Cambridge, UK – On a bright summer day in the gardens of Emmanuel College, the soothing sound of flowing water mingled with fond memories and stirring words as family, friends and admirers gathered to dedicate a memorial fountain honouring the late Baraka Khan.
Baraka, who studied at Emmanuel from 2009-2012, passed away in 2016 at the young age of 24 after a valiant battle with cancer. Though her life was short, her spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew her and through the creative works she left behind.
The July 12th ceremony marked the unveiling of the Baraka Khan Memorial Fountain, dedicated to Baraka’s memory on the Emmanuel College grounds.
“As we say in Arabic, may your footsteps be blessed. Thank you so much for being here today to help honour the memory of my remarkable sister, Baraka Khan,” said Somaiya Khan, standing before the gently flowing fountain. Her opening remarks set a tone of grace and gratitude for the day.
Current Emmanuel Master Doug Chalmers warmly welcomed the gathered guests. “I welcome all of you into, with wide open arms, to both our place and to our community. We, as a community, are honoured to be involved in today’s ceremony,” he said.
Chalmers spoke of the centuries-old spirit of Emmanuel as a place of contemplation and community. “I urge you to make the time to stop, sit still, and soak up the beauty of this place. A beauty that Baraka clearly understood and resonated strongly with,” he said, encouraging all to follow Baraka’s example and embrace the reflective power of the space.
Baraka’s former tutor, Dr. Devon Curtis, shared vivid memories of her warmth, curiosity and engaged spirit as a student. She recalled the excitement surrounding her admissions interview in December 2008. “I remember as Baraka left the room, I looked down at my notebook and I had in big capital letters, ‘MUST ACCEPT’,” said Dr. Devon Curtis with a smile.
Lord Richard Wilson, Master during Baraka’s Emmanuel years, regaled guests with amusing stories of their energised debates. “Baraka greeted each conversation with equality and thoughtful reasoning, unafraid to ask questions and challenge assumptions,” he said.
Lord Wilson had the honour of unveiling the memorial plaque. “Baraka embodied the spirit of engaged learning we strive for in our students,” he said. “I’m privileged to dedicate this fountain celebrating her inquisitive nature.”
Speaking fondly of Baraka’s strong sense of self, intellectual engagement, and willingness to debate respectfully, Lord Wilson shared a story when he found out that Baraka had joined the rowing club. “She gave me exactly the same, equal level look. And she said, well master, is it wrong for someone like me to go rowing?” Lord Wilson recounted with delight and added, “She does symbolise a lot of qualities about student life and about our students, which we treasure and value, and are very glad to remember.”
There were also touching readings of Baraka’s poetry by dear friends who knew her at Cambridge. “Baraka’s writing reflects her open heart and courage,” said Mel, holding back tears while reading “Drop by Drop,” written just months before Baraka’s death. “She taught me poetry can be a vessel for friendship and solace during life’s difficulties.”
The festivities also included warm words from Baraka’s Arabic calligraphy teacher, Ustad Moustafa Hassan, who lovingly recalled her passion for both nature and letters. “Baraka in Arabic, it means blessing, and she blessed everybody related to her. From her family to her colleagues, her friends, teachers,” he said.
Baraka’s father, Iqbal Khan, closed the ceremony with a heartfelt poem honouring his daughter’s spirit. “As we name this fountain with love in our heart, may Baraka’s inspiration from our lives never depart,” he concluded, as tears glistened in the eyes of those gathered around the sunlit fountain.
The fountain’s unveiling was followed by a stroll through Emmanuel’s gardens led by Head Gardener, Brendon Sims. Baraka often found peace walking through the lush college grounds, writing poetry surrounded by nature’s beauty.
Baraka touched countless lives with her grace, empathy, and creative spirit. As the waters flow gently in Emmanuel’s new memorial fountain, her inspiration continues to ripple outward in the hearts and actions of those who loved her.