December 21, 2018 by Fakir Hassen
A collection of over 3 000 books by leading writers from across the globe, amassed over six decades by members of the Keshavjee family, descended from original settlers in Marabastad in Pretoria, has found a permanent home at the Knowledge Centre in Sandton.
The handover ceremony was dedicated to the memory of the late Ismail Mahomed, Chief Justice of South Africa, who passed on in 2000.
“No one can deny the seminal role that Ismail Mahomed played in the restoration of the confidence of the people of South Africa in its judiciary as an important pillar of the Rule of Law in the new South Africa,” said Mohamed Keshavjee, internationally-renowned academic born in Marabastad and now living in the UK.
“I somehow became the custodian of this collection which grew from a handful of books in Marabastad to the library it has now become, as my 11 siblings and I travelled through a number of countries in three continents over the past 60 years, looking for a homeland, but never forgetting our roots which are deeply located in this beloved country,” Keshavjee said as he expressed his delight that they were now housed in the country where many of the books were once banned under the apartheid regime.
“After moving to Kenya, I was fortunate enough to be able to collect books on the African Freedom movement written by renowned African writers. I also collected books by many South Africans that were banned in their home country.”
The collection also has the first 12 volumes of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, which cover the entire South African period of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. In addition, there are biographies of Gandhi ranging from the first ever, by the Reverend JJ Doke and other authors.
“We also have the first biography on Mahatma Gandhi ever written by a South African Indian. This was by PS Joshi and I have a personally autographed first edition of it,” Keshavjee said.
The Chairperson of the National Committee for South Africa of the Ismaili community, Yasmin Kurmaly, said that the books are now being catalogued to become an important resource, but because of the rare nature of the collection, could unfortunately not be part of a lending library.
“However, the Knowledge Centre has an Early Childhood Development programme and this collection hopefully will inspire mothers to encourage their children to read,” Kurmaly said.