Avid researcher remembered

Ebrahiem Manuel, known for his relentless search for his ancestors, died suddenly last week.

Community leader Ebrahiem Manuel, 74, better known as Braimy, will be remembered as being passionate about heritage and ancestry.

The Grassy Park resident died on Thursday June 8 and his janaaza (funeral) took place on Friday June 9.

Yunus Karriem, chairperson of the Wynberg East Civic Association, said, Mr Manuel was, “a good example of where one could see that neither experience nor qualification could trump passion in one’s quest to attain a desired outcome in a particular field. He was able to achieve what other high ranking heritage officials and government departments were not able to do, for example, being able to successfully invite Indonesian and Malaysian dignitaries to our shores.”

Mr Karriem said Mr Manuel was, “always jovial, always ready with a story to tell and always greeted one with a smile as you approached him.”

Mr Manuel grew up in Simon’s Town, then worked in the Simon’s Town dockyard, spending long periods of time out at sea during his working life.

“Much of his heritage research and collection centres around Simon’s Town and its people,” said Mr Karriem.

“The heritage fraternity and the department of cultural affairs and sport should find some way in recognising Mr Manuel and his work. A giant has most certainly fallen,” said Mr Karriem.

Mogamat Kammie Kamedien, heritage activist, said before becoming a commercial seafarer, and avid ferocious reader at sea of old newspapers and magazines, Mr Manuel “left behind a school career at both secular school and madrassah (religious school) which were too restrictive for his energetic personality and inquiring mind. Once he told Dr Richard Van der Ross, the former black Rector of UWC returning from a slave history symposium at Stellenbosch University, that he regular bunked (played truant) from both his primary school and the afternoon religious school to spend his day at the harbour of Simon’s Town until he reached the age to become crewman on one of the commercial trawlers.

“Other than immigration by the coloured intelligentsia as teachers and other professionals like medical doctors, becoming a member of the South African merchant navy was another pathway to interact and engage with the international community, when many black South Africans ended up in our version of the gulags, the dormitory labour kampongs called townships.”

Mr Kamedien said: “Thus in his international travels, Mr Manuel and other seafarers were received and entertained by those self imposed coloured immigrants, the intellectuals and their human capital talents which the nationalist regime robbed from contributing to the development of the South African nation. Due to their overseas hospitality and other residents of these port cities, local seamen like Mr Manuel escaped race imposed township ghettos/ silos, whereby they experienced ship-based world mobile classroom at sea with transnational experimental multi-cultural curricular education which cannot be matched by governmental sanction national classroom education. He and his fellow coloured mariners met people, both ethnic groups and nationalities from all levels and ranks of society,” said Mr Kamedien.

Fuad Viljoen, nephew of Mr Manuel, said his uncle will be remembered as a humble, compassionate, helpful, well-read, diligent and patient human being.

Mr Manuel was never married. He was born and bred in Simon’s Town and moved out by apartheid’s Group Areas Act to Grassy Park in the 1980s.

Mr Viljoen said his uncle’s main aim in life was “to find out where our ancestors were from, which he did.”

He had a display at the National Archives last week and he always used public transport, leaving home at 6am every morning, before he became ill.

Mr Viljoen said Mr Manuel left behind a legacy that showed it is important for people to know where their ancestors came from.

“It is possible for any lay person to do research, and he was living proof of that. He debunked the myth that doing research was the sole preserve of academics,” said Mr Viljoen.