Thanksgiving is historically a religious and cultural tradition that has its roots in North America and Canada. Although not observed as an official holiday in South Africa, a growing number of South Africans have adopted the tradition and added a flare to the celebrations that mark the beginning of the festive season.
On thanksgiving this year, the Open Campus group was treated to a buffet of contemporary South African music and cuisine at the ever so popular Mzansi Restaurant, located KwaLanga – the oldest township in Cape Town. The name KwaLanga means home of the Sun, and was derived from the name of the Xhosa chief Langalibalele, one of the first political prisoners to be jailed on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 year-long sentence.
Mzansi restaurant is among few successful restaurants in South Africa that are located in a township to enjoy the same popularity as exclusive high-end restaurants. Townships are urban areas on the margins of cities that were relegated for black and non-white people under the apartheid system. During apartheid, Black people were violently removed from their properties and relocated to townships as a way to create neighbourhoods for “whites only”. Today, townships continue to bear the bitter legacy of apartheid.
We were served rich flavoured and yummy dishes, including their famous beef curry and roast potatoes. Though we did not have turkey, the scrumptious roast chicken satisfied even the most stubborn of taste buds. Our vegan and vegetarian friends were also introduced to a delectable meatless South African experience.
The charismatic founder and head chef of Mzansi restaurant, Nomonde Siyaka shared with the group about her family’s life history through the narrative of the restaurant. Through Nomonde’s openness and hospitality, we got the chance to not only celebrate Thanksgiving, but also share in the celebration of the triumph of the human spirit through food, song and dance.