South African Art, Music and Cuisine

All of it ROCKS!!

By Marlijn van Berne

The many varied, exotic and delightful ethnic and cultural traditions found in our country have over time, provided the fuel for a growing and thriving contemporary arts, literature and cuisine-infused landscape. With a history as intricate as reflected in Alina Ndebele’s story-telling tapestries, South Africa has ample inspiration to offer its creative drivers.



Two celebrated Africa Nobel Laureates, Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee, as well as other prominent writers such as Andre Brink, Damon Galgut, Lewis Nkosi, Zakes Mda, Njabulo Ndebele and Bessie Head, can be found among our literary icons. My advice to the bookworm, is make your way to Adams Bookstore in Musgrave Centre, where you can enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while you peruse the titles on offer (never mind the unexpected range of kitchen ware which is not to be missed out on!). Other bookstores worth a visit are Exclusive Books in Gateway Shopping Mall (the staff are extremely helpful), while the second-hand bookstore, Last Chance Books (Luuurve the name) at The Stables Lifestyle Market, offers a somewhat vintage, lost in time, experience. Behold some 4,000 titles of all genres (to suit all price ranges), and an extensive private collection of fine, rare and antiquarian titles, including a range of historical books covering Durban, early Natal and South Africa. Other exquisite and oh-so hip items can also be tempting to one’s beady eye, with vintage cameras and 1960’s Juke Boxes to name but a few.

South African theatre can trace its origins back to the rich and ancient oral tradition of   story-telling; a tradition still very much alive today (usually around a fire). Stage productions however, were first introduced in the 1830’s, although it took another 50 years for performance arts to really take root when 20th-century missionaries introduced drama in education. It was also during this time that the performance arts became increasingly popular in the Black Townships with many 1920s and 1930 productions based on themes of rural life and customs. Today South Africa has a vibrant theatrical scene. There are some 100 active spaces to be found the length and breadth of our country, offering everything from indigenous drama, music, dance, cabaret and satire to West End and Broadway hits, classical opera and ballet. If in need of a bit of theatre culture while in Durban the most popular Playhouses and Theatres are undoubtedly the Playhouse Company                        (Tel: 031 369 9555) which hosts award-winning dramas, ballet and opera, and the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (Tel: 031 260 2296) famous for its film festivals and an annual literary festival. For a more grass-root experience you should check out the BAT Centre (Tel: 031 332 0451) on the harbour quayside which offers a rich entertainment programme featuring poetry and comedy shows, musical performances (including hip-hop and Afro-Jazz artists) and a number of killer exhibitions at any one of the many art studios, galleries and dance spaces. Tickets are available at computicket, although sometimes entry is for free!

More recently, and frankly not fast enough, South African cinema made headlines with films such as Tsotsi, World Unseen and District 9; celebrated for their “thought provoking take on South African society, politics and history.” But, if you want to keep abreast with what is on the international circuit, fear not, because all the shopping malls and centers (generally) offer a world-class experience at the movies. In Durban, it is worth visiting Gateway Shopping Mall and getting comfy at the Cinema Nouveau theatre, one of the world’s only dedicated “art cinema” chains, screening independent, ‘art’ and alternative cinema content from all over the world.


SOUTH AFRICAN CUISINE: Feasting Out in Durban

Lunch, Brunch and Late Breakfast Spots. There are so many, but to name but a few:

Beach Bums, Circus Circus Beach Café, Sprigs, Zachs, Café St Germain, and the Corner Café.

My personal favourites are in Glenwood; a slightly quirky, totally delightful suburb south of Musgrave. There is something about the funky, artsy, Woodstock-esque vibe in the area that lends itself to a cozy, yummy and fairly inexpensive eating experience. Dotted around the Davenport Shopping Centre, you will find a number of African (including Ethiopian), Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Indian eateries. You can find pretty much something for every palette; from the recently opened Boutique Boulangerie (Tel: 073 490 2900) at 56 Helen Joseph Road, run by mother and daughter team, Nialini and Kirti Kamal, which specialises in Indian, Persian & French flavours-inspired delights (the Coconut Latte is sublime!) to a host of other establishments including a pizzeria, the Jackie Horner (on the Corner) pub, Jossi’s, Amsterdam, the Green Bean Café (Tel: 031 201 8122) for Ethiopian coffee, CaneCutters and an absolute topper, the Sushi Corner, where the left side of the menu is seemingly, permanently, half price! (And the staff is wonderful). Two absolute ‘musts’, and take your time, are the artisan Glenwood Bakery (Tel: 031 205 0217) and the mouth-watering Café (Tel: 031 205 7285), situated next door to each other on Esther Roberts Road.              At parc.Café you can enjoy the scrumptious ‘all day breakfast’ (try the                not-so-Benedict poached eggs, bacon/mushrooms, lemon hollandaise and capers on potato-rosemary bread) and a host of exotic salads and open sandwiches, while the Glenwood Bakery bakes six breads on a daily basis; all hand formed, slow fermented and baked in a hearth oven. For more information on this amazing bakery, visit:

For an all-in-one food, shopping and cultural experience, stroll across to the KZNSA Art Gallery at 166 Bulwer Road. Here, visitors can enjoy viewing a free contemporary art exhibition followed by a bite and a good cup of coffee at the Arts Cafe. And don’t miss out on the shop, which develops and markets one hundred percent local only craft and design and is also an important outlet in the province for design from the rest of the country.

Visiting the Beach:

Bunker down at the modern and classic Bel Punto Restaurant (Tel: 031 568 2407) at Umhloti Beach, north of Durban and enjoy their mouth-wateringly delicious Shellfish Platter, or relax at Moyo Ushaka (Tel: 031 332 0606) for a unique African dining experience which includes face painting and a delicious take on traditional grub at Ushaka Marine World. Also at this venue, the Cargo Hold Restaurant (Tel: 031 328 8065 / 8066 / 8067) offers you a whole new dining experience deep in the belly of a ship, where guests can play eyeball tennis with the Raggie sharks swimming by. If you want a 007 ‘Shaken-not-Stirred’ eating experience, this is the place! Then there is the Havana Grill (Tel: 031 337 1305) at Sun coast Casino, deemed on the more expensive side of “costing a few bob” but a worthwhile treat which boasts absolutely mouth-watering steaks and wines – and the Lighthouse Bar (Tel: 031 514 5018) in Umhlanga, which again, not advised for those ‘on a shoe-string’ budget, has spectacular views of the Durban coastline and sits only a few floors atop the best curry buffet in town (see below under ‘additional treats.’)

Township Treats:

A new urban African culture has emerged in Townships around South Africa, many of which have become sprawling and vibrant neighbourhoods bursting with cultural and culinary adventures around every corner. Visit with a local tour guide or be introduced by a colleague or friend who lives here. Most importantly, get comfy at one of the many ‘Shisanyama’ (“braaing or barbequing the meat”) hangouts – mingle, drink and eat to your hearts’ content! Recommended Township Cafes to visit include: Max LifeStyle (Tel: 031 906 1393) in Umlazi, Eyabo Butchery & Tavern    (Tel: 031 510 1008) in Inanda and Hlabisa Tavern & Shisanyama in KwaMashu Township north of Durban.

Additional Treats:

Some other very worthy places to visit for any foodie lover include Café 1999        (Tel: 031 202 3406) on Silverton Road in Berea which serves exquisite food and you will be ‘wowed’ by the menu and service, and of course the many delicious currie houses dotted around Durban. There are just too many to mention, but a few that stand out for me, are: queuing outside the Sunrise Chip ’n Ranch aka Johnnys Roti (Tel: 031 209 2020) in Overport (for that morning after “I am starving and need goooood grub now” feeling), Little Gujarat (Tel: 031 305 3148) in the Durban CBD which boasts has vegetarian dishes you won’t find anywhere else and the southern Indian masala dosas (rice flour pancakes) and paneer dosas are sublime! Or travel up the coast and exhale at the Ocean Terrace Restaurant (Tel: 031 514 5000) inside the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga. Known for its spectacular beach views and lighthouse, this restaurant is renowned for its incredible Curry Buffet, which boasts 11 curries daily! And then there is Kebabish (Tel: 031 207 2685); truly one of my all-time favourite eating spots in Durban. Both a restaurant and a takeaway, this gem is situated on the corner of Sparks and Felix Dlamini (Brickfield) Road in Overport. Your taste buds will be dancing the Macarena once you have introduced them to one of the many curries on offer, let alone tucked into the mouth-watering chicken or mutton kebabs grilled to perfection on the forecourt’s open charcoal grill. This is as authentic as it gets!!