Madiba restaurant

South Africans living in New York, are you homesick?

by: Stuart Graham | 26 Nov 2009
Madiba restaurant

The borough of Brooklyn in New York City is not the place one would expect to find a decent plate of "mielie pap en sous".

But at 195 Dekalb Avenue, in the suburb of Fort Green, a Johannesburger and his wife have found unlikely success - running their very own New York City-style shebeen.

In 1999, Mark Henegan and his wife Jenny started Madiba Restaurant, named in honour of former President Nelson Mandela.

Since then, it has grown into one of the top listed restaurants in New York City.

The influential Gourmet Magazine listed Madiba as one of the ten most interesting places in the United States.

The restaurant guide, Zagat 2009, says the vibe at Madiba "suits the age of Obama".

"Madiba restaurant pays homage to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and is dedicated to the future of South Africa," Henegan says.

That future, he says, "Promises greater cultural harmony, economic development, and collective enjoyment of a world in one country".

"Our concept is steeped in the tradition of a shebeen, the informal dining halls in South African townships.

"We have all the traditional tastes - pap and boerie, bobotie oxtail, umqushu. We also have an SA only wine list."

Henegan says one of the restaurant's aims is to take the concept of Ubuntu (humanity) and spread it around the United States.

"South Africa's townships have flourished as the hub of activity and social life in each community.

"The feeling of Ubuntu is the very core of each township's existence.

"The shebeen's have always been gathering places where South Africans leave the work-day behind to embrace joy, laughter, community, and a little beer to boot. They offer sanctuary to the weary and well-travelled. A visit to one is the ultimate experience of everyday-life one can have while touring South Africa."

"Through our cuisine, music, arts and crafts we sell and also our catering business, we want to try and preserve the culture and vitality of the South African experience."

In past decade, Madiba Restaurant has become something of a gathering point for South Africans living in New York City.

"Since 1999, Madiba has been a cultural hub, and something of a haven for South Africans and those interested in South African culture," Henegan says.

- Sapa - AFP


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