BEACHES, BEATS, & BUNNY CHOW

Beaches, Beats, & Bunny Chow

In Flight Magazine - - IN THIS ISSUE - { TEXT: SARAH KHAN (BYSARAHKHAN.COM, WWW.IN­STA­GRAM.COM/BYSARAHKHAN, TWIT­TER.COM/BYSARAHKHAN) IMAGES © STEVE GLASHIER & KENT AN­DER­SON }

DUR­BAN COULD BE CON­SID­ERED SOUTH AFRICA’S MID­DLE CHILD: JO­HAN­NES­BURG IS AM­BI­TIOUS AND SUC­CESS­FUL, PICTUREPERFECT CAPE TOWN IS THE AP­PLE OF EV­ERY­ONE’S EYE, AND DUR­BAN, DE­SPITE ITS MANY CHARMS, IS PEREN­NI­ALLY OVER­LOOKED. BUT THANKS TO HOME­GROWN EN­TREPRENEURS RE­VIV­ING THE CITY’S CRE­ATIVE SPIRIT, DUR­BAN IS FI­NALLY STEP­PING OUT OF ITS SIB­LINGS’ SHAD­OWS. VIBES FOR DAYS

It’s all about the “vaaabs” in Durbs.

“It’s a good morn­ing for some surf vibes.” “Time for cof­fee vibes.”“Braai vibes tonight?”You might even catch a pho­tog­ra­pher di­rect­ing a model by ask­ing for some “turn-your-head vibes”.

Good vibes are a defin­ing fea­ture of Dur­ban, a sea­side city where the beaches are beau­ti­ful, the wa­ter is warm, and sun is al­most al­ways blaz­ing. Dur­ban av­er­ages 320 days of sun­shine a year, and whether in the form of an early-morn­ing swim or a late-af­ter­noon stroll, the beach is a fix­ture in most Dur­ban­ites’ daily rou­tines. With all th­ese stel­lar vibes go­ing on, you might as­sume Dur­ban is a sleepy, laid-back coastal town that’s the do­main of surfers and beach bums.And while they do make up a siz­able con­tin­gent of the pop­u­la­tion, in Dur­ban, th­ese surfers and beach bums also dou­ble as trail­blaz­ing en­trepreneurs and artists.

But that easy­go­ing vibe means mak­ing it as a cre­ative in Dur­ban is no easy feat, and the hus­tle here can be a lot harder than many other places.“Dur­ban is a tough place,” says An­drew Rall, a host on Airbnb who re­turned home to the city in 1999 af­ter a stint in the UK and is at the fore­front of Dur­ban’s cre­ative re­vival. “It’s a great test­ing ground. If you can make it here, you can make it any­where.”

A COLLECTIVE OF CREATIVES

If you were to do a cen­sus of tal­ents in the boom­ing ad­ver tis­ing, me­dia, en­ter­tain­ment, and fash­ion in­dus­tries in Jo­han­nes­burg and Cape Town, you’d dis­cover that many key South African in­no­va­tors have roots in Dur­ban, but moved far­ther afield to make a name for them­selves. Th­ese days, how­ever, the tide is turn­ing: Dur­ban is thriv­ing, with vi­sion­ar­ies like Rall re­turn­ing home and spurring a grass­roots ef­fort to re­vive Dur­ban’s in­ner city and vi­brant sub­urbs. Rall was one of the pioneers be­hind the Sta­tion Drive precinct, a small enclave that has, through the fore­sight of pri­vate de­vel­op­ers, blos­somed or­gan­i­cally into the city’s de facto cre­ative hub. There, you’ll find Rall’s own Dis­tillery 031, ate­liers for beloved and proudly lo­cal fash­ion la­bels like Ter­rence Bray and Jane Sews, shops, cafés, and a vi­brant weekly mar­ket called Morn­ing Trade. It’s also an epi­cen­ter for the city’s First Thurs­days fes­tiv­i­ties, which fea­ture live mu­sic, art ex­hi­bi­tions, and food trucks.

I ask Rall what’s lur­ing ex­pat Dur­ban­ites back home th­ese days. “Places like this,” he replies with­out hes­i­ta­tion. “You need a com­mu­nity to be cre­ative.With ar­eas like Sta­tion Drive pop­ping up, it’s vi­able as a cre­ative per­son to be here.You can make a liv­ing and have a great life­style.”

THE BEST OF WORK & PLAY

Later that evening I dive into the Sta­tion Drive scene with Didi Sathekge, a host on Airbnb I meet up with to ex­pe­ri­ence one of the monthly FirstThurs­days events. Over the next few days, I fol­low her from Sta­tion Drive to a cof­fee shop in Glen­wood, to a gallery open­ing on Florida Road, and at ev­ery stop we’re in­ter­rupted by peo­ple stop­ping us to say hello to her.“I’ve be­come a Dur­ban­ite,” she proudly pro­claims over a late-night bunny chow – the iconic South African street food cre­ated by Dur­ban’s In­dian com­mu­nity

dur­ing apartheid – at Hol­ly­wood Bets.“Be­ing a Dur­ban­ite means you em­brace bal­ance within your­self. Be­cause of the feel of the city, you get the best of work and play.”

Much of that bal­ance has to do with the city’s best-known fea­ture, that be­guil­ing long stretch of golden sand. “The beach is the most demo­cratic space – you’ll see women in hi­jab next to surfers in biki­nis, home­less guys col­lect­ing recycling and bor­na­gain Chris­tians con­duct­ing bap­tisms in the sea. Ev­ery­one shares the beach very hap­pily be­cause it’s the peo­ple’s play­ground,” says Ray­mond Per­rier, a host on Airbnb with a sea-fac­ing flat on Dur­ban’s North Beach. Per­rier, the di­rec­tor of the De­nis Hur­ley Cen­tre, is a UK ex­pat who moved to Dur­ban af­ter st­ints in Lon­don, Jo­han­nes­burg, and New York, and who rates it above all the rest.“It’s just the most in­ter­est­ing city.All of th­ese cir­cles keep over­lap­ping: re­li­gions mix, eth­nic­i­ties mix, races mix.”

A CUL­TURAL COCK­TAIL

From the mu­sic to the art to the de­sign,ev­ery­thing is in­flu­enced by the city’s in­tox­i­cat­ing cul­tural cock­tail. Dur­ban’s di­ver­sity is what sets the stage for much of its dis­tinc­tive flavour. The city is home to Zulu, English, and In­dian cul­tures, and the re­sult is a unique hy­brid un­like any­where else in the coun­try, ev­i­dent in ev­ery­thing from food and mu­sic to art. “If you like Africa, if you want to be in Africa, it’s a great African city,” Rall says. “You don’t have a mono­cul­ture, you’re not im­i­tat­ing what’s in Europe.”

The re­sult­ing cre­ative cul­ture is worlds away from what you’ll find any­where else, even in Cape Town and Jo­han­nes­burg – it’s less be­holden to trends, more true to the city’s spirit. “Dur­ban is a city that’s not driven by money, and peo­ple are mo­ti­vated to do things out of love in­stead of pan­der­ing to what’s pop­u­lar. It’s more hon­est,” says artist and singer Ae­won Wolf. I meet him in the up-and-com­ing River­town dis­trict at a cav­ernous, light-filled ware­house he’s trans­form­ing into a life­style cen­ter where Dur­ban youths can con­gre­gate to ex­plore their tal­ents – prac­tice dance, record mu­sic, or paint and ex­hibit their work. “In other cities there’s so much money in­volved you tend to stick to trends. In Dur­ban, even if you fol­low trends, you’re not go­ing to make a lot of money any­way, so you might as well stick to what you like.”

Here, I wit­ness Dur­ban’s finest do­ing what they like across the city. In River­town, where I dance at a block party dom­i­nated by the city’s home­grown Gqom mu­sic; at the KwaZulu-Na­tal So­ci­ety for the Arts in Glen­wood, where tal­ented lo­cal artists are on dis­play in a sleek, airy space; at the I Heart Mar­ket on the grounds of the iconic Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium, where I browse ev­ery­thing from

dresses to peri-peri sauce, all pro­duced by lo­cal ar­ti­sans; and in the Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict, where I watch lo­cal per­form­ers make spon­ta­neous mu­si­cal magic on a Satur­day af­ter­noon at Jame­son’s Pub, a non­de­script dive bar at the back of a shop­ping cen­tre.

At Jame­son’s I fol­low artist and mu­si­cian Nivesh Rawat­lal as he heads out­side for a smoke break dur­ing a set, and ask him what de­fines the city’s cre­ative spirit.“It’s that unique Dur­ban voice – a taxi ride, a bunny chow,” he says.“It can be so many dif­fer­ent things.”

WALK THE TALK

Spend a few days in the city and you’ll quickly ac­quaint your­self with that voice. Pop­u­lar res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods like Morn­ing­side, Berea, and Mus­grave are lined with el­e­gant houses and apart­ment blocks al­most hid­den amid the lush green­ery, but the most cov­eted real es­tate re­mains the Golden Mile. And hardly any­thing in Dur­ban is more than 15 min­utes away, which makes nav­i­gat­ing it a breeze for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike.

One of the best ways to ex­plore Dur­ban is on a walk­ing tour with Be­set Dur­ban. What be­gan with a ca­sual group stroll down the beach­front to learn about the city’s famed Art Deco ar­chi­tec­ture has mor­phed into a cult of lo­cals pas­sion­ate about reac­quaint­ing them­selves with lesser-known quirks of their city. They of­ten join tours by the hun­dreds.“It was an ex­per­i­ment that turned into a move­ment,” says co-founder Jonas Ba­rausse.

“Peo­ple come to a Be­set walk­ing tours know­ing they’ll go down a rab­bit hole,” adds co-founder Dane For­man, a pho­tog­ra­pher. “We’re get­ting peo­ple off their couches and onto the streets.”

Whether you ex­plore by foot, car, cy­cle, or surf­board, all that mat­ters is that you get out and soak up the en­ergy that’s elec­tri­fy­ing the city.“In Dur­ban there are so many op­por­tu­ni­ties, you feel like if you flick a match it’s go­ing to blow up,” says Rawat­lal.

You should get there be­fore it does.

Sec­ond Page: Mar­kets are alive and well in Dur­ban in ar­eas like Sta­tion Drive where you will find the African Art Cen­tre (left) and Dis­tillery 031 (right) as well as Warrick Junc­tion (cen­tre) with traders from all walks of life. This Page: Dur­ban’s creatives are slowly mak­ing their mark on the city with mu­sic events that are fre­quented by top DJs such as DG Lag. Last Page: It’s easy to re­lax in Dur­ban with var­i­ous ur­ban oases such as Kerri’s re­treat on Airbnb (Top). A must-do for any­one vis­it­ing Durbs is to try a lo­cal bunny chow (mid­dle). The beach is what Dur­ban is known for and lo­cals, like those at Spi­der’s Surf Shop (bot­tom), will be quick to tell you how it’s an SA surf­ing hotspot.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.