Sanza Sandile isn’t an average chef. Which makes sense, because Yeoville isn’t an average suburb. Looking down on Rockey Street from the Yeoville Dinner Club. Actually I’m not even sure Sanza calls himself a chef — if you ask him he’ll probably say he’s a cook or a journalist or a philosopher or an entertainer. He’s all of those things and more. But above all, as I see it, this man is a chef. Sanza’s story is best told by Sanza himself and trust me, he will tell it to you. His food is as much about story-telling as it is about cooking. I’ll run through things briefly: Sanza came of age as apartheid ended and South African democracy began. He went to university, became a radio journalist, but all the while he cooked. He spent most of his adulthood in Yeoville, which was a gathering place for South Africa’s black intelligentsia in the 1990s and early 2000s. Over the past two decades Yeoville has become an African melting pot, with immigrants flooding in from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other places. Many of Sanza’s peers left Yeoville and relocated to wealthier suburbs like Melville, which Sanza calls Smellville. Sanza […]
There is a congregation of Nigerian Jews in Joburg. Who knew? Rabbi Nathan Obiekwe of the Bethel Messianic Assembly in Yeoville. I first visited the Bethel Messianic Assembly in October, to take photos for my friend Marie-Lais’ “Other Side of the City” column in the Citizen. Marie-Lais and I showed up unannounced, but fortunately the door was open. “What religion are you?” asked the man at the door. “I’m Jewish,” I said proudly, figuring my religious heritage would give us a foot in the door. The man led Marie-Lais and me inside and introduced us to the rabbi, Nathan Obiekwe. Rabbi Nathan greeted us warmly and we sat down for a chat. On our way through the outdoor passage that led to Rabbi Nathan’s lounge, I noticed a large room filled with people, all lying on the floor. Rabbi Nathan in the lounge of his home. The house doubles as the Bethel Messianic synagogue. Note that the rabbi is holding a bible in his hand — this congregation reads frequently from both the old and new testaments. “Why are there so many people here on a Wednesday morning?” I asked the rabbi after a few minutes of small talk. Rabbi Nathan looked at me curiously. “Today […]
Today I went to Yeoville and spent the afternoon at a place called Food. Food (28 Rockey Street) is more than a stall but not quite a restaurant. Food is a kitchen with a glass counter and two benches, presided over by a man named Sanza. Sanza is an extraordinary person who creates extraordinary food. After spending three hours with him, I can confidently say that Sanza is among the top five most interesting people I’ve met in Joburg. (And that’s saying something.)
Yeoville, much like Hillbrow and other inner-city suburbs in Jozi, has transformed over the last three decades. Once an artsy, mixed-race (but primarily white) neighborhood, similar to Melville, Yeoville is now a chaotic, pan-African cocktail-shaker. (I almost said “melting pot” but that’s too cliché for words.) Most of Yeoville‘s residential buildings are crumbling and occupied by squatters. The main drag, Raleigh St., is crammed with pedestrians, loiterers, tiny shops, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving home-cooked dishes from across the continent. Yeoville is noisy, dirty, colorful, and a little dangerous. In other words, my kind of place.