Tana Baru graveyard - final resting place of Tuan Guru Imam Abdullah bin Qadi Abdussalam
Guru Toyer Farrath, demonstrating Silat Melayu using a keris dagger in the late 1970s in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Silat style Seni Pukulan Melaka being displayed at the event.
Heritage Day is a South African public holiday celebrated on 24 September. On this day, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.
The Islamic Network group invited us (Persatuan Seni Silat Pukulan Melaka South Africa) to commemorate heritage day with them at the Cantray House in Constansia on wednesday 24th September 2014. A group of 7 pesilats (silat exponents) demonstrated a brief silat presentation to show the revival of the malay martial art heritage in Cape Town.
The event at the Cantray House included various cultural displays and also included the 'Face of Melayu Cape' female competition finals. They marketed the event on facebook with the following, "Come & see photo exhibitions, view the silat demonstration, experience the energy of a traditional Cape Ratiep, listen to stories of of our history & culture, come & see traditional dances, view an exclusive exhibition provided by the Indonesian Consulate & buy a traditional lunch to have on the lawn under our bedouin tent." Meals on sale included deliscious traditional fried chicken and yellow rice, Bobotie, and fried chicken noodles.
South Africa is rich in cultural diversity, and the malays who were forcefully removed from their native lands i.e Indonesia etc, were either enslaved or exiled to the Cape by the Dutch colonialists in the 1600's. This however caused the spread of Islam at the Cape, because many of the Indonesian exiles were well schooled in the Islamic sciences, and the likes of Tuan Guru Imam Abdullah Bin Qadi Abdussalaam established the first Masjid and madrassah (islamic school) in 1792.
Although this Imam was well known for his knowledge of Islam (about 5 handwritten copies of the Quran exists which he wrote from memory), we could assume that the Imam also knew silat, the malay martial art. This is assumed because amongst the possessions of the Imam at the Cape, he owned a sword and shield from the Island of Tidore, Indonesia. Malays under Dutch colonial rule were not allowed to practice any form of martial art for obvious reasons. Thus, any silat knowledge amongst malays at the time would have been lost over time.
It is said that the Keris dagger/sword is the symbol of the malay people. Apart from it being a silat weapon, this sword is also used as a ceremonial weapon, at weddings where the malay bride and groom sometimes wear it as part of their attire. The keris of Shaykh Yusuf (another great Indonesian Shaykh buried in Macassar, Cape Town) is said to be kept in a museum in Netherlands.
South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by remembering the cultural heritage of the many cultures that make up the population of South Africa. Various events are staged throughout the country to commemorate this day.
In 2005, a media campaign sought to "re-brand" the holiday as National Braai Day, in recognition of the South African culinary tradition of holding informal backyard barbecues, or braais.
On 5 September 2007, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his appointment as patron of South Africa's Braai (Barbecue) Day, affirming it to be a unifying force in a divided country (by donning an apron and tucking into a boerewors sausage). At the end of 2007 National Braai Day changed its name to Braai4Heritage and the initiative received the endorsement of South Africa's National Heritage Council (NHC).
Organiser Jan Scannell (known as "Jan Braai") announced that the aim is not to have a mass braai, but little ones with friends and family. Some have commented that this is a ploy to make people forget the history and the original meaning of why the day was created.