Koeksisters H U I S K OM B U I S THE FOOD OF AN ABSENT COMMUNITY As a child in the early nineteen-sixties, I often accompanied my father to a fish market in an area of Cape Town known as District Six, located in the heart of the city at the foothills of Table Mountain. It was a mixed race neighborhood, established about a hundred years earlier as a community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans and immigrants. Fifty years ago on February 11, 1966, the nationalist government of the day passed a law declaring District Six a whites-only area. Their houses were subsequently bulldozed and they were relocated twenty-five kilometers outside the mother city to a windswept sandy scrubland known as the Cape Flats. Cape Town not only lost a vital chunk of its population and architecture, it lost its soul. Today a few mosques and churches dot this wasteland where once a spirited community lived. According to ex-resident Ruth Jeftha, “District Six was all about food – we didn’t have much, but food brought us together. If you had kids to feed you would go to your neighbour and ask for food.” Linda Fortune remembersthe smells of District Six: “I used to walk up Hanover Street on my way home and could identify what different people were cooking. I truly miss the food, the smells of District Six.” Huis Kombuis (Home Kitchen) is a term coined by a group of twenty-two ex-residents who participate in a memory workshop program with team leader Tina Smith, curator of the District Six Museum. It’s a design project where storytelling, performance and traditional craftwork involving embroidery, sewing and applique work are used to document the culinary life of the era. A couple of years ago Tina Smith invited me to work with her on a food book with the working title, ‘Huis Kombuis – The food of District Six’. It includes the testimonies of her group, their recipes as embroidered artworks, and as stylized food photographs – as well as their portraits, each holdig a favourite object that links them to District Six. It is e a unique cookbook in the sense that it records and celebrates the food of an absent society. . . Jac de Villiers