Kolade Arogundade shares with us his and his wife Emma’s journey, running The Drawing Room Cafe, a restaurant, gallery, jazz café and more in Observatory, Cape Town.

The Inspiration

It started many years ago when my wife now, then my girlfriend, and I used to host music and food in our house. We called it “the salon.” Being academics, we mostly started out hosting friends who had big ideas and needed a place to bounce them and people to engage with. After some time, we had everybody from playwrights, poets and musicians, who would bring their new work to share and we’d cook a meal. At times, people even paid to come in. So, there was always a desire to own a place where we could always operate the heart from, whether it be music, poetry or food itself as an art. When the opportunity came to buy The Drawing Room, we took it with both hands.

The Ethos and Vision of The Drawing Room

One of the famous lines of the Pan African Space Station is, “there are other worlds out there they never told you about.” And that’s exactly what we are trying to do, to create an avenue where people can engage that other world that they did not know about, either in food or art, etc.

Which is why we started doing Curry Nights, where we invited people to come and for one night, make a meal from the culture, to serve at the cafe. Being in Cape Town, a cosmopolitan city where people from all over the world live, it’s important that we get to know people and their food . We chose ‘curry’ as a representation of what that person would interpret curry to be in their culture. We wanted to know what a curry was in Egypt or Sudan and all around the world. We were not using chefs, but ordinary people, who were confident in making a meal.

That’s how we’ve also evolved our music. The way we want people to interpret curry in their culture is the way we hoped that people would interpret jazz in their culture, or music that may be outside of pop, like traditional music. And we have all sorts of people come in, from jazz artists to spiritual performers.

The Food

The food we serve is a mixture of Xhosa, West African and West Indian cuisine. Xhosa because this is a Xhosa town and West African and West Indian because those are my two heritages. My interest in food goes way back. I always loved to eat and I grew up in a house where we had to learn how to make it by ourselves. My food heritages are Trinidad and Nigeria. But I love to experiment. We make a lot of great jollof rice at the Drawing Room but we have not just stuck with the Nigerian way of making it. We’ve learned elements from other cultures about how to make it better. An interaction once with an Iranian friend making rice helped me get a good result by trying it that way. That’s also why we have the Curry Nights, to bring food enthusiasts together to share food from their culture. I like this quote by Chinua Achebe,

“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”

There really is something beautiful about the fellowship of gathering with food. And so, we have a long table where people can gather together, eat and have a conversation about food and the brilliance of food.

Upcoming Events

There is always something going on at The Drawing Room. Follow them on Facebook to find out more.

February Events:

Wednesday 19th Afrika Grooves with The Tune Recreation Committee at TDR

Thursday 20th The Jacques le Sueur Magic Show

Friday 21st RevHairLution Live in Concert

Tuesday 25th Mother City Sessions

Wednesday 26th Luyolo lenga Live With Tshawekazi

Thursday 27th Ziza Muftic at The Drawing Room Café

Friday 28th Jam Session (Bring and Play) with Bonolo and Athi

Saturday 29th Leap Day Party with Ala