I invite Chris, one of my Gondwana colleagues, to join me for Kapana at Oshetu (ours) Community Market in Katutura, Single Quarters. He excitedly accepts my offer as it’s the best place for Kapana (grilled beef prepared on open fire). Beef is cut into small pieces, grilled and sold as it cooks.
Chris and I are on our way, and it’s a warm day. He says, “One sees the difference straight away.’’ He is noticing high-walled brick homes making way for corrugated iron housing. Providing shelter and business opportunities. Seeing businesses such as ice vendors, shebeens (bars), hair salons and tyre repair shops.
We arrive at the market, as we park outside a car guard immediately offers his services. We walk in and are immediately greeted by the heat, the noise and the sheer size of the place.
Chris notices people negotiating prices, choosing their desired items and engaging in varied discussions. I see Meme (Mom, as I refer to older women) in the company of Tate (Dad, as I refer to older men), who is busy negotiating a discount on a fruit sale. We look around for a bit and the first stall we spot is that of a TV repairman. He fixes any type of television imaginable. Old box sets, flat-screens. We see an odd black and white set as well.
Chris and I continue walking among the different stalls, taking in the atmosphere. We stop by at another Meme (Mamaa in Otjiherero), who is busy sewing a Herero dress.
I tell Chris, “I’ll be right back.’’ I quickly jog into a salon where I warmly greet everyone. This is where Namtenya braids my hair.
Namtenya asks, “Who’s the oshilumbu (white person) with you?”
I say, “It’s Chris, my colleague.”
We chat for a bit while Chris walks to a shoe repair stall to ask about his old vellies (veldskoene/leather shoes). I join him and we continue exploring.
Selling traditional delicacies is one more Meme, smiling and explaining the different products.
To one side we see a few men surrounding a pool table, cheering and chanting as they enjoy a game.
Tic-Tacs, a pro salsa chef, emerges from this group to greet Chris. The salsa that he makes is an onion, tomato, vinegar and oil mixture enjoyed with Kapana. Chris says, “We should get salsa from him.”
With joy and style Tic-Tacs prepares the salsa. Chris is definitely the renowned guy in the market. I am sure that many here will remember him long after we have left.
Finally at the Kapana stations, the various Kapana masters call out, “Over here!” or “Have a taste here!” Kavax, a Kapana master, convinces us and works with Matthew, who cuts the beef in strips.
We decide to taste. Chris asks, “Is it good?”
“It’s good,” I say.
Kavax cuts beef pieces and wraps them in newspaper for us. Kavax and Matthew insist that I take photos of them with Chris, and request a return visit with the prints.
We take our meal and buy some cold drinks from the last Meme, who offers us a place to sit as well. I always say that Kapana does not taste good without a 500 ml coke and a junkie (vetkoek, fried bread dough).
This makes it a complete meal. I take a few more photos, while Chris asks, “Are we ever going to eat?” We tuck in. It does not end here, however, as very soon we are enjoying a second round of salsa and Kapana.
Here we sit, lost in conversation, looking around and realising how special this place is. A community of people who are dependent on one another. An entrepreneurial spirit.
I love how vendors offer services and products, which are associated with each another. Chris says, “Like we need the salsa from Tic-Tacs, he needs Kavax to supply the meat.” Both of them also need the ladies selling junkies and other traditional foods and cold drinks.
The market is located on the corner of Shanghai and Vicky Ipinge Street in Katutura (Single Quarters), Windhoek. Originally, the area had a large apartment block named Single Quarters which accommodated bachelors and contract workers during the apartheid era. It was one of the areas that people were moved to during the forced relocation from the Old Location to Katutura.
Now it’s become home, and you feel at home. It is a place where people from different backgrounds come together.
Look out for Chris’s post on 3rd November, he invited me to the Windhoek Oktoberfest celebrations.
Have you been to Single Quarters? Did you enjoy it? Let us know by sharing your story in the comment section below.
Author – I’m Nela, from Windhoek Namibia but born in a small village called Omatunda in northern Namibia. I am passionate about writing, research and photography, as it helps me gain knowledge about people and my country.