The Lansdowne community gathered at Portia Primary School’s hall on Friday September 27, to honour their beloved doctor, who served them for 30 years.
Dr Mohammed Cassiem D’arcy, 79, was more than just a medical doctor to his patients and most of the 200 people who came out to pay tribute to him were former patients of him.
The event was purely community-driven, and was initiated by Dr D’arcy’s former secretary, Natasha October, and Dr Fareed Khan Sarguro – the doctor she currently works for. The idea came about when Ms October saw all the posters of politicians vying for votes before the May elections earlier this year.
“We felt that he has been in the community for many years and then he just left but he made such a big impact on many people’s lives. I worked for Dr D’arcy for 10 years and for Dr Khan Sarguro for almost 20 years. Dr Khan Sarguro took over the surgery of Dr D’arcy when he left in 2000,” Ms October said.
Ms October then made it her mission to go into Dr D’arcy’s archives, and contacted his former patients. All the entertainers on Friday evening, were all former patients.
Two other doctors who were among the guests, Dr Amina Sulaiman and Dr Hasseena Hassan, were his patients when they were children. Both said he inspired them to become medical doctors.
Dr D’arcy is not just a medical doctor, he is also a visual artist, author and activist, and wrote a column for 26 years for Muslim Views, where he wrote about art, history, heritage and culture – things he said were neglected for coloured communities.
After Dr D’arcy graduated from the University of Cape Town (UCT), he left the country to work in Canada. He recalled a painful moment when, as a student, his lecturer asked him and three other students of colour to leave the laboratory, as the cadaver (body) they had to work on, was white.
“The day after my graduation, I left the country because I did not want to work in a segregated hospital,” Dr D’arcy said.
He worked in Canada and later continued his studies in America, to become a specialised pathologist. When he came back to South Africa, he wanted to teach but apartheid policies frustrated him and he opened his general practice.
He opened his first practice in Gleemoor in 1969, and moved to Lansdowne in the early 1970s. When he left the practice, he went on to lecture at the Western Cape Dental School.
Apart from this, he also wrote books, and three of his novels received national and international recognition for being among the top books for young adults. One of these three, Rage of the Seawind, was selected among the White Falken Collection in the then West Germany as one of the best books internationally.
One of his paintings were printed in a collection of 20th century art and was exhibited at Iziko Museum. Called the Devil’s Revenge and depicting the forced removals from District Six, where he was born, Dr D’arcy’s painting was also exhibited at the Baxter Theatre during the original run of District Six, the Musical.
Hi artist friend, Achmat Soni, said Dr D’arcy bought two of his paintings when they met and these still take prominence in Dr D’arcy’s home.
“He always motivated and inspired me. He has been doing it for many years without expecting rewards. He is a living legend. I don’t think anybody has done more for the arts in South Africa than what he did,” Mr Soni said.
Another friend, William van Graan said Dr D’arcy is not just a giant, he is a colossus. “He has very many special interests, and he is exceptionally passionate about reading. He believes in making this world a better place for all creation,” Mr Van Graan said.
When asked how he feels about the community getting together to honour him with a gala dinner, Dr D’arcy said: “I am no saint, but tonight I feel like I am in heaven. This evening is one of the highlights of my life. I would like to thank all who are here, and especially Natasha (October). She is very dedicated, faithful and focused in what she does. Medicine has been among my passions – but my real passion is in teaching. The crux of medicine is that one can always learn from your patients.”