United in soul food and a jol at the end of Cheerio Road, a humble market is a celebration of diversity

United in soul food and a jol at the end of Cheerio Road, a humble market is a celebration of diversity
All sorts of people – a slice of the proverbial Rainbow Nation – gathered to celebrate a decade of Mina’s Neighbourhood Food Market. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

What started out as a quarterly food market to showcase a farm venue and local produce has become a happy place for a diversity of people from around the Mopani district of Limpopo.

What a sight to behold. On Sunday, 5 June, about 800 people of all shapes and sizes, ages, colours and leanings, gathered on a cold and windy day in the remote mountains of Magoebaskloof.

There were tannies (aunties) and gogos (grannies), boertjies (farmers) and trendy youngsters with man-buns, chiskoppe (shaved heads) and braids. There were young women in the latest fashion, families with kids and puppies. There were gay people, straight people, black, white, Indian. The sounds of laughter, the chatter of English, Sepedi, Xitsonga and Afrikaans. It was a delicious slice of the proverbial Rainbow Nation that felt like the launch of a united people’s party but was, in fact, a gathering to celebrate 10 years of Mina’s Neighbourhood Food Market.

The market is held at Mina’s Farm Venue, a charming event and wedding venue down a pine-shaded dirt road about 10km from the village of Haenertsburg. Guarded by giant pin oaks, the lawns in front of the venue look out across a gorgeous valley and distant mountains.

To get there, it’s a wild ride along the infamous Cheerio Road (leads to beauty and pleasure) which is bouncy and rutted. Just about everyone has a story about getting stuck, getting out, getting on down.

A saxophonist played soulful jazz late into the afternoon. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

The venue is run by Rob and Denise Tooley and their clan, who started quarterly food markets in 2012 to showcase local soul food (think cheese platters, veggie boxes, curries, bliss bowls, biscuits, dips, sauces) along with giving people a good jol (think live music, mountain views, charming accommodation).

“From the very beginning we wanted to offer a diversity of delicious local food that would appeal to everyone,” says Denise. “For a small mountain area we have an amazing number of chefs, cooks, bakers and small producers, and it was a lovely way to get everyone together. Our very first market, way back in 2012, was attended by a record 200 people who braved the mist and rain to see what Mina’s had to offer.”

Read in Daily Maverick about an escape further afield: “This is the shiny new bridge that killed the fabled journey to Catembe and the Ponte mercado

One of the original stall-holders was Hloki Sebola.; Beloved Curry Queen of the Mountain, Sebola has been delighting people with her beef curry for years. People can’t get enough of it. The recipe is a winning mix of handpicked spices, homemade organic stock paste and slow cooking. Hloki’s beef curry is featured in the wonderful book Curry: Stories and Recipes from across South Africa by Ishay Govender-Ypma, published by Human & Rossouw in 2017.

Also there from the beginning has been Wegraakbosch Organic Farm, which makes an array of homemade cheeses and chouriço. Wegraakbosch brought to the mountain traditional Swiss cheese-making. From cow to curd to cheese, no chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides or machines are involved. People flock for feta, Parmesan, Emmental, mutchli and cream cheeses.

Colourful biscuits were among the offerings at Mina’s last weekend. (Photo: Bridget Hilton-Barber)

Rob and Denise’s son Luca started Zwakala, Limpopo’s first brewery, right next door. The name Zwakala means come closer, and the brewery started to attract a younger, hipper, non-racial crowd from the village and nearby Polokwane and Tzaneen.

A humble market became a place of unity and a celebration of diversity. “Where else in Limpopo can you get such a mixed crowd of people enjoying themselves in a beautiful mountain setting?” asks Denise. “We provided a safe space for people to get together and people responded with love and delight.”

On Sunday, revellers enjoyed curry and cheese, pizzas, pap and chicken, spring rolls, kebabs, falafels, burgers, gin and tonic, cheesecake and biscuits. They drank coffee, chai, G&Ts and Zwakala beer. A saxophonist played jazz into the late afternoon. As the sun went down, everybody headed happily back to homes in Mankweng, Seshego, Polokwane, Tzaneen, Nkowankowa and Letsitele Valley – full of a joy that comes from South Africans getting together as one. DM168

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This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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