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We are all multifaceted says lecturer, food fundi Nondumiso Phenyane

Insta influencer wants more people to boldly express their uniqueness via what they love

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist
Nondumiso Phenyane.
Nondumiso Phenyane.
Image: Supplied

Humans are not just one thing, and shouldn’t be afraid to express their differences is the motto Nondumiso Phenyane lives by. 

She’s a law lecturer, food content creator, food stylist and photographer and is working on her Phd from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. And she often cooks and creates recipes with the SABCs Expresso Show on TV and has also been on the reality show, The Taste Master SA.

Phenyane wants more young people to thrive in their multifaceted selves. She is leading the charge with her Instagram food account @vegan_attempts. When she first started posting her food content she was afraid to even put her name or face on her account. She says when she was growing up she was told, like many, that she had to be one thing and she has since unlearned that and strives to convey the message through her lecturing and social media that YOU can be all YOU want to be.

Food can be healing.
Food can be healing.
Image: supplied

“I am multifaceted and there is something beautiful about that. I think everybody has all these different dimensions but we live in a society that encourages us to show one version of ourselves, but I love how social media is changing that. I would like for young people to know that they can be as diverse, multifaceted and as complex as they want to be,” she explains.

Her Instagram account focuses on vegan or plant-based foods. This was a no-brainer for Phenyane, who is a flexitarian. Simply put, that means she eats mainly plant-based foods but will occasionally eat animal products. She made the move to change her diet in 2015 after having been on a raw vegan diet for 21 days and was impressed with the results. She lost weight, cleared her acne-prone skin and experienced many other benefits. She says she realised how powerful plants were in healing the body and could not go back to her previous diet.

Phenyane says she eats for her body.She has irritable bowel syndrome, and though her plant-based diet has helped, however, there are some plants that actually irritate her condition. She experiences stomach cramps when she consumes legumes, so she will instead eat animal products such as cheese to counteract that.

“People have many reasons why they might be flexitarian. Mine is so that I can pay attention to my body and respond to what my body needs at a certain point.”

For Phenyane, food is medicine. She believes you can almost always find a food that will help or heal a health issue that you’re going through. Despite not having a formal culinary qualification, she also develops recipes but will only do so now for the brand she’s working with. 

“It’s a lot of work developing a recipe, I will only develop a recipe if it is paid work.”

A plant based diet can be fun.
A plant based diet can be fun.
Image: Supplied

Her grandmother was the person who taught her to cook.She recalls learning just by watching her grandmother making stuff and states that she found it hard in the beginning when creating Instagram content to use recipes. Her audience would often ask her what the quantities of the ingredients she used were but she often wouldnt have an answer as she just eyeballed things.

“That method of cooking is very ingrained in me, you know, cooking out of instinct.. but over the years I have learnt to warm up to recipes, use them and develop them.”

Though an advocate for being all you can be, Phenyane keeps her two lives very separate.She does her content creation on weekends and is back to being a lecturer during the week. All her TV appearances are very early in the morning and do not clash with her primary work as lecturer. She hopes that those who visit her Instagram page will be able to take away a curiosity about plants, to see the beauty and versatility of plants and to realise how tasty they are.

“…I would like people to take away the idea that it is important to try, that is why my page is called @vegan_attempts, it’s about trying, it’s not about being perfect or having it all figured out, it’s just about committing to trying. Whether it is trying to heal our bodies with food or trying to opt for meal options that cause the least amount of harm to the environment and other living beings.”

Phenyane says mainstream media is a great place to spread the message on plants being good for us. She says social media is also a great platform but tends to be quite niche.  For budding food stylists and photographers she has this to say: “I think it’s important to just start, whether you’re starting with your phone or you have a camera, just start. I think when you start, that’s when you’ll get exposure to different things because it’s a very big and broad world.”

A cake made by Nondumiso Phenyane.
A cake made by Nondumiso Phenyane.
Image: Nondumiso Phenyane

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