Our food is fun!

Our goal is to share this with others. We want to connect diverse worlds through the universal language of food.

Our food is exotic because of its diversity. Its shapes, sizes, colours, aromas, and flavours. Grown by people of many tongues, cultures, and customs in different geographies across the continent of africa. It represents the infiniteness of life.

It is divine because we treat it with the reverence it deserves. We celebrate its life-giving and medicinal qualities. As it is created for us, so do we use it to create for ourselves and others. the cycle of life. 

We are believers in the power of ital – the secret in healthy food, that magic, the zing – and the many benefits of a vegetarian diet. Ital is vital!

Sourced from Mozambique, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, the many parts of our continent. It comes to us, and we go out in search of it. Johannesburg is the centre of the world and we are surrounded by the markets of the people of the nations of Africa who have made the inner city their home. With them, they have brought their foods and cultures which they share and trade in the CBD. 

In some ways then, we are in the beating heart of African food in Joburg. 

Our goal is to share this with others. We want to connect diverse worlds through the universal language of food. Our tongues may be many, but our stomachs are one. Just as we have had to learn, we want to teach others, to show them how to eat again. Healthy food is just one part of this, for we have also lost the ritual of stopping to break bread together, to talk, share, and celebrate the life we are taking in. 

We want to invite you to come and have fun with us…

From the world outside comes the tortured cries of a street preacher, blaming his wife and kids for all his woes as he works to recruit passing souls. The only thing louder than his speaker system is the soundtrack of the city, the minibus orchestra, hooters massaging the criss-cross traffic, feet walking in unison and to their own rhythms. The flow. 

Not far from this, the hot aroma of braaied meats dilute the air with their concentrate. The lids of pots spit out steam from pap cooking and meaty stews. Around a fold out, metal table stand a group of men. One mechanically spoons chunks of some part of a cooked animal onto the sticky surface. He cuts it into bite-sized morsels which are scooped up by hungry hands, deosited into hungrier mouths. There are no plates, no cutlery, serviettes, or washing bowl. They stand in silence. Each one eats his share, pays, and moves on. In search of some unknown destination. 

Two young men pause on the pavement. The one slides a torn plastic sack from his shoulder. Together they smooth out the edges and wipe away dust before arranging their wares – beanies, wallets, belts, plastic bowls, and other bits and bobs. The set them out in a configuration they think attractive. Open for business. Hoping to catch a piece of the endless two-legged commerce. All around the mass of moving humanity create the flow that is the order in what seems chaos. 

Behind ageing walls is an open air courtyard. The air swirls inside this brick and concrete space. Carelessly discarded plastic bags, ons used to convey cheaply made chips to MSG hungry mouths, float around until find a place to stop, and stay. The heavenly sounds of children at play. An island in the inner city. From ground level up the buildings rise. All that is left is floor and sky. And yet green, green, green, has found a home in this manmade place. The flies dart about the air in a swarm, land, vomit their joy on scraps above the heads of worms in compost bins working hard to create the fuel for this thriving oasis. It seems so out of place. 

The sun arches across the sky, its light touching the names imprinted on concrete columns in this former parade ground. Names that still echo through time, telling of people that had a very different vision for spaces such as this - Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Helen Joseph, Farid Adams, Joe Slovo, Lillian Ngoyi. Names that tell of a time when this space shared in expanding the darkness of this apartheid past.

This ruined former “native’s” prison, turned military barracks in 1904, found new life again when it prepared to host the trial for alleged treachery, the Treason Trial. That was until the wild energy of the city in 1956 threatened to up-turn the place. Another close call came in ’61 when a man named Slovo nearly planted an MK bomb here. Time and turbulence marched on. In 1992 even the soldiers left in the face of the promise, 1994. Then came the desperate. Just after two fires. In 2002, a facelift, then abandoned. And forgotten years passed until 2008, when artists from near and very far attempt to revive. After, the dispossessed return again. Nothing until 2012 when the one, whose given name means the most high, staked a different squatter’s claim. This same ebb and flow energy throbs still. eGoli, the City of Gold, goes boom and bust. The cycle repeats. Always. For that is the spirit of this place. 

In one room, along an eerily silent corridor, pots and pans slowly surrender their aromatic cooking heat. Satisfied utensils rest, pieces of rainbow ingredients still clinging to them. Their work is done. A near-empty bowl of roasted peanuts, from Mozambique, is all that is left of this divinely exotic ital feast. 

That was fun. 

 MENZI, KGANYAPA & SIYABONGA

MENZI, KGANYAPA & SIYABONGA