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The word braai (pronounced "bry", rhyming with the word "dry") is an Afrikaans word, which may be used as either a noun or a verb, meaning "roast", "grill" or "barbecue".

In ESAT it can refer to the food, the process and the cultural practice - as well as the name of a stage play

Braai as food, cultural practice and/or event


To braai (or "braaing") means to burn or to roast in a general sense.

Most often used to refer to the popular process of grilling, roasting or barbecuing meat, sausage, "sosaties" (kebabs) or fish (sometimes other foods, corn on the cob, mushrooms, vegetables, bread, etc.) on the coals. The meat done in this fashion is specifically referred to as braaivleis (i.e. "grilled meat").

The practice of grilling or barbecuing meat is of course widespread international practice and has been so since the discovery of fire itself, so it is by no means limited to Southern Africa. However, to "have a braai" is nonetheless an enormously popular - and in some ways significant, and even culturally defining, social custom in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is often found as a nostalgically retained practice among South African expatriates living across the globe.

The practice itself though is derived from the pragmatic custom of most travelers, explorers, and hunters to roast meat on a fire and coals on hunting and other trips. The particular name for the practice and the prominent social role it has played in the evolution of South African society in the 20th century, largely originated with the Afrikaans-speaking segment of the population however. Interestingly enough, it has since been adopted as a distinctive local practice - especially on festive occasions - by almost all South Africans, rural and urban, from many ethnic backgrounds, over the past 50 years or so. There is now even a national "Braai day" in the country.

In this sense "having a braai" is thus a particular kind of social performance and many arcane rituals and conventions have arisen around the process - as well as an enormous range of commercial activity from numerous recipe books, courses, braai competitions and so on to the sale of all kinds of ingenious equipment for "braaing" have been developed or imported from other countries.

Noun and adjective

"A braai" or "the braai" can either be a reference to the physical construction, or the portable implement, on which you braai the meat ( "he built a braai in the backyard", I bought a new "braai") or the whole event - inclusive of the apparatus and the processes involved in barbecuing meat (and other foods) over coals and consuming it with family, friends and/or colleagues ("I was invited to a braai", "they had a huge braai"). Adjectivally you would speak of things like braai tongs, braai wood, and so on.

Braai, a stage play by Willemien Brümmer (1974-)

The original text

The play was originally conceived as a text called Aandlied ("Evening song"), and submitted for the the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees and the Dagbreek-trust's text development project. The concept won the award and was then developed, with the help of Schalk Schoombie and Marthinus Basson to become a fully developed play called Braai ("Barbecue"), which was first performed at the KKNK in 2014.

The play looks at the cycle of violence that seems to characterize life on South African farms and in South African families.


2014: Premiére at the Absa KKNK in Oudtshoorn, produced by TEATERteater and directed by Lara Bye, with Charles-Edwin van der Walt, Dean Smith, Esther von Waltsleben, Fiona du Plooy, Gys de Villiers, Leon Kruger, and stage managed by Wilhelm Conradie.


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