Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Proudly Oz-African

One of the first things I've noticed, being a fresh-off-the-boat Souf Efrican in Oz, is the  number of South African companies that have opened up shop here. I get really excited about this, pointing them out to no-one in particular whilst jumping up and down like a kid outside a petshop. Yet, when I proudly enlighten Aussies of the roots of these companies I tend to get a "Oh, I didn't know that so and so was South African," usually followed by a "I also don't really give a shit...," muttered under the breath.  I guess it's not really that interesting to most people, but I think other Saffa expats know the feeling, that twinge of pride mixed with homesickness, of unexpectedly seeing something from home in a foreign location.

 Ann Street Spar, Fortitude Valley

The first time it happened was when I was walking around in our neighbourhood and spotted a Spar Supermarket (There's a friendly Spar, wherever you are!). Funnily enough, they are pretty much the same as normal Spar's in South Africa (in other words, a tad more expensive than your average supermarket chain). Of course, like most South Africans I ignorantly assumed Spar was a South African company (due to the name which means "Save" in Afrikaans) but they're actually Dutch and moved to SA in the 1960s (and Oz in the mid-80s) and have the most stores in the UK with well over 2000, compared to SA's odd 700 and Australia's 75 shops.

Brisbane is also home to Australia's two Pick 'n Pay Hypermarkets, in Sunnybank and Aspley. The Pick 'n Pay in Aspley which was established in the 80s, was,according to Wikimapia, once "the largest supermarket in the Southern Hemisphere", and is now owned by Coles.  Nice and big, just like the South African ones, where you could get lost in the myriad of neon lights, whole trolley-surfing down the white-tiled aisles and  perusing the  endless Great Wall-like shelves for hours!

Perhaps my favourite South African company in Australia (at least the one I'm most thankful for) is Nando's. Luckily, their Australian marketing is as on-the-ball and witty as their South African big brother's, with a great website and in-store advertising. I do miss the fantastic TV ads which the franchise is so famous for in South Africa and is sadly lacking here.

They've been in Oz since 1990, arriving on the Western shores just like those famous peri-peri Portuguese explorers Da Gama and Diaz did round the tip of Africa all those years ago. Their chicken is also just as tasty, and they offer the same range of scrumptious sauces and marinades here.  In fact, if I walk around in a Spar here in Brissy and am faced with a shelf-full of Nando's sauces, I could just as easily be anywhere in suburban South Africa.

Courtesy of

Sadly, if you google Nando's, the UK franchises dominate, the web which may actually fool people into erroneously believing that this salivating peri-peri chicken take-aways originated in England (or Portugal!). This proudly South African export is now in 26 countries on five continents.

The final, and perhaps most surprising South African company in Oz is those brasse "Ek en djy", or the fish company I&J! Their fish fingers can be found adorning the frozen foods section of many an Aussie supermarket today, a long cast from Charles "Ocean" Johnson and George "Driver" Irvine's humble beginnings, trawling the Cape coastline in the early 1900s. They hit the Australian market in 1997, and have since defrosted the Aussie hearts with their fantastic ad campaign starring Iron Jay, the fish-finger mad, pro wrestler, who has since built up a cult following. I&J is now the second biggest retail seafood brand in Australia.

I have a feeling that this might only be the tip of the frozen iceberg lettuce and I'll try to uncover more South African brands living large in Oz, but if you know of any, please  drop a comment!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Box of the Week

Here's your TBS Box of the Week brought to you by the SumoSpider: A mutant superhero created by Jeff Albertson and based on the fallout of Hiroshima and umm...spiders. Probably not.

"Land of the Rising Spiderweb"
(Corner of Brookes and Ann Streets)
Artist: Helen Pailing

Monday, 12 October 2009

Things that make you eat your words...

I was reading the MX, one of Brisbane’s leading street press dailies, on the train the other day and I got hooked on an article about James Wannerton; an Englishman who could literally taste his words due to a rare brain condition called gustatory auditory synaesthesia.  

This disorder seemed to have hot-wired his brain when he was younger and caused an overlap of senses, which meant Wannerton, amongst other things, tasted bacon in his mouth when hearing or reciting The Lord’s Prayer!

Not everything is sweet though as he said most novels were “too flowery” to read, French tasted “like burnt eggs” and some of his friends' names, like Gordon, were hard to digest.

I found this utterly amazing and started hypothesizing what different people and books would taste like. I think Jacob Zuma’s speeches would definitely produce an African potato and garlic flavour, with a lingering, faint aftertaste of Radox showergel. Kyle Sandilands' breakfast  radio show would most likely taste like ash and disgrace, leaving poor Wannerton choking and retching until he managed to toss his radio out the window.

Courtesy of

Dickens' David Copperfield, which I’m reading at the moment, would taste of steaming pigeon pie or mutton chops and fragrant sawdust. It’s clear that if Wannerton wanted a fast food fix he’d just have to listen to one of George W Bush’s gaffe-prone addresses to  excite his tastebuds into producing the deep-fried flavour of Freedom Fries and Julius Malema’s equally bungled misstatements would have the bitter tang of sour grapes and misplaced angst.

I wonder gangster rap, with its rapid-fire lyrics, explodes in your mouth like the pop rock candy I used to love as a kid, obviously with a strong hint of gunpowder and prison sex.

Courtesy of

I believe if Wannerton was to listen to that crooning New Orleansian Harry Connick Junior’s Southern twang, he’d most probably taste the creamy goodness of one of Australia’s proudest products: Coon Cheese...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Box of the Week

Artforce, a Brisbane City Council initiative have made great use of municipal traffic signal boxes (TSB's) by having them painted by local artists. There are more than a thousand boxes  around the city and about 900 have been painted.  If you're interested in possibly painting a box, contact Artforce here. These TSB's can be found on all intersections and I've been walking around Fortitude Valley, New Farm and the CBD photographing them. 

I know I've got many miles to tread to photograph them all (I think I have about 30 so far), but every week I will bring you the Box of the Week brought to you by a proud sponsor. I thought as this is the first weekly installation, I'll show you my favourite one.

"Welcome to the Valley/BrisVegas" 
 (Corner of Wickham and Gotha Streets)

Brought to you by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, whose statue stands proudly in Centenary Park across the road. Unforutnately, it is also used as a poo-perch by resident birds and a urinal by resident bergs (read definition no.1).