Thulani sang and stomped about like a teenager on crack on Saturday night, except that he’s not an adolescent, and it had nothing to do with crack. And he did it all for Mamma Afrika, Saint Miriam the Great, may she rest on pillows of silk, garlanded with roses, scented with jasmine and fanned by an infatuated Zeus.

I must confess to having been sceptical about Moyo before finding myself at Spier in the Cape winelands for a buffet dinner and God knows what else. Well, not just me. There were hundreds of Germans, busloads of Brits, some frowning Japanese looking bewildered, and hundreds of locals whom I presumed were steeling themselves through the occasion because they had foreign friends who wanted “a taste of Africa”.

The idea of it had sounded, well, awful. Theme-parky. Franchisy. Sol Kerznerish. Loud, vulgar, brassy. I don’t do bling, OK?

There was also the thought that the kind of Africa that the Moyo spectacle showcases has precious little to do with the Cape and the Winelands. But let’s face the truth: any tourist visiting the Cape will touch more of the spirit of Africa at Moyo than they will at the Waterfront or on the top of Table Mountain. It’s wild, it’s intoxicating — as I would discover later on Saturday night.

So, expecting the worst, and prepared to go through the motions just so that I could say I’d been, I found myself having a fabulous time. Lynne had told us beforehand, “Beware, they do daft, pretentious things like washing your hands before the meal and painting your face.”

I had wondered through the area by day, some weeks before. Remembering the Spier estate as it was when it was launched as a resort in the mid-nineties, I was astonished at how much everything had changed. The old Cape character of the place seemed to have been all but annihilated by a brash African theme park. A nightmare of inappropriateness.

But from the moment I sat down in our little tent with a view of the stage where itinerant acts would sing, dance and drum, I got it. Africa had come to the Cape.

Soon I had been reinvented as a lopsided winelands warrior, my face painted with little white feet around one brow. I would be Thulani, tonight, I said to Di. Thulani the still one, thus named by my dear late friend Mary-Anne Barker. “Thulani,” she annointed me so soon before she died so young. “Thulani. Because still waters run deep.” Well, Barker, you should have seen me on Saturday. Not so still.

We attacked the buffet, we enjoyed the wine. Hearty, unsubtle, big-portioned — in fact, a perfect match for the décor. If décor is the word for a venue that is entirely out of doors, situated in marquees and smaller tents of varying sizes and designs. It’s almost circussy. And it’s enormous; it just goes on and on. Our area seemed to be filled with easily 400 or 500 revellers, eating from one endless buffet along one entire wall of an enormous marquee. But when we finally left, or tried to, we walked through two or three similarly large areas while trying to find our way out. And bars everywhere. (Which may also have had something to do with our disorientation.)

So much food. Springbok shanks, gemsbok, mutton curry, chops, sausages, boboties, steaks, entire fish sections, whole starch sections, salad areas for the timid; it’s food madness. We were serenaded by a band of minstrels in our tent, then, saturated, we started moving about, swaying and clapping to dancers and singers.

Later, exhausted, we had started making our way to wherever the exit was, when I spotted another bar. Ooh, I said, why don’t we have a little tequila for the road. OK, why not, says my love. Two tequilas please, and hold the silly stuff (I didn’t feel like tainting the liquid fruit of the agave with salt and lemon). These were not tiny tequilas, let me tell you.

I took a sip, and I lit up. Di said it was like seeing a Christmas tree being switched on. Nought to 100 in two seconds flat. Ten paces away, and yet another band had taken to yet another stage and this woman was belting, and I mean belting out Patta Patta. And I’m on the dance floor with a score of Germans and two score more Brits and sundry locals, I’m stomping, swirling, singing at full throttle, head back and glass-arm waving high, for Miriam. Tears streaming down my face, rejoicing in the life of the woman who so touched me the first time I saw Lionel Rogosin’s Come Back, Africa, and a beautiful young woman singing in a Soph’town club, and I, mesmerised and enthralled by her beauty, her shining eyes, her sexy moves, her voluptuous voice. I fell in love with her then, and I fell in love with her all over again in that thrilling, tequila-driven moment on Saturday night.

Bless you, Mamma, and God bless Africa.


Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours...