboard the ship "de Voetboeg" in 1694.

Having arrived in the Cape, Sheikh Yusuf and his family and followers were sent to Zandvliet farm just outside Cape Town, to prevent his influence on the Islamic slave population. The Dutch attempts to isolate them failed, and Zandvliet became a rallying point for slaves, and other exiles from the East. Today, this farm area is known as Macassar. As Sheikh Yusuf's influence and spiritual teachings spread, the elementary structures of one of the first Muslim communities in the country were established.

Sheikh Yusuf died on 23 May 1699, and was buried on a hill overlooking Macassar. Today, a tomb constructed there is among the 25 Islamic shrines or kramat that encircle Cape Town. In 1705, Sheikh Yusuf's remains were brought to Makassar (Ujung Pandang of today), and interred in a tomb located in Katangka Village, bordering on the Gowa regency.

Ambassador Kubheka paid a historic visit to the tomb while on an official visit to South Sulawesi in March 1997, to pay his respects to the memory of Sheikh Yusuf, and the cultural link between South Africa and Indonesia which he helped to found.

Today in the city of Cape Town, remnants of this culture are to be found as a thriving Cape Malay community lends character to the mother city of South Africa. Cape Malay architecture, food (such as bobotie and yellow rice, samoosas, rotis, etc.), tailor shops, mosques and the warmth and hospitality of the Malay people continue to attract tourists in abundance. Indonesians and Malaysians are visiting Cape Town in increasing numbers to experience this cultural link for themselves.

Who can ever forget the spirit and vitality of a Cape Malay choir belting out original Dutch folk songs on a warm New Year's Eve evening or at Malay choir competitions? Or the vibrance and colourful spectacle of the New Year's Carnival, when in true Rio Carnival style, a song and dance procession by Cape minstrels is held through the streets of Cape Town? Costumes for this carnival are planned and made months in advance by Cape Malay tailors, and are kept a secret by each dance troupe until the very day of the carnival itself!

Quoted from: http://www.southafrica.com/forums/history/4744-story-cape-malay.html

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