XWAMA VILLAGE, A SHORT-CUT TO THE NORTH
I always believed that Windhoek’s best restaurants are in the city centre until a friend recently drove me to Katutura’s Wanaheda suburb for lunch at Xwama Village.
I have also had some reservations about gazebos and wooden stools like those found at Xwama whose name means: “to set alight”, since I preferred fancy fast food outlets in central Windhoek.
But no sooner had we entered Xwama’s beautiful village than I recalled a visit to my grandmother’s homestead in northern Namibia during one Easter Holiday. The difference here is that at Xwama Village the beautiful ambience is complemented by the beautiful waitresses in traditional Oshiwambo attire who welcomed us at the entrance.
“Welcome to Xwama. Please enjoy your cultural experience with us,” the waitress who welcomed us said in typical Oshiwambo dialect as she directs us to take a seat at the Oshoto corner.
Oshoto in my village is a place where visitors sit and get served. Sitting at the oshoto is considered a source of pride among Oshiwambo men. The other four sitting places at Xwama Village are named after legendary leaders, Mandume, Taapopi, Witbooi and Maharero
Xwama Village presents a brilliant idea of giving people a taste of the North without taking them there. The village is thatched and the internal compartments are separated by reeds and sticks while the floor is made of white sand to typify northern Namibia.
To give you a complete feel of the north, visitors do not sit on modern chairs but on wooden polished poles just like those found in most oshotos in northern Namibia. Here visitors are served in traditional Oshiwambo utensils made of clay and wood.
It is as rare as hen’s teeth to see Oshiwambo women in Windhoek bend their knees while serving food. But at Xwama Village, that part of northern tradition is still alive.
Our first order was the oshikundu traditional brew. The waitress who served us first knelt and then sat down respectfully as she placed hand carved wooden bowls and plates.
She then proceeded to wash our hands, starting with the oldest among us and I was the last to have hands washed.
The oshikundu, with no additives had a natural taste. It was my first time in two years to drink from those traditionally made gourds. It was a nostalgic moment that connected me with my roots.
While we were gulping down the oshikundu, I had time to check the interior walls that were draped with lovely African tapestry.
Our main meal was served. It meal comprised of Oshiwambo chicken, commonly known as the village runner, under ondjove (marula oil), evanda or ombidi (wild spinach), matangara (offal), omagungu (mopani worms) and served with mahangu porridge.
If we wanted, we could have ordered bean soup (oshigali), goat head (omutwe woshikombo) and dry game meat (eedingu).
Even the menu is written in Oshiwambo and English.
But choosing the dishes is the hardest experience because the meal brochure itself salivates, besides the aroma.
Since it was lunch time, the place was bustling with customers from the city centre and other areas around Windhoek who could not find seats. Here they were corporate workers, civil servants and tourists in search of the true taste of African food – the true African experience.
I did not bother checking the bar and the entertainment area but I could tell that it’s one place that raises a storm.
Before we finished our meal, the owner of the restaurant, Twapewa Kadhikwa nee Mundjanima, passed by and we seized the opportunity to chat to her.
We were surprised to learn that it is not only people from the corporate world that visit Xwama Village for lunch, but also government ministers and other high ranking professionals.
The restaurant has now added to its guest-list reservations from embassies and companies that wish to have small parties or welcome reception during conferences.
Twapewa said companies and embassies that have specific food preparation requirements can also be assisted since they make use of all available food resources to blend with other cultures.
Twapewa says many Namibians are starting to take pride in their traditional foods and her plan is to improve the menu by including not only other Namibian dishes but also dishes from Zimbabwe, Angola and Nigeria.
She however is disappointed by some people who despise their own traditional food in favour of Western or Chinese food.
“When you go to China, they don’t serve you Namibian food but Chinese. It’s the same anywhere in the world. We are providing first class service through traditional food at Xwama Village. We also have a duty to remind people of their identity through food. Our traditional food in Namibia is very healthy because we use natural ingredients such as marula oil,” she said.
All ingredients are local and the marula oil is processed by some of her employees or is brought from the villages, more than 800km away from the capital.
However, a small vegetable garden at the back of the restaurant provides necessary herbs and greens such as spinach, onion and any other that may be in season for the restaurant.
Twapewa said the original idea was to provide a place where people can safely enjoy affordable traditional foods in a typical African village setting.
Xwama Village has 18 employees who are all well versed in how to prepare traditional food in a way that make customers come back for more.
If her future plans come to fruition, Xwama Village might consider hiring more staff as she has some expansion plans for a one-stop African food and cultural experience.
The busiest periods for the restaurant are weekends and public holidays when more people would actually drive to Xwama with their families and spend part of their day here.
“I am quite humbled whenever I see taxi drivers coming to spend a day here with their families. It really makes me feel that my restaurant is serving its community not only as a money-making venture but also as a place where people come to observe their cultural heritage, through food and drink, even if they are in Windhoek,” says Twapewa.
For these and other reasons, I highly recommend that people should put Xwama Village on their priority list each time they think of eating out. PF