Cape Town Scalabrini Chefs Hit Refugee Food Festival

Scalabrini Chefs Hit Refugee Food Festival

Cape Town’s culinary scene was introduced to new flavors last week at the Refugee Food Festival, with restaurants highlighting local refugee cooking talent – including no less than five chefs from Scalabrini!

Our communications volunteer, Leensa, reports on the global event.

The Refugee Food Festival showcased chefs creating dishes from countries such as Angola, Ethiopia and Congo. The event took place in diverse locations and venues throughout Cape Town with guest chefs selling at food markets, featuring at restaurants and teaching at cooking classes. This was the first year that Cape Town has been included in the annual and global event – and organisers hope the city will continue to host the festival. The festival, which has been running for three years, was started to celebrate diversity and integration in Europe. It was founded by the Food Sweet Food association with the support of the UNHCR. In Cape Town, the event ran with the support of Scalabrini and other organisations.

The festival kicked off at the Oranjezicht city farm, which hosted a variety of food-stands. Chef Judy cooked up a range of Ethiopian dishes. Her stand stood out, boasting several containers containing colorful sauces. The Injera (traditional Ethiopian bread) she had made was served with a tasty lentil, beetroot and chicken sauces that are meant to be eaten with one’s hands. People were intrigued, approaching her and pointing to the different dishes, eyeing them curiously and asking questions.

Former Scalabrini client Chef Patrick, featured in two events including an Angolan cooking class at Ginger and Lime, whilst Farhio, a member of Scalabrini’s Women’s Platform, took over the reigns at Rhino Africa and served a Somali lunch and a former EAP client Chef Bilolo cooked up a Congolese storm at Chef’s warehouse and Maison.

Congolese baking duo Mamie and Milka sold delicious cupcakes at Old Mutual. When catching up with Mamie and Milka, they had sold out on their stock – including red velvet, chocolate and vanilla cakes that they had come with. They were tired, having spent five hours baking the cupcakes and then selling from 7am. The day before they had also made a large delivery to Pegasys Strategy and Development as a corporate event for RFF.

Mamie and Milka had met at Scalabrini where they were both members of Women’s Platform. Both became involved whilst looking for jobs. It was through Scalabrini that they were contacted to be involved with the RFF. They enjoyed making and selling the cupcakes and being able to see people’s reactions and happiness. Since they sold out so fast, they have been invited to return next week. There have even been talks about making this a monthly event. About the event they said, “this is an amazing opportunity for us.” This captures the positive possibilities made available through inclusive events like this one. Looking at Scalabrini’s presence throughout the festival, it becomes evident how rich and strong the bonds and networks are.

Jabulani, who runs the Women’s Platform and facilitated Scalabrini’s relationship with RFF, was invited to Reverie Social Table to experience Angolan food. “From start to finish it was an incredible dining experience,” she said. “Chef Julia and Chef John from Angola, participants in the Food Refugee Festival, created five innovative courses perfectly paired with local wines. The cuisine was explained and guided by the chefs, adding to the experience of dining with nineteen other guests from all over the globe, seated around a communal table. The experience was a treat and it felt like I was at home. The Refugee Food Festival team did an exceptional job of exposing talented refugee chefs” The night ended with the festival committing to donate proceeds from Saturday’s event to Scalabrini’s work.

Scalabrini has welcomed the partnership with the Refugee Food Festival, giving a much needed platform to talented chefs. In a country where refugees seek sanctuary and integration, it was beautiful to see a space where their talent and passions were showcased, admired and appreciated by all. Thanks to the Refugee Food Festival, and we look forward to tasting more at the event next year!

UNITE Tackles Xenophobic Bullying for Youth Day

On the 15th of June UNITE in partnership with Africa Unite and YMCA Cape Town hosted a youth day event focused on xenophobic bullying. All day dances, skits, speeches and debates could be seen at the indoor sport centre in Gugulethu which was full of youth. MC Mtheza came to the stage and the event was called to a start with dancing by United We Stand. They jumped, clapped and rolled across the stage as different groups and individuals showcased their skills. While the dancing covered many different styles the groups sense of rhythm and footwork left everyone in awe. Afterwards the Gugulethu Arts and Leadership Progress group dressed in patterned, bright costumes with drums took the stage. Moving fast, at times the dancers simply turned into colorful blurs and their energy was nothing short of infectious.


UNITE is Scalabrini’s youth program that explores ideas of identity, integration and diversity with youth living in South Africa. Working collaboratively from within the South African High School Education System, UNITE provides a unique extra-curricular curriculum which provokes a deep exploration of the themes of identity, integration and diversity to promote activism and critical thought in youth living in South Africa. For this years youth day, UNITE used this opportunity to open discussion on Xenophobia, and how youth can play an instrumental role in breaking down barriers to work towards a united country.

Youth from UNITE came up on stage and put their best dramatic expressions on. For the past week they could be heard rehearsing at Scalabrini so it was exciting to see their work pay off. The skit depicted the way that xenophobic bullying manifests in the school system, the examples they used was a youth being left out from a party and another being made fun of for being Somalian. 

It ended on a positive note with everyone clasping their hands together and singing the UNITE song ‘Humanity’, emphasizing that “we may be small but together we are strong.” The lesson learned was the importance of accepting others.

It was time for one of the main events of the day: The Debate. The statement being discussed was ‘Xenophobia is a form of Bullying’ and each team had the opportunity to put their case for and against. One point of contention was over the difference between an action and an emotion as it pertains to the word xenophobia. They brought up their own personal experiences to make their argument more compelling. Everyone spoke with emotion and conviction that bypassed their seemingly young age.
The outcome was close and contested, with the affirmative side winning by a small margin.

The day was rounded off by performances from PS Quint and King Labash who called for audience participation and got everyone to join them and dance together. PS Quint also donated R5000 to the participating partners which will be used to host another event together. There was one more dance performance at the end and suddenly the day was over.

While the event had ended there was a newly emphasized awareness of the difficulties outsiders face within South Africa. One couldn’t help but consider that among these youth would be a great environment for refugees to integrate and be welcomed in. It left a positive sense of where the country is headed and the possibility of a South Africa without xenophobia.

To see more pictures from the day and the video head over to our Facebook Page

Written by Scalabrini communications volunteer Leensa

Cape Town Sanctuary Lost Trailer Video

World Refugee Day: Watch our new film

World Refugee Day, celebrated on 20 June, is the perfect time to reflect on the future for refugees in South Africa. Watch our new film, Sanctuary Lost, which explores the future plans of the South African government.

Watch the full film by clicking here.

Watch the trailer version by clicking here.

Download our Sanctuary Lost press release here.

What is Sanctuary Lost about?
Over time, South Africa’s progressive refugee system has descended into a state of crisis. In response, the government now plans to construct detention camps on its northern borders, and a main tenet of the South African constitution – freedom of movement – is set to be compromised. Sanctuary Lost, an unprecedented documentary, combines expert, academic and refugee voices to track the rise and collapse of South Africa’s unique refugee landscape.

In the oppressive context of apartheid, few refugees sought asylum in South Africa. Through archive footage and exclusive interviews, Sanctuary Lost traces the history behind the 1998 Refugees Act, which transformed South Africa from a refugee-producing to a refugee-receiving country. Fast-forward to 2018, and South Africa’s refugee system has descended into a state of crisis. Sanctuary Lost explores the human impact of the imploding system, where huge numbers of asylum applicants, corruption and limited capacity have resulted in asylum seekers being stuck in administrative limbo for up to fifteen years. The government’s closure of several Refugee Reception Offices – and refusal to reopen them – has added more pressure to the struggling system. In what are described as ‘the camps of the future’, the South African government has responded by planning to construct ‘asylum processing centres’. In a series of plans that are reminiscent of Australia’s asylum system (and South Africa’s history of restricted human movement) asylum applicants will not have the right to work and face detention in uncertain circumstances. Only those granted refugee status will be ‘released’ into South African society. It is not clear how these centers will be run, or who will fund them.

Sanctuary Lost seeks to raise awareness around the complex history – and worrying future – of South Africa’s refugee system. Whilst the asylum system is under immense pressure, there are a variety of solutions to relieve this and allow for the Refugees Act to be properly implemented. Constructing refugee camps is not only unnecessary; it is a costly, inhumane way to process South Africa’s refugees.

Want to know more?

For more information, please contact Lotte Manicom – – or call +27 (0)21 465 6433.