We’d describe Zayaan as a botanical alchemist; playing with indigenous flora/fauna and vegetables as she ferments, pickles and experiments with their capabilities. Visiting her home to photograph her is like witnessing magic in action; with bottles and tinctures and a wild garden to excite the senses…
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself - where are you from originally, where do you live now and what do you do?
I first started in Woodstock then moved literally up the road to Walmer Estate, my dad's childhood home. So I grew up on the foot of Devil's Path, always facing north and crazy views of the city and have stayed there most of my life until now. I now live on a vlei close the sea, water all around me low to the ground and its amazing. The garden is our treasure and it's filled with indigenous and endemic plants which form a great deal a part of my work /life. I work in food justice but these days mostly through art and research. This has moved also into including broader ecological work, using food as a tool to tell stories. A lot of fermentation and preservation.
What’s your most memorable adventure?
Spending 5 weeks on Frégate Island in the Seychelles, a most beautiful interesting private granitic island resort. I went to visit my friend who was the conservationist at the time to help with turtle monitoring, one of the only places turtles nest in the daytime. It was glorious, walking the island everyday twice a day, meeting turtles in sacred moments of birth, harvesting cinnamon for the first time in hundreds of years, smelling ylang ylang flowers, hearing the beautiful song of the magpie Robin, meeting the neighbours of giant aldabra tortoises, the endemic fregate beetle. It was an out of body experience, particularly swopping the massive land mass of the main continent and freezing Atlantic for a tiny tiny island in the middle of a massive warm Indian ocean. It was as if I swopped realities.
How does travel feed your soul?
Cape Town is a difficult place to be at times, it's complex and political and tires me. Travel refreshes me, inspires me, gives my heart and soul space to love. It also gives me opportunity to see those I love that live elsewhere and that is a gift.
They say home is where the heart is. What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is family and this land and sea, if my family lived elsewhere I probably would too, we are very close. But coming home to these places and waters and insects and animals and people pulls my soul everytime.
What makes Africa special compared to others places you’ve been to?
There's a beautiful ancient connection to land here, little desire to hide it all or dig it up, and the joy that comes through people. Of course Africa is massive and I have never been to North Africa, but I would say also the immense diversity we have in this continent, diversity is a key to life thriving.