Jennalee Goeda, Sharon Gabie

It was a hot and gloomy day as we walked on the St. Helena Bay port in Western Cape, South Africa. There was a building across the street that caught our attention. It was closed, but as the day progressed, the doors finally opened, and we were able to enter the restaurant.

Oppikaai is a local restaurant owned by Melody and her husband Charl. They are the most kind-hearted individuals, their smiles greeted us before we could even initiate a conversation with them. Their story and journey with Oppikaai is truly motivational. Their aim for their restaurant is to attract more locals from St. Helena Bay, where the owners themselves hail from St. Helana Bay. With a beautiful view of the port, Oppikaai offers a picturesque setting for its customers. The atmosphere here is more than just a restaurant; it feels like home. It is a place where you truly feel welcomed, be yourself, and enjoy yourself. The ocean and the ambience of Oppikaai complement each other perfectly.

Melody and Charl worked on the renovations of the restaurant themselves. The restaurant used to be a shop owned by a Portuguese owner. The Portuguese were people who attempted to colonise the Cape, but they were defeated by Khoe and San fighters who protected their land and waters. At a later stage, the Cape became a convergence of identities and those who travelled across the ocean settled in the spaces they occupied and became business owners by default of skin colour and identity politics. Melody and Charl were born into this environment where the settlers owned the businesses.

As we looked onto the ocean Melody informed us, “where we are sitting now used to be rooms, so you could not have a view of the sea.” As the place underwent renovation, they still did not have an idea of what the place would be. Once they became still in their souls and the walls that blocked the view of the ocean were removed, their answer came to them “we said but it feels like it's going to be a restaurant.” The forefathers were rejoicing. Their lineage is going to engage in business close to where they used to be free as a people who lived and ate from the ocean.

Melody and Charl took us on a journey of discovering themselves. They quoted the Diana Ferris poem ‘Ons Kom Vandaan’. They related the story of finding themselves and the fact that they work with a Khoe and San activist who tells stories around a bonfire. It was a re-enactment of how people used to sit around the fire, and the elders would tell stories imparting their oral history to their children and family members. The outlook onto the ocean “we call it the 90-degree viewpoint […] if you sit inside Oppikaai, then you have a view, and you if you sit outside, then you also have a view.” The aesthetics of the ocean and the bonfire recreate an event of calling the past into the future, creating a connection with the forebears who roamed the coastal waters, being one with the ocean. Their lineage children are home where they should be, on the pier of Oppikaai.

Posted on 25 February 2024 15:28:21

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