Tag Archives: South Africa

Shot of the Week

Soweto, Johannesburg, South AfricaThree men work on a car in the outskirts of Soweto, a township in the southwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2006.


Shot of the Week

Walking on the streets in Johannesburg, South Africa, mothers commonly carry one of their youngest children on their backs by wrapping towels around their waists, like this one supporting a baby in a little pink hat.

Tara for TKGO

Becoming Mowgli

The wild is not just reserved for Rudyard Kipling characters. Anyone who has the vacation days can move up from Disney cartoons to the real thing!

First step: Choose your adventure.

South Africa’s bushveld was a natural choice for me because of my father’s background. (He was born there and did not move to the States until after graduate school.) However, you may want to explore other areas of Africa, like Botswana, Kenya or Zimbabwe. Keep an eye on the news or use a travel agent to avoid rainy seasons and regional conflict.

Once you’ve chosen your region, consider national park requirements. My family didn’t want to deal with a malaria risk, so we chose Madikwe Game Reserve. A malaria shot isn’t necessary, but they still offer the Big Five, or the most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino. Oh my!

Second step: Be realistic.

The good news: You will not find yourself alone in the bush and face to face with a wild boar unless you’ve done something horribly wrong and possibly illegal. The other news: You will need a guide, and you will need a brick-and-mortar place to stay. Mosquito netting, regardless of whether you get the malaria shot, is necessary, and pitching your own tent and trying this on your own is illegal in many areas. Where it isn’t, you shouldn’t try. (If they don’t bother passing the law, what makes you think they’ll send out a search team?)

Third step: Enjoy!

The best tip anyone gave me in searching for wildlife in an expansive reserve? Look for movement, not colors or shapes. You won’t spot a rhino in the distance or a leopard in the trees above you if you’re not constantly scanning (what looks like) the dead space around you. I promise, it’s actually teeming with life.

Not to get philosophical here, but if you can’t afford a safari tomorrow, that rule still applies. Pay attention to your surroundings, or all the great sights, sounds and smells will pass you by!

Tara for TKGO

Shot of the Week

Kids play outside a sangoma’s office in Johannesburg, South Africa, where “traditional” methods for healing the sick include prayer and candle lighting. I took this photo in December of 2004 from a highway overpass. Behind me, on the other side of the overpass, is Baragwanath Hospital, which claims to be the largest acute hospital in the world and the only public one servicing 3.5 million people living in the township of Soweto. Ironic?

Tara for TKGO

Countdown to the World Cup 2010: Four Days

The World Cup isn’t all that happens in Cape Town.

Tune into the first matches this Friday, June 11 at 9 a.m. (CT) South Africa v. Mexico, and at 1:30 p.m. (CT) Uruguay v. France. Matches take place all over the country, but Cape Town is enough to entertain.

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Still not satisfied? Fill your house with the smell of Cape Town by making the Kalmanson family bobotie recipe. The traditional meat pie was invented by the Cape Malays.

Tara for TKGO

Bobotie: South African Meat Pie

Unlike my dad’s secret Monster Burger recipe (which he won’t even send me via email because “the Internet is too easily hacked”), my mom’s updated South African bobotie recipe is one to share.


bobotie, recipe, South Africa, Cape Malay


My dad is South African. My mom is a Wisconsinite. When she wanted to surprise him one night, she picked a recipe from South African Gourmet Food and Wine by Myrna Rosen and Leslie Loon, a cookbook my dad’s mother (South African to the core) swears by. But when my dad saw the bobotie she made, he had no idea what it was. He’s from Johannesburg, and this is a dish typical of the Cape Malays, who live closer to Cape Town on the Western coast. Since this fortunate mistake, bobotie has become a family favorite and we’ve tweaked the recipe over the years.

Bobotie is a South African meatloaf, to put it shortly. It’s fruity and moist and goes well with a side of rice pilaf. You can easily update this recipe to fit your own tastes. Play with the proportions of the fruit, spices and nuts, but don’t mess with the custard, bread and meat amounts, which hold the juicy dish together.

My mom teaches a quick lesson in making bobotie

Karen’s South African Bobotie

1 1/2 lb ground sirloin
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
2 slices bread, soaked in milk and squeezed out
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
dash pepper
handful chopped blanched almonds
1 tart apple, peeled and grated
1/4 c raisins
2 tbsp apricot jam
1/4 c dried cranberries
1 banana, sliced
4 tbsp fruit chutney, with extra to garnish

Heat oil in large frying pan and add onions, garlic and saute until golden brown over low heat. Add meat and cook until nicely browned and no longer pink. Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients including soaked bread. Place mixture in a greased pie pan or ovenware dish.


1 c milk (or 1/2 c milk and 1/2 c cream)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 larg eggs
1 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves

Whisk custard ingredients together except bay leaves and pour over the beef mixture. Arrange the bay leaves in the center of the meat pie.

Bake at 350 F for approximately 50 minutes. Cool five minutes or so before cutting and serve with any fruit chutney.

Tara for TKGO

Akram Khan and Cross-Cultural Dance

Akram Khan’s bahok came to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art Stage this past weekend, and it was a show we were eager to attend. Karina had been hearing all of the (well-deserved) hype at her internship at the MCA, and Tara is taking a Cultural Studies of Dance class at Northwestern and learning, among other things, about the problematics of authenticity in cultural representation and how a message is communicated to an audience. But even if we had just wandered into the show, we’re certain we would have been just as riveted throughout the entire entertaining and thought-provoking 75-minute show.

bahok, which means “carrier” in Bengali, premiered in Beijing in January 2008 and was voted “Best new vision of global interchange” by Dance Magazine before it embarked on a world tour in 2009. Akram Khan has been called one of the greatest young choreographers by the Dance Critics’ Circle, dance critics and fellow choreographers (including Tara’s flamenco instructor and Northwestern professor Joel Valentín-Martínez). With all the hype, you’d expect an overly abstract piece from the kind of choreographer who works on the too-buried-in-metaphors-to-understand kind of dances. Instead, the Londoner (his family is Bangladeshi) offers a simple but profound message set to an international score from composer and longtime collaborator Nitin Sawhney and, at times, humor in bahok.

(Below is a clip from one of our favorite numbers in the show.)

Set in an unidentified airport (though it really could be any transportation station), bahok explores what happens when people of different origins — China, Spain, Slovakia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa — are forced to interact and communicate with one another despite language barriers and cultural differences. The dancers in Khan’s company are from all the aforementioned countries, which brings another level of nuance to the work.

Total unison is rare in bahok. Instead, Khan plays with levels and shadows in his choreography. Dancers fly across the floor and lift each other in the air, showing their differences even when all move at the same time. Stage lighting gives the work even more dimension, leaving some dancers in the dark while others are featured in “monologues.”

While language is used in the show (a big electronic departures sign serves at times as the subtitle screen, other times to display cryptic messages), it does not aid in communication. Characters retreat into their own memories, describing their childhoods in a way no one else can understand, or they unsuccessfully attempt to answer simple questions for a customs official. Movement is the only way characters can explain their feelings and communicate who they are to one another. In portions of the show where only one or a few are dancing in the spotlight, each expresses an individual personality on stage, whether it be obsessive paper collecting or a private dance with a father’s shoe.

(Learn a few bahok moves in the MCA’s informative promotional video, below.)

The work, ultimately, is honest. Khan understands that a transportation station is both a void and transient space, and though his characters overlap and spend a long time waiting together in the same space, they never completely accept or understand one another. They exclude each other, they ignore each other, they bicker with one another (but without a cliché dance fight scene). Even when all embrace in one scene toward the end, the most eccentric character is left out and must force her way into the huddle. All are from different places and going different places, but inevitably they end up getting to know each other, whether or not that’s their intention.

Moreover, they are all from somewhere and going somewhere, all the while carrying (hence, “bahok”) memories, aspirations and experiences. It’s a theme that resonates with us especially now, as we (and our friends) conclude our final months at college, which perhaps is an equally adequate representation of transient space, and figure out where we’re going. The final image on the train schedule board is a play on words that sums up the piece: Replace the ‘M’ in “HOME” with a ‘P’ and you see “HOPE.”

How’s that for a representation of the world as it is today? Bravo, Akram Khan, for not only revealing a new perspective on human nature that’s highly relevant in today’s ever-transient society, but also for teaching the world another — better — way to communicate: dance.

Check Akram Khan’s calendar to see if the tour’s headed your way; we both agree you don’t want to miss this. And lastly, check out Nitin Sawhnye’s music, because the score was sublime. (We want the soundtrack!)

Tara and Karina for TKGO