Why We Stopped Using The Term ‘Mopane Worms’

Language and food are intimately intertwined, as the mouth plays an important role in both. The mouth serves as a medium of expression for language, as well as a means of receipt and taste for food. When we recall a favourite childhood meal or cuisine, all we have to do is utter the term and we can almost taste it. Because of this incapacity to adequately express the wonder and pleasure of food, meanings and tastes can become muddled or lost when food is translated between languages and cultures. Food naming notions in the context of English are frequently used for African Food, but they were not properly inculcated or assimilated. It is important to note that language immortalizes a people’s culinary and cultural experiences. To avoid reinventing the wheel, language becomes a reservoir of lived experiences from which subsequent generations might draw. As a food channel, we’ve come to realise that language within food plays an important role in how food adaptation is considered within its participants. A relationship with food is cemented when one’s language of that food is developed and promoted.

There is a nostalgic feeling when one remembers the word AMACIMBI/MADORA/MASONJA. As you may have seen on the show, we name most of the indigenous foods as they are. If the language is Isitshwala, for example, we will supply the equivalent names in other African languages such as Sadza, Ugali, Hadza, and Shadza. The main reason behind this is that we risk losing important meanings within the translation process. In this story, we get to talk to Filmmaker Tswarelo Mothobe, Writer Fikile Nomadlozi Nyathi and Poet Keisha Mbewe on language and culture.

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