Traditional Celebration: Esgqongweni

Sometime earlier this year, I was telling one of my more mature friends about my intentions to do a housewarming.  She asked “uzosilelwa ngubani?” (Who is going to prepare your traditional beer?” .  I looked at her and said ‘Hayibo Sis’ Gloria akwenziwa miqombothi kwi housewarming” (we don’t prepare / serve traditional beer at housewarming parties)….

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Sis’ Gloria sat me down and gave me a lecture on the importance of doing Isigqongo.  For the purpose of this post, Isgongo is a traditional celebration whereby traditional beer is prepared.   In her words she said “We are black people kaloku mntanam and in our culture you have to let your ancestors know where you are staying, it is important.”  She even offered to come to my place and prepare the traditional beer.   I’m not sure if I’ll take her up on her offer but it is an interesting thought….

A friend of mine and her husband has been living in their house for about five years now.  A couple of weeks ago she invited or rather asked me to be a photographer at her place as they were doing Isgqongo.   Does one do a housewarming after five years of living in a house?  She tells this was her second Isigqongo, the first one was hosted a few years back to let the ancestors, friends and relatives know where they are now based.  The one I attended was to thank the ancestors for everything they have acquired including health, life and also their material possessions.

This was my first time attending a celebration of this nature.  My father’s family is very traditional to the point that when I visited them I had to go to the kraal let the ancestors know of my visit.  My uncle would even slaughter a goat.  However, I have not spent much time with them therefore missing out on all the traditional heritage.

Back to Isigqongo, the ladies were sitting on the blankets laid out on the floor and the genlemen were sitting on bunk chairs.  The owner of the house and his family members were the first to take a sip of the beer.  After that, the food was served.  The food included white samp, cabbage, carrots, mutton stew with potatoes and lots of gravy.  Chicken was available for those who preferred it.  The food was cooked to perfection with minimal seasoning and maximum taste.

People ate, drank and everyone started singing and dancing.  I have to share this as I found it to be funny, at first, while everyone was still sober no one wanted to have their picture taken.  As soon as the dancing and singing started, I was pulled to all directions, everyone wanted to have their picture taken.  Out of respect for my friend and her relatives I have posted only descent pictures.

Other beverages such as cool drinks, beer, brandy, wine and spirits were also served.  Overall, it was a joyous occasion.  One can’t help but admire how beautiful our culture is…..

Do you prepare traditional beer at your housewarming parties?

Author Info

Thuli

Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

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