Tatamkhulu Afrika was born as Mohamed Fu'ad Nasif to an Arab father and a Turkish mother.
Ismail "Tatamkhulu Afrika" Joubert was born in Sallum in Egypt as Mohamed Fu'ad Nasif to an Arab father and a Turkish mother on 7 December 1920. His parents relocated to South Africa in 1923 where they died from Asian flu leaving him orphaned at the age of two. He was then taken care of by friends and family before being given to a Methodist couple who renamed him, John Carlton. In 1964, he changed his name to Ismail after conversion to Islam.