Back to Bo-Kaap for 85th birthday

Jenny Clayton, Eunice Joemat, Reginald Joshua, Jolene Joshua and Edwin Joshua..

The Bo-Kaap community has a rich history with its historic streets and homes.

The house at 81 Dorp Street, in Schotcheskloof, believed to be 150 years old, is a special place for Reginald Joshua.

It was here that he was born and spent his first years of his life.

The house, which was once used as a homestead by British settlers, is now home to the Boorhaanol Islam Movement.

Decades after he left the house, Mr Joshua’s children, together with the Boorhaanol Islam Movement, brought him back to celebrate his 85th birthday on October 5.

Mr Joshua was told that his father died while his mother was still pregnant with him. His father had come to South Africa by ship.

Mr Joshua’s youngest daughter, Jolene Joshua, started researching her family about 13 years ago. “Three years ago, we did a genealogical DNA test of my father’s paternal line and the test revealed that he had a European heritage,” she said.

Ms Joshua said she had found her father’s birth record at Peninsula hospital and it had the address where his mother lived, which was the house at 81 Dorp Street.

“That is our link to this property, the British famously hosted parties in this garden and it would not be strange if my grandfather was of British descent,” she said. Ms Joshua said she and her siblings wanted to give their father an opportunity to go back to his roots.

“The only house he remembers is his home in Green Point, which was his maternal family home, but his actual start was in Dorp Street,” she said.

Ms Joshua said they had built a relationship with the Islamic Society and Boorhaanol Islam Movement, which now managed the house. She said they had been partnering with them as they discovered and unpacked what this house meant to her father.

“We were invited to the opening of the house two years ago after its restoration and they were happy to let us have my father’s birthday here,” she said.

Boorhaanol Islam Movement member, Mohammed Saied Solomons said they wanted to keep the heritage of the house alive.”We fixed up the house two years ago and we turned it into a kindergarten school,” he said.

Mr Solomons said they heard the interesting story of Mr Joshua and were more than happy to let his family use the space for his birthday. He said they would do all they could to preserve the house. “I’m so glad that the children took the time and energy to dig the roots of their father and thought they should come here for his birthday, if such a facility could serve purposes like this, it is truly worthwhile preserving,” he said.

Ms Joshua said as much as identities were constructed through various things such as names and cultural practices, they can be also be constructed through the continuity and the shared security of a place.

“A place is a very significant construct in terms of how our identity is formulated and for my dad, there were so many silences and blanks in terms of his history and being able to attach his very beginning to a particular place,” she said.

Ms Joshua said she was happy that the house was restored to what it looked like in the 1930s. She said that meant that her dad was able to step back in time and see what it would have been like for his mother who lived there.

Ms Joshua said the Bo-Kaap and its heritage provided continuity of place for many people. She said the area signified where life began for many people who were born and were still living in the area.

“The future of the Bo-Kaap must not only be tied into the issues of development of space but to the continuity of place, and of identity for the people of Bo-Kaap,” she said.