Up in the Air with Award-winning comedian, Tumi Morake

Award-winning comedian, actress, writer and producer, Tumi Morake is so much more than just our nation’s first lady of comedy. Helen Clemson caught up with his warm, witty and wise South African and talked humour, motherhood, travel, and the place every woman should see in her lifetime.

South Africans are the best audiences to perform for as we’re open-minded.

And we’re ready to laugh at any situation. I believe we’re very worldly and well-travelled. Also, comedy can help put things in perspective, enabling us to better understand our prejudices, so we’re left thinking: “Well, actually I’m being silly.”

My life as a stand-up comedian is a calling.

I believe not challenging the culture we’re born into will be our own undoing.

My favourite female comedian is Wanda Sykes.

I’m a huge fan as she’s unpredictable and surprising. I love her intellectual and political commentary as an African American woman. She always surpasses my expectations.

I believe every woman should see a play called Nirbhaya.

I saw it in Edinburgh. It messes you up, but it’s so important to listen to the stories it tells. It’s based on the performers’ own experiences of sexual abuse and the 2012 brutal rape on a bus in Delhi that shocked the world. I wish the play would come to South Africa; we truly need it to come here.

I perceive nature as feminine.

I visited God’s Window in Mpumalanga just after I’d become a mom and suffered two big bereavements in my life. The walk was amazing, I felt completely at peace. This is the spot I’d advise all women to visit.

As a mother, I hope my children travel as widely as the paternal side of their family has.

My husband’s family live everywhere – all over the world. They’re so open-minded and I think that comes with travel. Because I so badly want my children to travel, that’s the one thing I’ll subsidise because it helps you grow and forms part of your education.

Ghana’s close to my heart.

My in-laws live there and it has such a rich history and is pregnant with possibility. I also love the warmth of the people, although perhaps not the warmth of the climate! It’s very hot, so visit in June or July when it’s cooler rather than December or January. I also love the way the country’s resisted the fast food craze. In Ghana you get healthy “takeaways” with lots of freshly harvested and cooked food. Give me tilapia, Red Red (a tomato stew) and fried plantain and I’m happy. The best places to stay are B&Bs on the outskirts of town, right beside the beach. They offer everything a traveller needs these days like wifi and satellite TV. On New Year’s Eve things really come alive, with competitions between the churches to see which one performs the best praise and worship.

The Scots are a jolly bunch.

I had the time of my life in Edinburgh. The stars were really aligned when I performed at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in 2013. I really enjoyed the city, especially walking around it. The people and food are fantastic. I felt right at home with haggis and fell in love with black pudding. There’s no middle ground with those foods – you either love them or hate them.

For more on Morake, visit www.tumimorake.co.za or find her on Facebook.

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