Mdantsane is a unique, vibrating, eclectic, African place. Follow us on a pilgrimage to Mdantsane to discover the street culture, fashion, food, people, music, homes, taverns, humor, businesses, history and what's hot in the second biggest township in South-Africa, located close to the city of East London in the Province of the Eastern Cape. Join us on this journey while we capture the spirit of this amazing place for you in the here and in the now. We are going to introduce you to many individuals, artists, musicians, groups and associations.
They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Significance Of Tattoos In The Xhosa Culture And Their Relation To Religion

In today's article we are sharing a young South African's view on tattoos and their meaning in the Xhosa culture.
Zintle Swana is a 2nd year Walter Sisulu University journalism student and has done some research  concerning the connection between tattoos and religion and the different views people have on this matter.

The connection between tattoos and religion has been a disputed matter for a long time. Some say tattoos are a barrier between the human spirit and God or the Ancestors, while some do not share the same sentiments.

Image from Most Wanted Fashion " Tattooing In Africa" by Muhammad Farhan Ali

The Bible says “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on your selves. I am your Lord” (Leviticus chapter 19 verse 28). 
Tattoos are believed to be a contradiction to what the Bible says according to believers, and the Bible is the base of their Christianity.

The Ladies of God Committee from the Jehovah’s Kingdom Church in East London said: “Tattoos are walls that block a human from connecting with God spiritually because your body is God’s temple as one is made in his image. Tattoos are ungodly, they’re associated with Satanism and evil spirits, and it is disrespectful to God directly as he is the creator.”

Image from Most Wanted Fashion " Tattooing in Africa" by Muhammad Farhan Ali

According to the Design Boom website on the history of tattoos, the word tattoo is said to have two major derivations: from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means ‘striking something’ and the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’ and it is just ink beneath the skin.
In the Xhosa history, tattoos were called ‘imihombiso’ which means body decorations.

A 53-year-old Xhosa elder Monwabisi Mvava said: “These decorations were done 100 years ago when young women did not make use of clothing but imihombiso. This was done with no artificial inks but metal and traditional syrups to heal wounds.”

African Tattoos were traditional done using the technique of scarification, whereby a knife is used to create a design consisting of symbols. Ink, herbs and potions are rubbed into the cuts to heal the wounds and to create a distinct elevated pattern. 

A Xhosa traditional healer in East London, who did not want his identity known for personal reasons, believes that in the culture of isiXhosa tattoos are not acceptable as it upsets the ancestors because tattoos are a western fashion, so to the ancestors it is as if a person is drifting away from their roots.

Tribal symbol scarification on a young woman's body

A long-time tattoo artist and owner of a tattoo shop in Vincent Park in East London, Tony Botha, believes that tattoos have got nothing to do with satanic practice.
“To me a tattoo is something that you fantasize about for a long time before you do it, I live tattoos. To have a tattoo does not mean you are satanic, if I am evil for doing that then why do people decorate the temple at church and paint the windows with different colours?” said Tony.
Large Back Tattoo Source African Tattoo, tattoobite.com

“Hitler killed millions of people but he did not have a tattoo and to my understanding killing is the most satanic thing you would ever do.”
In some religions tattoos are not recognized as anything that could change the society in any way and are not known as a sin.

Large African Acacia Tree Tattoo On The Back Of A Caucasian Male,  Image Tattoobite.Com

Maggs Makhan said: “In my religion, Hinduism, tattoos really do not matter, whether or not you have them, it makes no difference. I believe it is a personal choice to have a tattoo and everyone has a personal reason why they have tattoos. There are those who hide them and there are those who reveal them. As humans we might not believe in the same thing but we cannot judge.”

Amateur tattoos are common among prisoners, sometimes done by gangsters for recognition.
But this is not where the story of tattoos began.

Tattoos are common amongst prisoners as a form of distinction but the origin of tattoos goes back hundreds of years,  Image South African Prison Tattoos by Most Wanted Fashion

Solethu Mavumengwana said: “A tattoo is something I have always wanted. I have seven stars on my arm representing my seven siblings, since I hardly spend time with them. There is more to a tattoo than just a fancy picture on the body; it is a dedication for a lifetime.
Religion does play a role in the view people hold about tattoos and that is what made me think deeply about what I want to do.” 

An African Woman's Face Tattoo On The Hip, Tattoobite.Com

He added: “I believe God knows our deepest intentions and my relationship with him is based upon values instilled in me by my parents and of my own understanding. If God is so forgiving and just, then why won’t he forgive me if this is such a bad thing? He accepts us with all our flaws.”- WSU-SNA

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eating U-Smileys (Sheep head) in Fort Jackson - Different Cultures, Different Dishes

Today's article was written by the young volunteer Jonas Krombach and describes his culinary journey through the world of traditional Xhosa food. Here we go!
One of my reasons to do a voluntary year in another country was, that I wanted to get in contact with other cultures. Cultures I did not know before, such as the Xhosa-culture.
When I got the confirmation, that I would be going to Mdantsane for a year as a volunteer for a German Development organization to work with an environmental youth club at a local High School, I started to read about the Xhosa People on the Internet.
I learned quickly, that food plays a big role in the Xhosa culture, but also in general in South Africa.

Jonas Favourite Fat Cake With Liver Filling!!!

Well, I tried to find more information about typical Xhosa-dishes, but all I could find out was that the South Africans love to braai( barbecue) that they adore biltong( dried meat) and that there is Indian food as well, such as the Bunny Chow. 
But I found nothing about traditional Xhosa dishes such as Samp and Beans (Umngqusho), African Salad and Umfino - dishes that I know so well by now.

Theresa and Joans eating Umngusho, a traditional Xhosa Dish

Arriving in Mdantsane I settled down in my guest family’s home. 
When Nolubabalo, one of my guest mothers, said that she was going to cook something for dinner, I was excited and curious at the same time. I can still remember our first dinner. The whole family sat down together at the table and we ate pap with cabbage, butternut and everybody got some chicken as well. What a warm welcome!

The Open Air U-Smileys Restaurant in Fort Jackson An Industrial Area Close To Mdantsane

And as time went by I had the chance to taste the full variety of Xhosa dishes. My favourite dish is Umngusho. It reminds me somehow of the German traditional "lentil soup“. For those who do not know lentil soup I have made a photographic comparison between the two.

Lentil Soup versus Samp and Beans

Never Short of a celebration especially when food is involved

There is another dish I really fell in love with. Or I should better say got addicted to it. 
The Fat-Cake!!! ( Jonas, Jonas, Jonas......how come you did not pick up any weight?)

The Mamas at Inkwenkwezi High School (my former workplace) always sold it during the lunch break. There is a special relationship between the Fat Cake and me. I cannot describe it. But I just adore the Fat Cake! 
Especially the Fat Cake filled with liver. Mhhhhh!

Cutting U-Smileys - Sheep Heads are called like this because when cooked in hot water for a long time they shrink and their face or what is left of it takes on a smiling expression! So it is said!

All the African/Xhosa dishes I have mentioned in this article so far are "nice dishes". 
But there are a couple of dishes I did not manage to become accustomed to. I rather prefer to stay away from them.
Well there is The African Salad.  My guest family always screamed with laughter when they saw how I grimaced my face while I ate the dish. The taste was just always to sour for me!

The Last smile, served on a black trash bag..........Sheep head is a popular dish in the Xhosa culture

I want to end the article with the words of my project coordinator, Melikaya. 
On one of our last days in Mdantsane he said: "How can you leave South Africa without having tasted the Smiley!“ 
And he was right! How could we! And that is why we went with all the staff members to one of Mdantsane´s street kitchens and tasted uSmiley!!!
All I can say is that it was a unique experience I will never forget!

U Smiley


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