Modern rebirth of Eswatini’s food and deco scene

20 October 2022
ITC News

The Luju Food and Lifestyle Festival celebrated Eswatini design and cuisine, with a cook off that blended traditional flavours into modern dishes

Eswatini is rebranding its food, deco and tourism scene by investing in its artisans. The goal is to breathe new life into its culinary and artistic heritage and to showcase it to the world.

In September, nearly 7,000 people at the annual Luju Food and Lifestyle Festival celebrated local food, culture, fashion and music with a modern twist.

Celebrity chefs and high-end fashion designers shared their creations, inspired by the festival’s theme “a return to the African Future”. Afro-fusion food, vintage-inspired clothes and nature-infused interior design.

The festival promotes values and objectives shared by the EU-funded project, Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances II. Implemented by ITC’s Alliances for Action initiative, the project brought selected artisans and entrepreneurs to participate in the festival.

Preparation is key: Alliances for excellence

Before the two-day festival, ITC invited chef, stylist and artist Lientjie Wessels to provide tips and

ITC staff and local fashion influencers pose at the Luju Festival
ITC's Thulile Zwane (far left) and Phetsile Ndabandaba (far right) pose with three Eswatini fashion influencers at the festival.
Photo by ITC

tricks to make the most out of their food stalls.

The training covered food safety, personnel clothing, waste disposal, and stall presentation tips.

An Afro-fusion food stall employed a farm-to-table concept. The space was a collaborative hive with quality products that included both traditional and contemporary foods, fused with conscious interior design.

Alliances for Action styled its stall as a pantry, showcasing products made by small businesses working with the project. Gourmet foods from Eswatini Kitchen, Black Mamba Chilli sauces, Yebo Arts Gallery, clothing from the Vukani BoMake Project, Eswatini Coffee, and the Siyaphambili and KaNdinda artisan groups.

Upping the stakes with a cook-off

The Luju Cook-Off Master Chef competition challenged local culinary talent to use local products to create Afro-fusion dishes that celebrate Eswatini’s cuisine. 

Hip hop rapper and chef Akona Benghu, a.k.a. ‘King Terry’, was crowned winner for his fillet steak on beetroot puree, garlic butternut, sweet potato and peanut spinach with creamed avocado. His modern dish using local flavours and vegetables captured the festival’s spirit.

“We need to go back to our past to appreciate the future of African food,” said Luju culinary consultant Nozipho ‘Sasha’ Thorne. “Food sustainability and security are the foundation of it all.”   

ITC’s National Coordinator, Musa Maseko, said the partnership between ITC, the EU, and Standard Bank Luju Food and Lifestyle Festival is part of the broader objective of promoting Eswatini as a top tourist destination for food, fashion, and music.

About the Project

The ITC-Alliances for Action project Eswatini: Promoting growth through competitive alliances II, funded by the EU, supports job creation for small farmers, entrepreneurs and artisans. Eswatini offers the global market unique organic produce, artisan roasted coffee, handmade cultural creations and gourmet condiment lines.

ITC works closely with smallholder farmers, agro-processors and artisans in Eswatini to support them in ways that are sustainable and benefit both people and the planet. In this way, ITC fosters and preserves cultural heritage, and draws on artisan skills and concepts of green growth. 

Alliances for Action is an ITC initiative that seeks to transform food systems through producer partnerships that cultivate ethical, climate- smart, sustainable agricultural value chains.