The Effendis of 71 Wale Street, Bo-kaap

The Effendis of 71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap is an exhibition through which Iziko Museums of South Africa hopes to help validate, celebrate and honour the lives of the Effendi family, who formerly lived in the house that now serves as the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum.

Mahmud Fakih Emin Effendi was the second official scholar appointed by the Ottoman Caliphate at the Cape in 1894. His son, Muhammed Dervish Effendi, later followed in his footsteps. The Effendi’s scholarship, Ottoman lineage, South African roots, as well as their connection to and subsequent loss of their family home during apartheid, is not well known. Through this exhibition – based largely on the research of Dr Halim Gençoĝlu (African Studies at the University of Cape Town) and the documents he has managed to retrieve in Turkey and South Africa – and through engagement with the Effendi family, we wish to make their history known. We wish to tell the stories of the owners and occupants of 71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap.   

The archival documents on display show that Mahmud Fakih Emin Effendi and his son owned and occupied the property, 71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap. The Effendi family were forcibly removed in the late 1970s, and in 1978 their house was transformed into the Bo-Kaap Museum, a satellite of the South African Cultural History Museum.

When Muhammed Dervish Effendi’s widow, Mariam, was evicted from the house with her children and grandchildren in the 1970s, every trace of their lives was removed from the house. Previous museum displays indicated a connection with Abu Bakr Effendi, the first Ottoman Scholar dispatched to the Cape in 1862. This has been found to be incorrect. This misunderstanding was caused, in part, by misleading newspaper articles promoting the museum as the home of Abu Bakr, as well as by the display of certain objects connected with Abu Bakr Effendi. The Effendis of 71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap seeks to correct this mis-representation.

In this space, we would like you to engage with photographs and objects on loan from the Effendi family – the descendants of Mahmud Fakih Effendi and Muhammed Dervish Effendi. These artefacts tell the stories of their time in the house and the period after they were forcibly removed during apartheid. The family’s devastating experience of forced removals under apartheid is one that was experienced by many families across South Africa. Theirs is also a history of strength and resilience – after they were removed from their home, the Effendis were able to rebuild elsewhere, continue to educate themselves, and to celebrate the memory and legacy of Effendi.

We are pleased to share with you an overlooked narrative of the house and the family that lived here: The Effendis of 71 Wale Street, Bo-Kaap.

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