The Isle of Man witnessed an extraordinary celebration of South African culture and community on Saturday, 23 September, as the inaugural SAFFA Festival took centre stage at The Nunnery. Sponsored by Standard Bank and organised by Isle Settle in collaboration with the Isle of Man Chapter of SA Chamber of Commerce UK, the festival looks set to become an annual event on the island’s cultural calendar.
The Festival coincided with South Africa’s Heritage Day and Braai (barbecue) Day, adding a special cultural dimension to the festivities. Her Worshipful the Mayor Natalie Byron-Teare and Deputy Chief Minister Hon Jane Poole-Wilson graced the event, reaffirming their support and recognition of the vibrant South African community’s contributions to the Manx economy and society.
The Festival’s debut exceeded all expectations, with tickets for both the daytime celebration and the evening rugby screening selling out. Over 800 attendees embraced the daytime festivities, while 350 gathered in the evening to watch South Africa face off against Ireland in the Rugby World Cup.
Heritage Day Heritage Day – 24 September is a relatively new public holiday in South Africa. Previously known as ‘Shaka’s Day’, the holiday was dedicated to acknowledging King Shaka Zulu on the day of his death in 1828. Shaka Zulu was largely responsible for uniting different local clans into one united and mighty Zulu nation. Heritage Day is a time to recognise aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and difficult to pin down. These include:
- Creative expression
- Historical inheritance
- Languages of which 12 are official and five languages – Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, English and Afrikaans are present in our anthem (On 2 May 2023, Sign Language (SASL) was approved as an official language to promote the rights of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.)
- Food we eat – samp, the traditional braai, seafood and not to forget the wonderful wines we create
- The land we love
A highlight of the event was the Potjie Master Competition powered by Robinson’s, where culinary creativity reached new heights. The winning team from Seaboard wowed judges with their lamb potjiekos (slow-cooked stew) presented in a large gem squash—a nod to South African heritage. The Kids Zone, powered by Tax Consulting SA and Expatweb, buzzed with activity, featuring cricket sessions with former South African cricketer Peter Kirsten, a fun tagrugby game with former All Blacks player Mark Robinson, birthday celebrations, cupcake decorating, Playball, lawn games, face painting, and crazy golf.
The “Local is Lekker (nice)” market showcased nearly 40 small businesses, offering a vibrant mix of South African and Manx makers, bakers, artisans, and crafters. Attendees browsed and shopped for art, jewellery, handbags, confectionery, crafts, and much more.
Delicious South African delicacies such as milk tart, koeksisters, malva pudding, biltong, boerewors rolls, and Durban curry were among the culinary highlights. Festival goers also savoured Afro Caribbean cuisine, crepes, coffees, smoothies, shakes, and more. The Ravenscroft Braai Day Boerie Bar and Train Smokers BBQ on a train were particularly popular.
The Department for Enterprise’s Event Fund supported the safe transport of guests from Lord Street, providing a complimentary service for attendees.
The day’s magnificent weather complemented the picturesque surroundings of The Nunnery, offering festival goers a perfect September day on the Isle of Man. Festival organiser Vanessa Naude from Isle Settle expressed her gratitude to both the South African and Manx communities for their support. The festival’s success enabled a generous donation of £963 to the Isle of Man Foodbank.
The festival’s ethos of community and inclusiveness resonated with attendees. Vanessa Naude said, “We wanted to thank the Isle of Man for embracing and welcoming us by creating an event that brings the vibrant and colourful food, culture, and entertainment of South Africa to those who might otherwise never have the opportunity to experience it. We hope to attract more people of all nationalities next year and to bring an even more diverse and colourful event to life.” The SAFFA Festival’s inaugural edition stands as a testament to the power of cultural exchange and community spirit. With a resounding success in its debut year, it’s poised to become a cherished annual tradition on the Isle of Man’s cultural calendar.