Lunch and Face Painting at Moyo Restaurant, South Africa

Posted on
Feb 19, 2013

Whenever I see someone who has succumbed to something incredibly touristy – whether it be the people running around Disney World with those invisible dogs on leashes, or anyone drinking beer out of a boot – two things go through my head:

  • That is so incredibly cheesy.
  • I … I kind of want in on that.

The only exception is when I see white, middle-aged women returning from the Caribbean with dreadlocks. I want no part of that, except to possibly pull them aside and, as I vigorously try to unplait their hair, counsel them against whatever other bad decisions they are about to make.

“Not even Bo Derek could pull this off,” I’d hiss. “AND SHE’S BO-FRIGGIN’-DEREK.”

It would be a public service.

But other than that exception, I find myself torn between being annoyed by the gimmick while I’m simultaneously seduced by it. And sometimes, despite my reservations, I fall for it.

I realize it’s silly. I’m sure more seasoned travelers and locals will roll their eyes. But for just a little bit, I’m having fun.

Which is how I justify walking around with what appears to be typewriter correction fluid on my face.

Moyo restaurant has several locations throughout South Africa. Which means, as much as I’d like to think otherwise, it is a chain. But it’s a lovely chain, and the mood of the restaurant, while clearly catering to tourists, isn’t unpleasant.

The day was hot, the sun searing everything it touched, and the shade offered by Moyo’s covered deck pulled us in.

We sat, drinking cocktails and sharing photos, perusing the menu and offering suggestions to one another. Two women who worked at the restaurant approached, and asked us if we wanted face paint.

We stared, looking at one another, trying to figure out if it was okay. Earlier, I’d seen tourists walking around the waterfront with similar patterned dots painted on their faces. And my usual reaction – that mix of judgement and envy – came to the surface.

Was this allowable? Was it somehow offensive? I stared at Rand, looking for an answer. He shrugged.

“Sure, why not?” he said, finally. 

The result. Personally, I think he should rock this look every single day.

And so we all did it.


Moments later, a gentleman came by with a pitcher of water and a large bowl, so we could wash our hands.

And we all did that, too, albeit self-consciously, and with some trepidation.

Some of us wondered aloud, as we saw servers walking around in traditional clothing, with white paint dotting their faces, if we weren’t on the verge of exoticism, of turning the peoples and cultures of Africa into something trivial and digestible.

Then our food came, and those deeper questions were forgotten, at least momentarily.

Despite all the touristy accouterments, Moyo has a pretty solid menu.

I know, I know. I not only went to a chain restaurant, but I got my face painted, too. We didn’t kid ourselves. We realized it was silly and touristy.

The awesome company I had for lunch. It’s cool to be jealous.

But you know what? Sometimes, we’re silly tourists. And I think that’s okay, every now and then, as long as we acknowledge it. As long as we appreciate it for what it is, and don’t try to make more out of it than that.

Still, if you find me contemplating dreadlocks, please intervene.

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