Tapiwa Guzha first saw someone making ice cream with liquid nitrogen on a TV show. As a molecular biologist with a love for ice cream, he thought, “I can do that.” He’s been making ice cream for over a decade now, and somewhere along the way, he realised its potential for so much more than a sweet treat.
At a restaurant in Salt River, Cape Town, one day Tapiwa saw ingredients from Zimbabwe on the menu, and inspiration struck. Why not use these flavours from home for ice cream? He started to try flavours such as baobab, popped mealies and a fruit called masawu, which became the beginnings of Tapi Tapi handmade African ice cream.
The flavours change regularly at his cafe in Lower Main Road in Observatory, Cape Town, inspired largely by the foods that grew in his grandmother’s backyard in Zimbabwe that he was raised eating. “My grandmother had about a two-acre plot of land. We had a greenhouse; we had a mushroom house at different points; we had chickens, rabbits. We grew our own maize, millet, okra, leafy greens, different kinds of pumpkin, sweet potato and gem squash. So in the home space, we were actively growing things that were local.”
Each scoop at Tapi Tapi is an education in flavours from across Africa. Tapiwa explains where each comes from and whether the fruit or plant is indigenous or invasive to the region. Berries South African children grew up plucking from trees might originally be from Australia, Asia or South America. Tapiwa uses these fruits to encourage people to think about how they came to thrive here and what produce of African origins they might’ve displaced.
Tapi Tapi is about recognising that the continental ego needs revitalising, needs rehabilitation, needs healing.
– Tapiwa Guzha
Flavours such as Nhopi (fire-roasted pumpkin and peanut) from Zimbabwe or Kuwawa (grape and kei apple) from the Eastern Cape are delicious to eat, but it’s the food for thought that’s left after the ice cream has dissolved on your tongue that’s truly nutritious. After chatting to Tapiwa for only a few minutes, you soon find out that ice cream is not what he’s about. “Ultimately,” he says, “Tapi Tapi is about recognising that the continental ego needs revitalising, needs rehabilitation, needs healing. A lot of damage has been done to the collective esteem of the continent around our identities. How can we resurrect some of the things we lost and bring them forward?”
He sees his mission in two parts: the first is to invite African people to celebrate themselves in whatever they do, and the second is to inspire others to do the same work in their field of interest. Tapiwa is an independent thinker, but he doesn’t want to be the only one on this path. He wants African flavours to be normalised on menus and in pantries on the continent as well as national companies to sell these flavours in supermarkets.
It’s a nice way to trick people into trying new things.
– Tapiwa Guzha
How does the content regarding the Shona pottery below relate to the ice cream story?
One of Tapiwa’s long-term goals is to bring Shona pottery into a commercial context like Moroccan tagines, Japanese hibachi grills, Chinese bamboo steamers or French cast iron pots. Instead of reserving space for African technology in museums, he wants it to be part of people’s lives. “I’m not a fan of the African experience being an exception,” he says. “I want to make it a normal experience.”
Tapiwa is noticing the beginnings of a movement. What he’s doing with ice cream at the tip of Africa, others are doing through music, fashion and art. “Overall there’s a shift towards a more Afrocentric continent,” he says. Tubs of frozen dessert are just a beginning. “Ice cream is not from here, but I recognise in the meantime it serves a function,” Tapiwa says. It’s a sweet and joyful way to engage in these discussions. “People identify with ice cream a lot,” Tapiwa says. “It doesn’t have the visual or the smell prejudice of other cooking styles. It’s a nice way to trick people into trying new things without any of the baggage that comes with it.”
Tapi Tapi ice cream is also just downright delicious. And when the brain freeze thaws, you’ll find your mind expanded.
Overall there’s a shift towards a more Afrocentric continent.
– Tapiwa Guzha