Daltjies & Kapparangs is the halaal South Park we didn't know we deserved

“A lot of the people sharing it are actually non-Muslims. This is also about educating non-Muslims about Islam.” (Facebook: Daltjies and Kapparangs)

“A lot of the people sharing it are actually non-Muslims. This is also about educating non-Muslims about Islam.” (Facebook: Daltjies and Kapparangs)

A woman asks a reality TV show to investigate her husband’s “suspicious behaviour during Ramadan”, because she has a hunch that he is eating during the Muslim fast. A man keeps a grudge book of people who have angered him during the holy month so that he can rawl (confront) them once Eid is over. Another man, maddened by the prohibition on sexual activity during fasting hours, greets an attractive stranger with the words: “Is it Eid tomorrow? Because I saw the moon in your eyes ...”

Welcome to the anarchic comic world of Daltjies & Kapparangs, a new web series that takes a serious topic – the month of Ramadan – and gives it a satirical spin, using crude but effective hand puppets.

When Malick Abarder was growing up in Mitchells Plain, his father would regale the family with humorous observations about life on the Cape Flats and its culture. This provided the inspiration for Daltjies & Kapparangs, which started life as a cartoon in 2011, before evolving into its current incarnation as a series of three or four-minute videos.

“It has always been about taking a swipe at Muslims, particularly from the Cape Flats.” Abarder, who is Muslim himself, is quick to clarify this: “We are not poking fun at [Islam] itself, because that’s sacred.”

The Capetonian is a graphic artist who saw an opportunity to present a lighter side of the Muslim community than is represented in mainstream media. “We Muslims like Star Wars, we watch TV; we are ordinary South Africans who are also capable of making social commentary. The perception is that laughing or humour in Islam is very restricted” but this is not the case.

Abarder (47) says one cartoon featured a particular Cape Town religious leader well-known for a catch-phrase he uses at weddings. He was apprehensive when the leader phoned him, “but he said the Prophet always encouraged humour”.

He has three collaborators: comedian Ya’aseen Barnes, Cape Malay singer Nathier Adams and journalist Shafeeqah Isaacs. What the four share is a keen interest in, and wide experience of, Cape Flats culture. They had originally hoped to use actors, but didn’t have the budget. A solution was found: puppets.

“We meet once a week and everything happens within a two-hour period,” Abarder says. “A lot of it is made up on the spot.”

The show’s title is derived from a Cape word for chilli bites, daltjies, and kapparangs are Malay sandals.

“Everyone has their own recipe for daltjies. Some of them add different vegetables, or have different mixtures. That’s a metaphor for the different types of people that make up our culture.”

The show’s current theme is about Ramadan and dealing with the trials of the month-long fast. Abarder says there is much fodder for humour.

“Some of the funniest things about Ramadan are the culture and traditions very specific to Cape Town, such as the sending of treats from one home to the other, which establishes goodwill and sharing.” He pauses. “I like to say it’s the daltjies that binds us.”

Much of his show’s humour is based on observing people. “Muslims always wait till the last minute to do everything,” Abarder says, by way of illustration. “If you’re going to have a haircut, it will be the night before Eid. If you’re going shopping for Eid, you’re leaving it till the very last Saturday.”

Abarder and his team join a growing number of South African comic artists choosing to put their work online. The most successful, such as Suzelle DIY, can attract hundreds of thousands of views. Abarder says Daltjies & Kapparangs is already averaging 25 000 views an episode, despite the fact that the series is in its infancy. Social media has been key to its dissemination.

Nonetheless, Abarder’s dream is for a local TV broadcaster to pick up the show. He says the group is combining all the episodes to make a pilot, which he hopes to sell after Eid. The show’s puppets are also up for a redesign to make them more like Jim Henderson’s Muppets.

“We have had people emailing us asking if we are going to continue after Ramadan,” says Abarder. “We first want to look at getting a sponsor. These things take time.”

According to Statistics South Africa’s latest general household survey, 1.9% of South Africans identify themselves as Muslim and the highest concentration is in the Western Cape. But Abarder hopes the appeal of Daltjies & Kapparangs is not limited to his own community.

“A lot of the people sharing it are actually non-Muslims. This is also about educating non-Muslims about Islam.”

Abarder says he isn’t aware of any similar creations, though his original cartoons were compared with the darkly humorous stick-figure series Cyanide & Happiness.

“One of the comments has been that this is the halaal South Park,” he laughs.

Not everyone in his community sees the funny side. “Some people say this is how attacks from religious groups start [like the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo].

“But it’s [ Daltjies & Kapparangs] so different. People are chatting about it, having a laugh. I haven’t had somebody come up to me and say this is offensive.”

For Abarder, there’s one important rule of thumb: “As long as I’m not offending Allah or my mother.”

 
Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis has a master’s in English literature from Rhodes and a master’s in linguistics from Oxford University, UK. After a stint at the Oxford English Dictionary, she returned to South Africa, where she has been writing stories and columns for various publications, including the M&G. Her first book, Best White (And Other Anxious Delusions), came out in 2015. Read more from Rebecca Davis

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