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Our Food Will Make Us Proud!

It’s not a surprise that Zimbabwe's culinary culture is one to be greatly celebrated. After all, the country is shaped like a teapot and even has a ‘smoke that thunders’ steaming on its tip.

Across many parts of southerly Africa, ice cream is not an everyday treat but rather a special one for noteworthy occasions. In many African households, an ice cream container in a refrigerator often contains frozen stew, meat and frequently beans from the week before. After ice-cream has been consumed on a unique occasion, what remains are the ice cream cartons. Finding actual ice cream inside an ice cream container in your refrigerator means one of two things: a special event is coming up or your folks are very affluent and live a comfortable life.

The types of foods one consumes can be status symbols. The same way that ice cream is seen as a luxury which conveys financial stability, certain food items are viewed as reserved for the poor. In most cases these include the traditional and indigenous foods of Zimbabwe. Food such as Mufushwa, Maputi, Chimodho, Maheu eChirema just to mention a few. Mufushwa are sun-dried leafy vegetables prepared as stews. Since they are seasonal and mainly found during the rainy season, the fresh ones are preserved to be enjoyed during the dry season. The vegetables include traditional ones such as rape (brassica napus), covo (marrow-stem kale) and muboora (pumpkin leaves). Indigenous varieties include mutsine (black jack leaves) and mumowa (red amaranth). Maputi are popped maize kernels; chimodho is cornbread prepared using flour and maize meal, and maheu is a fermented beverage made from maize meal and a mixture of other grains like sorghum or finger millet or pearl millet.

Tapiwa Guzha, the owner of TAPI TAPI ice cream parlour in Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa, creates a melangé of two worlds, creating the best ice cream known to humans. Using the flavours most available to poorer citizens, Guzha infuses the taste of Africa's indigenous delicacies into ice cream. His craft is cunningly oxymoronic. Imagine finding a mine of ice-cream flavours borrowed from our rich indigenous culinary heritage; flavours such as salty Maputi and Mufushwa Masala. Mufushwa is a highly nutritious food, but is not widely consumed in urban areas as the middle class and bourgeois associate it with rural areas and poverty.

In Zimbabwe’s culinary culture, mufushwa and ice cream are polar opposites. Guzha introduces this wonderful combination in both vegan and non-vegan options. TAPI TAPI is beyond ice cream. From the contrast between the ice cream and its flavours to the symbolism of such a store being found in the “Mother City”, the parlour is a Pan-African treasure. Cape Town is referred to as “Mother City” as it was the gateway between Europeans’ first contact with the people of southern Africa.

Guzha’s work interrogates the status quo. A huge poster in his parlour reads “Our flavours are not weird! We’ve all been socialised to believe Eurocentric food should be the global norm.” Meanwhile, painted as a mural on a wall adjacent to the door and hung in a picture frame are words Guzha titles “A reminder to you, my child”.

The message goes on to say, this is your home my child, land of your people. One must nourish oneself from the land, tend it so that others may enjoy it too. He instructs the child to remember that their stories, lives and histories do not begin in 1488. (In 1488, Bartholomeu Dias became the first European navigator to round the southern tip of Africa. His discoveries established the sea route between Europe and Asia.)

On the mural, Guzha goes on to cite how a great and ongoing injustice has occurred because of colonization. He says this injustice rots the mind and decays the heart. He laments how these have been inherited over centuries. His child must not hold onto oppression, but cast it out. Guzha tells his child not to allow their story to be written for them, but rather to create space for self and room for others. He reminds his child of the need to build community and embrace diversity. In this way, “we are stronger together.'

From the aesthetics of the ice cream parlour to the mural on the wall. it is clear Guzha is a man on a mission. His push for authentic cuisine is an attempt to break down barriers. He creates cuisine which mirrors the people around it and empowers the people to whom the food belongs.

Tapi Tapi is beyond ice cream. From the contrast between the ice cream and its flavours to the symbolism of such a store being found in the “Mother City”, the parlour is a pan-African treasure. Guzha’s work breaks known mental barriers in African cuisine, pushing for renewed sovereignty one lick at a time.

Webster Makombe is a regular contributor to Emerging Voices. Read more from him here.

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