27 May 2013 by Christine Marot

Eating out, township style

A hot favourite of any township tour is tasting shisa nyama (meat barbecued on an open fire) for the first time.

A young dance troupe entertained with a vibrant blur of rhythm and colour

I recently had the opportunity to take an organised tour of KwaMashu township in KwaZulu-Natal – and what an experience it was.

Soaking up the colourful vibe of the Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre Soaking up the colourful vibe of the Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre

A half-hour drive by tour bus along the N3 from Durban central whisked us to KwaMashu, the province's second-biggest township and home to about 200 000. Created on farmland previously owned by the Marshall-Campbells, pioneers of the KwaZulu-Natal sugar industry, the township takes its name from a mispronunciation of Marshall-Campbells.

KwaMashu, like so many of South Africa’s townships, is a vibrant patchwork of homes, from three-bedroomed brick dwellings to tin shacks, wooden huts, small apartment blocks, and everything in between.

The meal was flavoursome and fresh and admittedly the best braai (barbecue) meat I’d tasted in a long while.

Scrawny township dogs soaked up the afternoon sun in the long grass, while rag-tag groups of children waved to our passing tour bus as it wound its way along narrow dirt roads to the Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre – which boasts its own community radio station, Vibe 94.7 – for entertainment and lunch.

A warm welcome from the locals included a taste of umqombothi (traditional Zulu beer) as we made our way to a dance hall to be entertained by an African dance troupe.

Colourful orange and brown ethnic outfits, a powerful drumbeat and African images on a projected backdrop set the scene for the dancers, whose 45-minute performance was a high-energy blur of movement and song. In contrast, maskandi (Zulu folk music) musicians and male dancers followed with a more traditional taste of early township-style music.

Maskandi music Maskandi music

Still feeling the adrenalin of the song and dance, we were escorted to an open-plan gathering place, where orange, green, red and pink cushions on terraces beckoned us to get comfy and sample the fare.

Our township meal was a mix of shisa nyama (meat cooked over an open fire), curried vegetables, lamb stew, pot-baked herb bread and pap (stiff corn-based porridge). The meal was flavoursome and fresh and admittedly the best braai (barbecue) meat I'd tasted in a long while. It was washed down with commercial beer served in a bottle as everyone lounged against their cushions and soaked up the live sounds of home-grown rapper Zakwe.

As I soaked it all in – the music, the food, the people, the colour, the atmosphere – I was already planning my second township visit, this time to Max’s Lifestyle in Umlazi. 

  • For KwaMashu township tour enquiries, call Sabelo Mazibuko on +27 (0)73 549 1111 or Khetha Mkhize on +27 (0)79 214 9034.

Category: Culture & History

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