In a captivating storytelling session held at Afed Tower on November 24th, 2023, young boys aged 7 to 10 and girls (aged 7 years and above) were taken on an enchanting journey back in time. This storytelling event, part of the Khoja Heritage Events leading up to the Khoja Heritage Day on 2nd December 2023, served as a crucial link between generations, ensuring that the rich tapestry of the community’s history remains woven into the fabric of their identity.
The Storytelling Session was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the AFED Archives Section, in conjunction with the Hidayat Workshop Team, and was skillfully facilitated by Sr. Aamina Bhimani. Her expertise added a special touch to the storytelling experience, creating a captivating atmosphere that transported the young participants into the heart of their community’s vibrant past. The fusion of history and storytelling, coupled with Sr. Aamina Bhimani’s guidance, made this session an unforgettable and cherished moment for all involved.
The narrative unfolded the remarkable story of the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community – a group of adventurous individuals hailing from the lands of Cutch and Kathiawad in India. These brave pioneers, driven by faith and the spirit of adventure, set sail across the Indian Ocean, facing storms and challenges to establish a new home in East Africa.
At the heart of this tale was Haji Dewji Jamal, a visionary leader born in India. His transformative journey to Karbala in 1873, where he solidified his beliefs, marked the beginning of a grand adventure. Bringing back Mulla Qadir, who imparted knowledge about Shiism and correct Islam, Haji Dewji Jamal set the stage for a migration that would shape the destiny of the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community.
As the dhows, traditional sailing vessels, sailed towards East Africa, laden with spices, textiles, and unwavering faith, the pioneers faced adversity with prayers, faith and shared stories. The challenges of the journey were not just a test of physical resilience but also a testament to the bonding and camaraderie among the community members. The arrival on the shores of East Africa marked not only a geographical shift but a cultural blending as the Khojas embraced the local communities, building mosques and community centers.
Among the key figures highlighted in the session were Haji Abdallah Kanji and Haji Sachedina Pirani Mawji, whose contributions played a pivotal role in the community’s growth. Haji Abdallah Kanji, a successful businessman in Kenya, not only prospered in his endeavors but also contributed significantly to the community by constructing houses and establishing the Alibhai Panju school. Meanwhile, the simplicity and dedication of Haji Sachedina Pirani Mawji, known as Satchu Peera, left a lasting impact on the community in Dar es Salaam.
The storytelling session aimed not only to recount historical events but also to instill a sense of pride and awareness of the community’s heritage in the young audience. In a world characterized by rapid change and globalization, understanding one’s roots becomes a crucial anchor. The Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community, while embracing new cultures and languages in East Africa, never forgot their origins. They celebrated festivals, wore traditional attire, and passed down stories through generations, ensuring the preservation of their unique cultural identity.
The event also incorporated a meaningful activity focused on tracing familial connections through a family tree exercise. Participants were encouraged to bring photographs of themselves, their families, and ancestors, creating a visual representation of their interconnected heritage. The family tree activity served as a hands-on experience for the participants, allowing them to actively contribute to the exploration of their roots.
Moreover, the event went beyond storytelling with a creative twist – a treasure hunt challenge. This interactive component engaged the children, encouraging them to explore and connect with tangible aspects of their heritage. By doing so, the event not only transmitted historical knowledge but also sparked curiosity and a hands-on connection with their cultural roots.
To further enhance the cultural experience, the children were treated to a delightful culinary journey with a serving of traditional Khoja cuisine. Delicacies carefully curated from the community’s culinary heritage were offered as cultural takeaways. The flavors and aromas of the dishes not only tantalized the taste buds but also served as a sensory extension of the rich cultural tapestry being celebrated.
In essence, events like these play a vital role in promoting cultural heritage among the younger generation. By understanding and cherishing the struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs of their ancestors, the children are better equipped to appreciate the values and traditions that define their community. The Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community’s journey serves as a testament to the strength of human spirit, the importance of faith, and the power of cultural blending. In sharing this narrative, we ensure that the flame of our heritage continues to burn bright, passed from one generation to the next.
ARCHIVES SECTION OF THE AFRICA FEDERATION
26th January 2024/14th Rajab 1445 AH