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Books: Author highlights Asian slavery at Cape of Good Hope

Isna Marifa's novel tells powerful, painful story through rare insights into everyday events

Isna Marifa's novel "Mountains More Ancient" relates the history of Southeast Asians enslaved in Africa, treading a path of graceful reconciliation with history's complexities. (Nikkei montage/Courtesy of Isna Marifa) 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, thousands of people from what is now Indonesia and Malaysia were taken as slaves to the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa. Descendants of this population, who mixed with Europeans and other Asians, came to be known as Cape Malays.

Founded in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company in what is now Cape Town, South Africa, Cape Colony was a way station between the Netherlands and the largely Dutch-controlled East Indies, now known as Indonesia. It provided a break in the long and perilous sea voyage from Asia to Europe, and beyond the haven there was good farmland for former employees and settlers. The Cape's indigenous population, the San and Khoe speakers, were decimated by war and disease brought by the Europeans, making imported labor logical and necessary for the colonists.

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