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'Sh*t's Real, Let's Heal': Khanya Mzongwana's cookbook validates rest during anxious times

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In April 2020 food practitioner Khanya Mzongwana self-published her first e-book, 'Sh*t's Real, Let's Heal'. (Cover by Willow Tucker, supplied by Undignified)  (Photo by Qhawekazi Velem)
In April 2020 food practitioner Khanya Mzongwana self-published her first e-book, 'Sh*t's Real, Let's Heal'. (Cover by Willow Tucker, supplied by Undignified) (Photo by Qhawekazi Velem)

It's almost been a year since food practitioner Khanya Mzongwana lived in Johannesburg - when she landed in the city for a short work trip recently, it gave Arts24 the opportunity to see her. 

While in Johannesburg, Mzongwana stays in an airy apartment that she's personalised with her own kitchen utensils and a dozen flower arrangements. Along with the aroma of a pasta bake, she fills the apartment with sounds from Mind Fusion Volume II, a Jazz mix mixed by Madlib that she last listened to in 2012.

During the conversation with Arts24, which takes place on the carpet of her temporary home, a barefoot Mzongwana sits cross-legged wearing a loose fitting shirt and trouser pyjama set. At the end of 2019, Mzongwana left Johannesburg to reset and revisit her mental health regime at home in Port Elizabeth. Without actively working at it, 2020 steered Mzongwana into resting.  

"Busyness is glorified in this industry so I lived like that for a while. The idea of rest was me sleeping to recharge my batteries, just to get back to work," she says, tying a knot in her back-length yarn braids to keep them away from her face. 

During her days as a line chef at restaurants, Mzongwana worked 16 hour days that saw her prepping in the early hours of the morning, cooking and plating hundreds of dishes for four to six hours, followed by a deep clean of the kitchen.

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