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The Arabic Afrikaans Writing Tradition, by Achmat Davids

The Arabic Afrikaans Writing Tradition, by Achmat Davids

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Afrikaans developed when slaves in the Cape adapted Dutch – the language of the rulers – for their own use. Many years later Afrikaans was hijacked by some white Afrikaners as ‘their language’, but Davids proved beyond doubt that it was the descendants of the slaves, not their masters, who first wrote Afrikaans.

“…Davids straddled different fields and roles: unlike the linguists, he was also an historian and a community leader with deep roots in the Muslim community of Cape Town. He first established himself in the 1980s as an expert on 19th-century Cape Muslim history with two books, The Mosques of the Bo-Kaap (1980) and The History of the ana Baru, (1985). His work contributed much to inspire a new generation of historians of the colonial Cape to write more inclusive histories, which also paid attention to Islam. Thus, when Achmat Davids turned his attention to the contribution of Cape Muslims to the history of Afrikaans, he did so with a foremost knowledge of their socio-cultural history and with extensive access to informants and (private) sources which probably no other individual could have commanded. For this reason, this book is of as much importance to historians of the colonial Cape as it is to historians of the Afrikaans language and South African Islamic culture.” –Gerald Groenewald

The focus of this book is the Arabic-Afrikaans literary tradition of the Cape Muslim community. It looks at the emergence of this tradition at the Cape of Good Hope, as well as the social vehicles through which it emerged and through which it was in use. This is done through an examination of the literature, in the form of manuscripts and publications, it generated during the first hundred years of its existence.

Importantly, the book looks at the development of the distinctive Arabic alphabet that local Arabic-Afrikaans authors used to convey accurately this community’s mother tongue.

The history of the Afrikaans language is still very little understood and discussed, and this book illuminates the extraordinary story of its beginnings, with slaves and colonisers, with Xam!, Indonesians, Malaysians, Turks and imams of all stripes. It’s a wonderfully rich story told in detail here, with verve and a keen ear for story.

Jacana Media is delighted to make available again a classic work of South African hidden history, that of the Arabic Afrikaans literary tradition. Previously published in 2010 as The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims from 1815 to 1915, this edition carries a new introduction by Heinrich Willemse.

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