Although originally from Cape Town, we lived for 17 years on a dairy farm south of Johannesburg, where our children basically grew up.
The farm was a very wonderful place and part of a close-knit community, but after 1994, it started becoming very dangerous, and eventually we moved into a friend’s house on a local smallholding after some very scary incidents.
We also started making plans to leave the area, thinking we would return to Cape Town. However jobs were not forthcoming, so eventually in late 1999, we left South Africa. We were telling ourselves that it was an adventure, but all I could think of was what I was losing and leaving.
So coming to UK was difficult, and I felt a great need to meet people in similar circumstances. Kalahari Moon, the shop was therefore born out of the need to connect with other Saffas – and an equally urgent need to have proper nougat.
It started in 2005 in a tiny shop at the back of St Nicholas Market in central Bristol – a little spaza. Within a few months it had outgrown that space, and I was able to get a bigger shop further down the lane in the market. And we are still here! It will be twelve years later this year. And we have expanded to include the shop across the lane.
We try to supply the food that people most miss from South Africa – the best boerewors, the biggest range of biltong in the South West, including a range of fresh biltong made for us in Bristol.
All the general groceries plus sweets, chocs, chips, drinks, alcohol, as well as gifts, books, jewellery, potjies, rugby beanies and caps.
It is a community shop, involved with and supporting community braais, the Sistas from the South – the Southern African women’s group, Zimba Football Team, Bristol Zimbabwe Association, Goodwill and Growth for Africa, a charity “dedicated to helping children and communities affected by HIV – Aids, poverty and violence in Africa” – particularly Kwazulu Natal. Also supporting other local Southern African businesses.
Many people try out their other Southern African languages while they’re in the shop, connect with other customers. It is a special pleasure when people meet up with old friends, or make new ones.
We have watched much community activity over the years – people arriving in Bristol, settling down, finding jobs and a new life. Maybe they find a partner, have children, maybe they try going back to Southern Africa, or settle somewhere else. They often stay in touch.
At Christmas last year we were thrilled that a customer who had left Bristol for Singapore ten years ago came by to say hello and stock up. We now have Saffa customers from all over the world who pop in when they are in the South West.
I find it a bit sad that we have all left our beautiful homeland, but we come from a long line of people who have moved on for a better life – it’s in the genes!