Of Shoe Shops, Dressmakers And Balls
An excerpt from the interview of Rosa. A wonderfully articulate and soft spoken lady, with a quick sense of humour, it was hard to capture the subtleties of her tone in this short extract!
I attended the Catholic Sisters School because they gave us the best education. They were all nuns, the people there. We had to learn English, Arabic, French and Italian. I even learned dress-making there. I used to do all the dresses for my sisters. I had two brothers and two sisters. My sister Yvonne was very fond of painting, she was very good. She used to get up very early in the morning, at five o’clock or six o’clock, very early, to paint. That was the loveliest time for her to paint. She didn’t learn how to do it, it was all a hobby for her. She did ceramics also. Her second husband was a famous hairdresser in the 1960s and he propelled her into that world after she came to England. She was not a conformist, she was Bohemian by character and...she was a very good cook.
We had the dressmaker in Sudan. She used to sew all of our clothes. Sometimes she cut the fabric and I make the dress, but she could also make the dresses. In one day she could even make three dresses! But, she leaves all the finishing touches to us. She doesn’t do that, she gives it to us to do. She does the main work, the machining and we do all the cleaning. We never left the dresses without them being touched. We did all the cleaning and the embroidery. I was very good at embroidery, and tapestry also. You know, we never thought of buying ready made clothes. At that time it wasn’t feasible. We used to make it at home, all homemade. And that lady, she used to do any of the dresses you wanted, any design we want we can tell her and she will make it for us. Also my father, he had a shoe shop. My father’s name was Samuel Dayan and he came from Egypt. He married my mother Sophia there, and then after that he came to Khartoum because of her. He was looking for work and then he had his shoe shop. At that time it was a Bata Shoes - Bata Shoe Shop. But he also sold tennis shoes, ordinary shoes for the day, and also women’s shoes. Many, many types of shoes he had.
The Jewish Club used to do a special evening once a year, they made a Ball. All the ladies used to dress in their best, in evening dresses and they would dance and also gather money for the synagogue or any other things the community needed. We used to go to the Jewish Club every evening because it was nearby us. My mother used to crochet and so she would take her crochet with her, and I used to play Ping-Pong sometimes, or have a chat with whoever was there. We were a very close community. And, the people who were not in Khartoum went on the big occasions: Rosh Hashanah, Purim, the Ball. We were very close, everyone was nearby each other and we all knew each other like a family.