Sara (Saartjie) van de Kaap

We live in a time where wealth defines prestige and signals status. This materialism is symptoms of both the time we live in and a post-Apartheid generation where people were denied opportunities by virtue of their race. It is therefore even more remarkable to learn about Saartjie (Sarah) van de Kaap who in her lifetime went from slave to landowner and chose Islam and her community above personal gain.

Ms van de Kaap was born in 1775 and died in 1847. She was the daughter of Trijn van de Kaap and Coridon of Ceylon. Her parents were manumitted slaves and her name implies her roots steeped in a community of slavery. Her father owned the properties and he was freed as a slave. Ms van de Kaap bought the Dorp Street properties (the house and the mosque) for 3,000 guilders from her mother who had inherited the properties from her husband (Coridon) on 7 October 1797. Ms van de Kaap’s husband was the Imam of the mosque. The act of the transfer was a strong recognition of the Islamic right of female property ownership in a time where many countries had still not granted women this right. Instead of using the property for her family’s personal gains she recognized the need to ensure the longevity of the mosque into perpetuity. Her will (executed on 1 December 1841 and amended in 1843) stipulates that the mosque property shall be used as such for as long as Islam is allowed as a form of worship.

She embodied the belief that through knowledge and prayer, emancipation of the spirit could be achieved for a community that had been trampled by the relentless colonial tyranny. Ms van de Kaap teaches us about selfless generosity and allows us to glimpse into a time where her vision for what was to come transcended the time in which she was located.

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