On Saturday while Israeli’s and Palestinians were devising new methods of killing each other, because of a school project, my son forced our family to visit the Irma Stern museum. It was a cold and wet Ramadaan morning and I had no interest in art, especially art made famous by a Jewess.

Walking around the place, I was intrigued with the artist’s regular focus on Muslim themes. In her collection there are several depictions of Muslims from almost every corner of the world. It was obvious that her sojourns into the Muslim parts of Africa impacted on her growth as an artist.

Irma Stern was born in Schweitzer-Renecke, of German-Jewish parents. She undertook several journeys into Africa; going to Zanzibar twice in 1939 and 1945. While some of her work has sold for huge sums of money, it was the front door of her house that impacted on my emotions.

In 1940 in Rosebank was a privileged white Jewess woman who attached a wooden Zanzibari door to her house. In the top center of the door in Arabic was elegantly carved out, ‘Allah Arahmaan, nir Raheem” which loosely translated read “In the name of God Most gracious most merciful”.

While I know nothing of her political leanings or views on Zionism, I saw a universal Muslim prayer engraved honorably, greeting every visitor who entered the home of Irma Stern.

Ironically, I did not see a mezuzah {a piece of parchment inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah} which is usually attached to the inside front door of a Jewish home.

While some Jews, Christians and Muslim are determined to undermine and destroy each other, there are those amongst us who can remember a time in history when relations were different.

The museum is managed by the University of Cape Town is worth a visit, if just to read the inscription.

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress


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