Festival-goers dine in Khayelitsha

Guests were treated to a dinner with traditional food as well as discussions on various subjects.

The real meal revolution, it seems, isn’t so much about ditching carbs as it is about embracing change over a plate of steaming umngqusho – something that the founders of Dine With Khayelitsha are teaching Cape Town.

The concept was served up last week Friday as one of the last events on the two-week Open Design Festival programme. It was a first for the festival and one of the ways in which it is trying to extend its reach and relevance beyond the City Bowl.

Festival organisers see its expansions into other parts of the city as crucial to its future. Christo Maritz, Open Design’s director and one of its founders, believes it makes design accessible, and something like Dine With Khayelitsha gets people from different cultures mixing and networking.

“People that live in the city have everything here and these kinds of events are good for getting people to experience what the rest of Cape Town has the offer,” said the Oranjezicht resident.

He said he had nothing but good things to say about the Friday night event in Khayelitsha.

One of the organisers of Dine With Khayelitsha, Sinethemba Makoma, helped host some of festival goers on the night. He said the concept started simmering in April last year when some visiting students from Denmark and Switzerland invited him and his friends to dinner in town.

“We said no, guys, you said that South Africa has been a new experience to you, but we don’t think it has been cause you haven’t seen the township.”

So instead of dinner at a fancy city restaurant, Mr Makoma and his friends asked their mothers to give the students a truly South African experience. The women cooked umngqusho, a stew with samp and beans which takes four hours to prepare, and other hearty traditional fare.

It’s a dinner party that started a dining revolution: township residents host guests in their homes every first Friday of the month. The hosts come up with their own menus and topics for dinner conversation.

“Thus far we have hosted more than 50 dinners and we aim to host at least one dinner a month,” said Mr Makoma.

He said it had been “life changing” being part of the Open Design festival, and the response to their concept was overwhelmingly positive. “Everyone in Cape Town who is in the space of entrepreneurship can hear about us. It’s a great platform to grow both as individuals and a group.”

Mr Makoma said the dinners had started out at a single home, but now other residents were being roped in to host dinner guests. “Sometimes we get declined, but in most cases we get a very good response,” he said, adding that there’s something about sitting down and sharing a meal together that gets people opening up and finding each other.

“They always come here as tourists taking pictures through windows, but we wanted people to come and engage with us. We hated to see people just taking pictures through windows and making their own assumptions.”

Thembisa Qwabe, who hosted one of the groups in her parents’ Khayelitsha home on Friday, had been sceptical at first, but she said it had turned out to a great experience.

“I’m really glad they came, and it is something that Cape Town misses. A lot of people are afraid of crime, but I really enjoyed this experience. I think other people would enjoy it and see South Africa in a different perspective.”

Luthando Dyasi, 23, another Dine With Khayelitsha founder, said the evening had exceeded their expectations, with 65 guests hosted in six houses on the night.

“The dinner and conversations went great, and it was great shared experience. It was all about learning from other people. It was a great evening, and we are looking forward to be part of the Open Design festival for many years to come.”

Open Design’s programme director Sune Stassen said the festival is as much about community as it is about design.

“It’s about creating a new community of change makers. Change makers are not specific to any part of the city or culture. If we want to stand a chance of redesigning our society into a better place that is more accessible and inclusive it will take everyone.”