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District Six Museum co-founder Noor Ebrahim remembered as a ‘powerful, charismatic storyteller’

District Six Museum co-founder Noor Ebrahim remembered as a ‘powerful, charismatic storyteller’
Noor Ebrahim, co-founder of the District Six Museum. (Photo: X, formerly Twitter @CapeTownSquad)

An educator and storyteller is how District Six Museum co-founder and author Mogamat Noor Ebrahim is being described following his death.

Mogamat Noor Ebrahim, a co-founder of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, has been described as a “powerful, charismatic storyteller” following his death at the weekend. He was also an author and education officer at the museum, until his retirement in 2022. 

“His personal story enabled young and old to understand the devastating impact of the Group Areas Act – his dedication and commitment to telling this story has contributed to the success of the museum, enriching many lives,” said Chrischene Julius, the museum’s collections manager. 

Ebrahim died at the age of 79 and was buried according to Muslim rites on Saturday. He was born and lived in Caledon Street, District Six, until his family was forcibly removed to Athlone in 1974 under the Group Areas Act. 

His son, Isgaak Ebrahim, told Daily Maverick that his father died peacefully. “My dad was an amazing man who loved us unconditionally and was focused on improving the life of his family till the end,” he said, adding: “He dedicated his life to bringing awareness and telling the story of District Six, and leaves a wonderful legacy.” 

His father “always had the best interests of his family at heart”. Even when it came to his funeral he had wanted convenience for his family. He had wished to be buried in Mowbray instead of Athlone, where most of his family are buried. This was for the family’s convenience, said Ebrahim. 

Noor Ebrahim

Noor Ebrahim at the District Six Museum on 23 June 2011. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Michael Hammond)

Sharing stories

In the mid-1970s, Noor Ebrahim had started taking pictures and documenting the destruction of District Six. “He shared these images through calendars and postcards and they became popular keepsakes – eventually becoming part of the museum’s exhibitions when we found a home in the Methodist Church in Buitenkant Street,” said Julius. 

“Noor was one of the founding members of the museum and was with us as a volunteer since 1992, two years before the museum officially opened in 1994,” she said. 

For 30 years, while working at the museum, Ebrahim recorded people’s stories, helped build a community around the museum and continued to share his personal story. He retired in September 2022. 

Ebrahim’s book, Noor’s Story: My Life in District Six, is sold in the museum and through online retailers such as Amazon and Goodreads. Julius described the book as a “poignant recollection of the deep family histories and community connections that were lost with the destruction of the area”. 

Noor Ebrahim’s death follows that of another former District Six resident. In August, ballet dancer Johaar Mosaval died at the age of 95. He was South Africa’s first black principal dancer at England’s Royal Ballet. DM

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