Simply AmaZink

Vibrant, colourful, funky and with subtle Cuban influences in the heart of a South African township… Welcome to AmaZink Eatery.

What do you do when you really want to create a space that’s funky, edgy, inviting and totally local, with the burden of serious budget constraints? You improvise, recycle and get all hands on deck, of course.

This is an apt description of how Stellenbosch-based visual communication studio Fanakalo approached a community project they were involved in.

With paint sponsorships, the help of both creative and non-creative friends, a visit to the local second-hand joint and lots of creative spunk, Fanakalo managed to create a vibrant and contemporary look for AmaZink Eatery in Khayamandi township, just outside Stellenbosch.

AmaZink Eatery at the Ikhaya Trust Centre is part of a larger initiative to capitalise on the township’s tourism potential. The project is financed by a group of prominent Stellenbosch business people and well-known local chef Bertus Basson provided some useful direction in his role as “culinary consultant”.

Overlooking the centre’s amphitheatre and with a gorgeous view of the Stellenbosch mountains, the setting in the middle of the township lends itself to a social meeting place, around delicious South African cuisine.

What started as Fanakalo’s creative contribution to a community project soon became their love project, judging by the enthusiasm with which Jan Solms and Rohan Etsebeth talk about the studio’s involvement with AmaZink. They wanted the design to work to market the restaurant, without trying too hard.

Working with a very limited design budget, Fanakalo wanted to capture the brightness and vibrancy of Khayamandi in their design. In exploring and playing with design, Fanakalo were able to incorporate African nuances while avoiding the in-your-face cultural clichés.

The brightly painted wooden chairs and the über cool tables are enough to get bums on seats. The wooden table surfaces are painted with “typically African” patterns, motifs and other ethnic designs. Estebeth tells of the mad dash to get all the tables painted a week before the scheduled opening. As often happens with “love projects” people just pulled together to help with the painting of the tables – friends, family and anybody else Fanakalo managed to pin down.

Without making a conscious statement, the design manages to become a talking point. Old framed cellphones against the wall are a reminder of the rapid turnover time of technology while also just looking very funky. Using the cellphones as a focus piece for the walls highlights the initiative’s pledge to sustainability and being creative with a limited budget. Neat, clean, modern and spacious, AmaZink is the ideal meeting place for South Africans (and visiting foreigners) of every race, creed and denomination.

If the design and setting isn’t your style, the food may well have you going for seconds. Expect generous portions of all the favourite local “home variety” dishes like pap, wors, vetkoek and chakalaka. There’s also chicken, viskoekies, samoosas, lamb chops, samp and beans, pumpkin fritters and the like.

AmaZink hopes to use its restaurant space and amphitheatre to attract bands and performing artists, and to broadcast important sports events on big screens. The project started early in 2010 and the opening was planned to officially coincide with the start of the World Cup in June 2010. Right from the outset, the stakeholders and financiers were determined to ensure that AmaZink remains a community initiative, with a keen focus on empowerment and skills development. One of the first steps towards realising this objective was employing Loyiso Mbambo as the manager of the eatery.

Affectionately known in the community as “Roots”, Mbambo previously owned a shebeen that operated from the premises that today is AmaZink. Roots is ideally suited to his position. He grew up in the Khayamandi community and later underwent some culinary training at Spier. He understands the needs and expectations of the community while also knowing how to ensure a great dining experience for his patrons.

As a name AmaZink has a uniquely South African feel to it, and it’s a word that’s often used colloquially to describe something that is “amazing”. The symbolic meaning, in the township context, can’t be overlooked. AmaZink also refers to the corrugated sink roofs of the typical township dwelling.