These trailblazing Durban dwellers know it all and are willing to share, from contemporary art and cultural hot spots to the best wave breaks. Follow their lead to the true heart of eThekwini
By: Melanie Reeder. Photos: Chris Laurenz
Kunzima Theology and Samurai Yasusa of Afro-house duo Kususa
Trust us: these producer/DJs are about to blow up. Soon after our meeting Joshua Sokweba (Kunzima Theology) and Mncedi Tshicila (Samurai Yasusua) are to board a flight to their first major overseas gig at Pure Sky Lounge in Dubai, which is pretty impressive considering their first EP release was only in 2016.
Fellow DJ and Durbanite Black Coffee incorporated three of their bootlegs into a set at South African radio station 5FM, then included their tracks at the Barcelona-born Sónar festival. Suddenly Kususa were on everyone’s lips.
While it’s inevitable that they’re influenced by gqom, a dance trend that’s Durban’s biggest music export, they’re clear that they don’t want to be known for just one sound. “If you want serious gqom, head to South Beach CBD,” says Mncedi. “Anywhere there will do – but Koko Bar stands out.”
We can’t talk about music in Durban without talking about maskandi. Dubbed the “Zulu Blues”, it’s more of a sub-culture than a musical movement, and it permeates the Durban music scene.
For Afro house, Kusasa suggest Azar and Eyadini Lounge (especially on a Monday night) as the places to head to – and point to Argento Dust, Enoo Napa and Jackie Queens as the other Durban producer/DJs making waves.
Catch Kususa on 21 December at their first Shimmy Beach Club gig in Cape Town. Get all the info on their Facebook page: facebook.com/kususaofficial.
Gina Fors Nielsen
Co-owner of 9th Avenue Bistro, blogger, founder of Dr Broth
There can’t be too many foodies more qualified than Gina Fors Nielsen to give us the insider’s edge on eThekwini’s eateries. Gina and husband Graham are at the helm of Durban’s celebrated 9th Avenue Bistro – and her new venture, Dr Broth, is gaining traction with its healthy homemade bone broths.
“Durbanites are very health-conscious,” says Gina when discussing her decision to start Dr Broth. “People here eat dinner early, and they rise early. The weather is nice all year, so people are physically active, and diners are generally mindful of what they consume.”
It explains why Durbanites are mad about seafood, fresh produce and, more noticeably, coffee, she says. Many of the local coffee shops acquired their following by frequenting the robust local market scene. (Look out for the I Heart Market.) Her favourite coffee stops include Khuluma on Station, Love Coffee, The Coffee Tree Co, and City Roast.
Indian cuisine is practically the lifeblood of Durban, and some of Gina’s most cherished haunts offer authentic and delicious Indian food. Head to Roti and Chai for traditional tandoor cooking, and Mali’s for a no-frills meal where it’s all about flavour. The Falafel Fundi is also a firm favourite of hers’, while on days off Gina and Graham head north to Ray’s Kitchen in Salt Rock for a more up-market bistro meal.
Look out for 9th Avenue’s move in 2019 to an iconic spot at Durban’s Yacht Mole. Follow Gina’s blog on environmentally friendly practice at 9thavenuebistro.co.za, and find out more about Dr Broth at drbroth.co.za.
Art curator, consultant and cultural producer
When Russel Hlongwane speaks about art and culture he is not only poetic, but also engagingly intellectual. Durban-born and bred, Russel started his career in the international shipping trade – but the tug towards the arts was too great.
He challenges visitors to Durban to “explore, and get beneath the veneer: it’s a convergence of many cultures and historic moments that play themselves out in interesting ways.”
The visual arts are offering some promising work at the moment, and Durban’s urban landscape is awash with the graffiti of Mookie or Mook Lion, Sakhile Mhlongo, Young Dave and Skullboy. On the photography front, look for the work of Mandisa Buthelezi, who documents KwaZulu-Natal life; and Wonder Mbambo (currently on a three-month residency in Manchester), who investigates themes of family, and the notion of “Black Tax” and the toll it takes on individuals, with charcoal portraiture (the chosen medium literally born from the ashes of childhood fires).
The Amasosha Art Movement is a progressive “safe space” for Durban’s black artists to collaborate and support each other, so visitors should look out for their projects as well. Other prominent thematic concerns include “Afri Futurism, imagined dystopias and a noticeable influence from Silicon Valley and the start-up concept, which includes commentary on ‘the sharp rise of tech and the trappings of capitalistic models’”.
Durban is home to some great cultural spaces, where varying art forms intercept and multiple cultures can converge, says Russel. He recently ended a tenure as the president of the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts council; in addition to the installations housed there, he mentions the Durban Art Gallery, The Chairman for live jazz, Khaya Records for a musical melting pot, and Ike’s Books and Collectibles in Florida Road.
Follow Russel on Instagram @russel_hlongwane.
Shane Sykes may be young, but he’s certainly seen more of the world than most, having chased waves from the Maldives to Nicaragua. The Salt Rock resident has had major sponsorships since the age of 12 and won an array of junior titles. But he maintains that the highlight of his career is simply the people he’s met.
It would appear that this sense of camaraderie the global surfing community nurtures is exactly the spirit behind Durban’s development programmes, which are working hard to bring young black surfers to the fore. Shane’s parents, Darren and Michelle, started the Ilembe Surf Riders Association in 2017 – a fledgling NPO to help develop and promote surfing on the north coast. The organisation Surfers Not Street Children, one the other hand, has a global set-up, and its founder Tom Hewitt was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in 2011. Durban’s surf scene, it seems, is as much about growth and development as it is about catching the perfect wave.
For the travelling surfer, Shane recommends Durban as a beginners’ mecca, where it’s easier to get out to the backline. Amateur and pro surfers can head to the south or north coast, which are “much more powerful”. On the north coast, Shane’s spots include Salmon Bay, Surfers, Clark Bay and Tiffany’s; in Durban, try New Pier, North Beach, Bay of Plenty and Addington. Novices can head to the Ballito Surf School to learn the basics, and for custom-made boards and shaping, head to Hutchison Handcrafted Surfboards in Ballito.
Follow Shane on Instagram @shane_sykes_.
Fashion designer and owner of Yadah Exclusive Designs
A recent guest on CNN International’s African Voices, and a veteran of London’s African Fashion Week, Thembeka Yadah is making show-stopping garments with global appeal at her Durban studio. Her unique use of fabric displays striking symbolic placements on the body, to reflect urban and rural moments of everyday life in South Africa.
Originally from Estcourt, she creates “clothes that are both timeless and Afro-centric”. With the support of the KZN Fashion Council (sparked by eThekwini Municipality’s Economic Development Unitand the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism), she and many other designers are finding an international platform for their work.
With conventional retail taking a back seat as a result of high rentals and long-term leases, Thembeka and many of her peers are shifting towards shared studio spaces to showcase their garments. And while there are still some gorgeous boutiques around town (Durbanites Amanda Laird Cherry, Jane Sews and Leigh Schubert all spring to mind), young Durban designers are collaborating more on regular pop-up events. This is how the Love Curvy concept was born: Thembeka has partnered with Silomo Ntombela of Silomo Boutique, Khanyi Malimela, Marparkisha, Inkosozane, 8th Wanda and Indoni Fashion House to curate regular pop-ups offering women more than an average retail experience.
Follow Thembeka on Instagram and Facebook @thembekayadah for details pop-ups on 1, 15 and 22 December.
FLY SAA flies daily to Durban from Johannesburg and Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London.
WORDS Melanie Reeder
IMAGES Chris Laurenz