Spending a Saturday night buying meat and cutting it on top of a dirty table covered in newspapers in a Soweto men’s hostel isn’t most people’s idea of a perfect night out in the city but it’s the best way of experiencing a different side of Johannesburg that most young people who live a middle class life in suburbia don’t get to see.
Recently a group of friends and I stopped over at a Soweto men’s hostel in search of braai mean in South Africa’s biggest township. We had spent the afternoon driving around Soweto and finding numerous disappointments as it was difficult to drive around with two major entertainment events taking place and Vodacon’s big red reveal happening in the Orlando Stadium. Earlier we had found magwinya (fat cakes) but one of my friends had refused to eat them as a fellow television presenter friend dropped the snoek fish she had requested. She then said she wouldn’t eat magwinya at that time until we found her another snoek fish. The rest of us enjoyed the oily, unhealthy South African delicacy with a bit of liver inside.
We then heard massive music coming from outside and realised that there was a funeral after tears party happening. It’s Soweto tradition to have a party after a funeral. People were getting drunk, playing loud music and dancing which was unusual to me as we would mourn for a minimum of two weeks with no radio or television switched on in the house for the duration of that period. Growing up in KwaZulu-Natal I just assumed that all black people behaved that way and was shocked to find Sowetans not respecting this tradition.
We then decided to drive around the busy streets of this township in search of more magwinya and snoek fish which we eventually found but then said a true Soweto experience wouldn’t end without a Tshisa Nyama. There were no proper Tshisa Nyamas to be found where we were and that is the reason we ended up at the mens hostel where we had a braai and then experienced problems on cutting the meat as there were no clean plates.
The people there seemed to have no qualms about it and a man came to assist us by putting the boerewors and beef on a dirty table where everyone was cutting meat including tripe, liver and chicken. I was uncomfortable with this as I thought it would taste of liver chicken and paper at the same time.
The music in a men’s hostel isn’t bad though as one is transported to rural KwaZulu-Natal with a Zulu guitar and traditional lyrics about the tough life, the dating game and the lack of development there.
I never ate the meat and can’t say what it tasted like but the whole experience showed me that I don’t know my country as well as I thought. I guess I will now get on the road and start driving.