A series of stories about inspirational South African Women
#5 Ichumile Mpumlwana, foodie, content creator, wife, mom, and human rights advocate.

Men can’t braai. We said it, men can’t braai! Women are the silent superheroes that can occupy many roles in a household – with class and humility. Women are the central pillar, the backbone, and the anchor of a family. We checked in with Ichumile Mpumlwana, owner and founder of Because I like nice things to hear all about how she is using her own authentic experiences to influence others.

All our paths differ. Our upbringing can shape you into who you are meant to be. A change in a career, the birth of a child, or a remarkable experience can change your life forever. That is if you let it. If you embrace what that moment has to offer. Immediately, without pretence, and truly being open to the change it could bring.

So, it was for Ichumile as a little girl, growing up in a single-parent household with two sisters. It was a safe space filled with love, even though her mom had to fill the shoes of both parents simultaneously. “My mom woke up at 3 am every morning, left for work at 5 am and only returned home after 6 pm. Every single day she left us with a full breakfast, lunch, and cooked dinner after work then started preparing again for the next day.” Hard work was never a question, and still, Ichumile had the example of how a woman can occupy so many different roles and still put her family first.

In this rat race of life, having a meal together was a priority in their house. Whether it was umngqusho, (traditional samp and beans) or her mom’s fresh oven-baked bread over a weekend – a good meal was always on the cards. Sometimes, her mom even got it right to make the same meal without having all the ingredients. “One day my mom would make South African curry with chutney, and just the next day with Worcestershire sauce because the chutney was finished. She could make anything with what she had.” A skill she’s learnt from her mom and her aunt, is how to use a recipe as inspiration but to be adaptable and make do with what you have.

Her love for food was kindled as a young girl, but it didn’t stop there. She taught herself skills, from how to make complex dishes to even writing her own recipes. Without any background in professional cooking, we might add – just pure talent. A foodie, and a human rights advocate with a degree in social science and a postgraduate degree in international relations. Weird combination, right? Food and human rights. We thought so too, but she proved us wrong “Eating is an equalizing experience. It’s a cultural interchange where we’re all the same and all there for the one reason – to eat. Something that we can exchange at the human level without any societal judgment.”

She’s been to more than 30 countries due to her love for travel and each time is a culinary experience that influences her cooking. She’s seen repeatedly how a small change can make a big difference. How it can change a life. How that change can inspire someone to pay it forward into one big cycle of helping each other. And how the basic values of human decency can create systemic transformation. Little did she know, her passion for humanity and for standing up for those who can’t do it themselves, would later become something even more close to her heart than she’d ever imagined.

Her way of showing love through food, could create opportunities of togetherness to create awareness. How by starting her own business, she gained a platform for sharing her thoughts and concerns about anything and everything. How that became a safe space for everyday Joe’s and Jill’s like us, to be inspired. To not be afraid to be authentic, because if she could do it, we could do it too.

Ichumile comes from a family with generations of strong women. Independent. Intelligent. True matriarchs. She was surrounded by like-minded women that knew how difficult it could be in society for someone as strong-willed as she. Her mom, grandmother, aunt, and her sisters all had a major impact on her life to find her voice. To take ownership of her opinion, and to stand for something. Today, look at how it paid off.

To Ichumile, we salute you for staying true to who you are and inspired other women to do exactly that. For creating a platform of awareness and truly embracing how difference can be one’s greatest asset.

Check out recipes Ichumile created exclusively for us:

Follow her story on her website or on Facebook and Instagram.