What would a year at Stellenbosch University be without the annual Dis-Maties Dinner in the Dark? Since 2013, Dis-Maties has raised awareness about disabilities and combatted exam blues by hosting this stellar event, during which guests eat a three course meal blindfolded. The point of Dinner in the Dark, (aside from raising funds for Dis-Maties and giving guests a vague idea of an everyday activity in the world of a blind person), is bringing able-bodied and disabled people into contact with one another and, through this, breaking down stereotypes.
Events such as this have been criticized for attempting to simulate the experience of a blind person. After all, a few minutes during dinner is not going to give people a true understanding of the experiences of the visually impaired. In fact, often the visually impaired guests have an advantage, as they are accustomed to eating without sight and are unlikely to end up with half their food decorating the table cloth at the end of a course. However, simulating blindness is not the main goal of the event. It is important to create spaces in which people feel comfortable to open dialogues about disability and ask questions. The dinner in the dark is an opportunity to enable these conversations in a fun and light-hearted atmosphere.
This is partly based on the contact hypothesis, which is a term coined in cognitive psychology. It is the theory that bringing members from majority and minority groups into contact with one another in a positive environment reduces prejudice and breaks down stereotypes.
Putting theory aside, this year’s dinner in the dark was, as ever, a massive success. Of course, Dis-Maties wanted to celebrate it’s tenth year of existence with style. There were a few differences from previous years. Firstly, we sold electronic as well as physical tickets. We sold 120 tickets in total, and saw many new faces as well as some “seasoned veterans”. Many more people expressed interest in the event, which means that we will certainly start selling tickets much earlier next year to make sure everyone has the opportunity to purchase one.
Secondly, Instead of our usual Dinner in the Dark wine glass that we give to guests as a gift, beer glasses were given this year instead. This is because our theme was October fest! Also, we worked alongside the Maties Beer Appreciation Society, (MBAS), who organised beer sponsors for the evening and ran our cash-bar. However, our wine enthusiasts did not need to worry, as our usual sponsors kept the wine flowing and did not let us down.
In keeping with the theme, the décor and food were all Bavarian. Aside from the massive cardboard beer glass with balloons for beer foam spilling over the rim, the tables were decorated with massive pumpkins and apples; true Bavarian country produce. As part of the table decorations, both salt and chocolate-covered small pretzels were laid out in little boxes and yet more adorned the napkin rapped cutlery. Posters relating to beer fest were hung on the walls and even the music played during the courses suggested a merry and stylish German night out.
The first course was beer and potato soup, followed by a main course of chicken schnitzel, vegetables and sauerkraut. For dessert, everyone enjoyed a delectable portion of apple strudel.
Of course, great entertainment was provided with the likes of dancers from Maties Dance Society (including dancers from the “differently abled” category), Harmonie residence’s ser, the vocal talents of one of the longest standing Dis-Maties members, Willem Venter, and others.
After the main proceedings were over, the dance floor was opened and guests could have the time of their lives rocking out to the music and having their pictures taken at the photo booth.
Of course, it would not have been possible to pull off such a successful evening without the help of our volunteer waiters and our sponsors (Mooiplaas Wines, Blaauwklippen Vineyards, Opstal Wines, Kleine Zalze Wines, Cape Brewing Company (CBC) and MBAS). We would like to thank all our volunteers, sponsors and everyone else involved for helping Dis-Maties to make the evening unforgettable. To all who attended, we hope you had an amazing time and that we will see you next year. If you did not manage to procure a ticket, be on the lookout next year and try to purchase tickets early. We can guarantee that you won’t regret it.
Author: Sydney Berrington
Sydney Berrington was chair for Dis-Maties 2012 – 2014 and has a great passion for life and academics. She aims to raise awareness for those living with disabilities. She also loves good white wine, pizza and political debates.