The Mother City is a network of cultures that reflect the heritage of her people. It is also a place that people of different nationalities now call home. With them, they have brought traditions which you can encounter. Some of these are by South Africans who have been inspired by cultures from all over the world.
If your passport isn’t likely to get a stamp anytime soon, here are some ways to experience the rest of the world from your doorstep.
1. Italian tombola at Lingo
It’s similar to bingo but you don’t have to be in a retirement village to enjoy this Italian version. Federica Marchesini is the founder of Lingo, an Italian language school and she regularly hosts ‘Lingo Bingo’, her tombola event. Italophiles will especially enjoy this game which originated in southern Italy. You may need to brush up on your Italian as it will be spoken throughout the evening. A meal and a glass of wine is also included. Lingo can be contacted for venue and cost but keep track of their upcoming events on their social media pages. There will be a tombola evening on 15 August at 7pm in celebration of Ferragosto, an Italian public holiday that is also a Catholic feast.
2. Greek Evenings at Mykonos Taverna
We can all agree that food is a great way to experience a culture, especially when it’s from the Mediterranean. Mykonos Taverna in Sea Point is owned by Dimitri Peroglou whose Greek heritage is at the heart of his restaurant. On the last Saturday of each month, Mykonos Taverna has Greek evenings for R220 per person (excluding drinks plus a 10 percent service charge). There is a three-course meal and professional performances of folk Greek dancing. The tradition of plate smashing is also part of the evening.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0214392106 (Booking is essential).
3. African cuisine at Gold restaurant
A little closer to home is an experience that takes you on a culinary journey through Africa. The Mali puppet that greets you at the door is part of an energetic ensemble performance that entertains you during the 14-course meal. You read that correctly. GOLD Restaurant’s menu takes you from the Spice Island of Zanzibar to Morocco and all the way down to Zambia. There is also a nod to South Africa with Cape Malay and Tswana dishes. Food is not the only way to get to know the rest of the African continent, there is an option of an interactive djembe drumming session before you dine at the cost of R95. After the drumming session, they come around to each table with a large basin and jug for you to rinse your hands under the jug followed by a paper towel to wipe. Dinner is R375 per person and is served in individual and sharing portions.
4. Make your own sushi
As sushi joints sprout all over Cape Town, the Japanese origins of this food may have become lost in translation. By joining Blowfish Restaurant’s sushi-making class you get insight into the background while putting together your own 21-piece platter. Sushi was originally prepared to preserve fish in fermented rice. The classes are R295 per person and are on the first Saturday of each month. They are led by instructors, Marc and JJ in a lively atmosphere. Take your relationship with sushi to the next level and learn to master sushi-making yourself.
5. Boules in the vines
It became cool to play boules or petanque when Karl Lagerfeld hosted a tournament in St Tropez, 2010. The game is similar to British lawn bowling or Italian bocce and the present version was invented in 1910 by Jules Le Noir in La Ciotat, Provence, France. Whether it’s still fashionable to play is no issue for Rickety Bridge Winery in Franschhoek who have it on offer as an activity for wine-tasting guests. They have their very own bouldrome, a common feature in southern France A refundable deposit of R50 for a boule set is all you need. It’s not quite France, but you’ll have a wonderful view of the Wemmershoek mountains and the picturesque vines in the background.
6. Belgian chocolate in Franschhoek Valley
The Chocolate Experience at Huguenot Fine Chocolates is the gift that keeps on giving. Danver Windvogel and Denver Adonis are Belgian-qualified chocolatiers who have brought their expertise to Franschhoek valley. They have a 30-minute presentation explaining the history of chocolate followed by a demonstration on the chocolate-making process. The Chocolate Experience takes place daily at 11am and 3pm for only R40 and you get to take home a box of these hand-crafted treats. Like their beer, the Belgians are famous for chocolate and if you can’t get to Brussels to visit the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate (MUCC), go to Huguenot Fine Chocolates for an introduction.
7. Learn to play Chinese chess
Mandarin Chinese teacher, Tony Huang hosts a variety of cultural events at the Huang Laoshi Mandarin Centre. These occur monthly and include Chinese painting, Chinese tea parties, dumpling-making, spring roll-making and Chinese calligraphy. They occasionally host Xiangqi or Chinese chess for R200 per person. It is a popular board game in its country of origin and involves a battle where the aim is to capture the opponent’s general or king.
Contact: Email email@example.com or book online. 0826206200.
8. Salsa Sundays
Buena Vista Social Café stays true to its Cuban roots and spices up Long Street with their Salsa Sundays. This highly popular gathering is from 9pm until late and the Salsa dancers also entertain with Bachata (Dominican Republic), Kizomba (Angola) and Reggaeton (Puerto Rico). There are drink and food specials and you are encouraged to join in with the dancing. Upper Long Street.
9. Tea Ceremony
As far as cultural experiences go, tea can be the most fascinating. O’ways Teacafe taps into this with their tea ceremonies. They focus on the Chinese preparation and drinking of tea using Taiwanese High Mountain tea, a quality oolong. It is known as ‘tea art’ or cha-yi and the ceremony goes into how the tea is planted, harvested and how it is made. It is led by Mingwei Tsai, a master tea merchant and co-owner of Nigiro Tea. The tea ceremony is 45 minutes to one hour and is R250 for three people.
One can’t practice this martial art without absorbing its history and culture in the process. The early origins of capoeira are unclear but enough evidence supports that it was developed by Afro-Brazilian slaves. They would use music and dance to disguise fight moves and this is why musical instruments are part of it today. It is a versatile art form that involves acrobatics, dance and self-defense. The aim is to be in constant motion with sweeping movements. UNESCO declared it an ‘intangible cultural heritage’ of Brazil in 2014 and it is practised all over the world. If you can see yourself trying it out, Abada-Capoeira South Africa has classes in various locations around Cape Town. It is led by Instructor Beleza who picked it up in his native Angola.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0835066026
Discovering South African cultures is easy but if you need ideas, read: In photographs: the Cape Town Free Walking Tour in the Bo Kaap or 10 Cape Town museums and art galleries you have to visit at least once.
How have you explored some of the world’s culture in and around the city, and do you have a favouite from our list? Comment with your answers below.