The Thieboudienne makes it into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List

Thieboudienne (Source: africarivista.it)

Last year, the Thieboudienne entered into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Anybody invited to a Senegalese home, or country, cannot leave without a taste of Senegal national dish: the Thieboudienne. In the Wolof language, Thieboudienne or Ceebu Jën in Wolof literally translates to ‘the rice of fish’, ceeb (rice) and jën (fish).

Thieboudienne is a dish that originated in the fishing communities on the Island of Saint-Louis in Senegal in the 19th century. The story has it that a cook by the name of Penda Mbaye who was working in the colonial governor’s mansion (Saint Louis was the capital of the French colony of Senegal from 1673 to 1902) substituted broken rice for barley; barley was more prominent and local but in short supply at the time, while the broken rice was an introduction from Vietnam by French merchants in Senegal (side note: do you see how breaking the local market is done?).

Although recipes vary from one region to the next, the dish is typically made with fresh fish (grouper or snapper usually), broken rice, dried fish, mollusc and seasonal vegetables such as onions, parsley, garlic, chilli pepper, tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, white cabbage, cassava, sweet potato, okra and bay leaf. As one can imagine, the quality of the fish and the choice of vegetables are determined by the importance of the event or the degree of affection one has for the guest. Like many traditional dishes, the recipe and techniques are passed down from mother to daughter, from generation to generation. Senegalese are known to eat together, so the ceebu jën is served on a large platter, and eaten with hands. It is associated with the Senegalese teranga or hospitality. Today, there are variations thieb ganaar (thieb with chicken) or thieb yappa (thieb with meat). It is said that the Gullah red rice dish from the Gullah people of the south of the United States may actually have derived from the thieboudienne, suggesting that enslaved Africans took their culinary expertise to the Americas, which is a no-brainer.

If you visit Senegal, or if you ever go to a Senegalese restaurant, try the national dish Thieboudienne, which is now on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Enjoy!

How many Benin Bronzes are there? The Smithsonian Returns 29 Benin Bronzes

Queen from Benin kingdom
Queen from Benin kingdom, exposed at the MET

On October 11, 2022, the Smithsonian museum returned 29 Benin Bronzes to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Nigeria. This was done in a ceremony at the National Museum of African Art, and held in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art. The bronzes, which were part of the Smithsonian museum’s collection, were stolen from Nigeria during the 1897 British raid on Benin City (Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground). The return of these Benin Bronzes is the first return under the Smithsonian’s new ethical returns policy, policy which authorizes Smithsonian museums to return collections to the community of origin based on ethical considerations, such as the manner and circumstances in which the items were originally acquired. In my eyes, this Smithsonian ethical returns policy sounds more like the thief finding lexicon and grammar to explain its theft and the reason why it is hard for him to return the loot, or rather the reason why he needs to hold onto the loot. As always, the question remains: why now? Are the Western museums really going to deplete their museums from attractions that generate millions of dollars yearly? And then the even bigger question: how many Benin Bronzes are there, and should we applaud the return of 1 here, 2 there, or 29 here?

Benin City in 1897
Benin City in 1897

As a recap, on February 1897, an expeditionary force of 1,200 British soldiers and African auxiliaries, known as the Punitive expedition of 1897, captured, burned, and looted the city of Benin, bringing an end to the West African Kingdom of Benin.  During the conquering and burning of the city, most of the country’s treasured art, over 3,000 pieces of art work, including the Benin Bronzes, were either destroyed, looted or dispersed; see Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground.

Exposed Benin Bronzes at the British Museum

So, according to C. Huera, 2,400 of Benin artworks including Bronzes, ivories, and more, are held in museums around the world, even though over 3000 were carried back to Europe in 1897. Of those, only 50 are in Nigeria. Today, there are over 900 objects from the historic Kingdom of Benin in the British Museum‘s collection alone. Around 1950-1951, the British Museum sold, exchanged, donated 26 to the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria (25) and the government of the Gold Coast (1) to be in their countries’ museums; it was said at the time that these were duplicates of originals still held at the British Museum (which was denied… but who can really confirm? after all, in the 1950s these countries were colonies of the Queen, did it make sense to return originals to mere colonies?). I wonder how many today are part of the Smithsonian Museum, or the Louvre, or the… the list is so long. In view of this, the return of 1 or 2, or even 29 Benin Bronzes, although laudable, can be seen as a token gesture, more than anything else. Plus, after 125 years spent outside of Benin City, who can really tell if the returned Benin Bronzes are the real ones? Also, are the returned Benin Bronzes the major ones, or part of the backup, you know the ones that never get exposed? Lastly, I hope the Benin people, and the people of Nigeria as a whole, have put in place great security systems and a loyal patriotic circle of trust so that the returned Benin Bronzes will never again leave the homeland!

Burkina Faso 35 years after Thomas Sankara’s Murder

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

The coup d’etat which just happened a little over 2 weeks ago in Burkina Faso on September 30, 2022, marks the need for Burkinabe and Africans in general to be in charge of their own destinies. We have the land, we have the resources, we should be in charge of our own destiny. We can no longer be ‘partners’ (more like slaves) to a master (France and the West) which takes all our resources while leaving us dirt poor. We deserve dignity, and are going to reclaim our territories, in the case of Burkina Faso or Mali, territories stolen by terrorists armed by foreign powers; we are going to reclaim our resources, and more importantly reclaim our lives, and our futures. As we mark the 35th anniversary since the murder of Thomas Sankara, president of the Faso, his widow Mariam Sankara gave a speech which can be found in its entirety on ThomasSankara.net. I have translated parts of it. Enjoy!

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Flag of Burkina Faso

The date of April 6, 2022 will remain engraved in the history of our country as an important moment during which the justice of Burkina Faso sanctioned the assassins of President Thomas Sankara and his 12 companions in misfortune (Verdict Guilty: Blaise Compaoré Guilty of the Murder of Thomas Sankara).

Once again, I would like to thank you all for your support before and during this first part of the trial. My thanks go to the family lawyers, to the organizers of the “fight against impunity, justice for Thomas Sankara” campaign, to militant Africa in general, to the associations of Burkina, to the Diaspora, to the people of Burkina Faso and to the friends from Burkina Faso.

However, we must know that our struggle is not over. …

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Burkina Faso
Map of Burkina Faso

.. Burkina, as we all know, is going through a serious period in its history due to the destabilization imposed on it by terrorists supported by shadow forces. These forces want to wipe our country off the map of the world. This project is unacceptable.

We must all opt for the support of our security forces, the families of the victims and those displaced by war, who number in the thousands.

Admittedly, we must rely on our own strengths, but it is imperative that we call on honest and credible partners, if necessary.

May Burkinabè patriotism serve as a compass for the final victory against terrorism, for social cohesion and for the prosperity of our country.

Fatherland or death, we will win!

Mariam Sankara, Montpellier 15 October 2022

Egusi Ice Cream Anyone? Caterpillar Ice Cream? … What about African Flavors in Ice Cream?

Tapiwa Guzha, founder of Tapi Tapi (Source: sossegodaflora.blogspot.com)

Can you imagine having Egusi ice cream? or dried fish or edible clay or caterpillar or Chin Chin ice cream? … well… think no further! In 2020, Zimbabwean postdoctoral student Tapiwa Guzha who emigrated to South Africa for studies, had the idea of creating an ice cream parlor that represented African foods, flavors, and cultures. He thought of sharing his love of science, his specialty being plant biotechnology, to educate others with flavors from the continent. Thus was born Tapi Tapi, which means sweet sweet in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. Guzha mixed in typical traditional African flavors from all over the continent into his ice cream. To date, he has made over 900 different flavors from some of the most amazing African spices, nuts, seeds, fruits, flowers, clay, and even caterpillar. Tapi Tapi‘s sugar cones are made with millet, cassava, sorghum, maize, and plantain flour.. Enjoy, and if you are ever in Cape Town, don’t be shy… go and try out these amazing African flavors! Excerpts below are from the Guardian! Please also check out this very good article from TravelEssenceMag, and another from CNN.

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Baobab ice cream (Source: Tapi Tapi)

Caterpillars, dried fish and clay are not what you would expect to find in ice-cream, but one Cape Town cafe with a mission to celebrate African foods and culture has used all three as ingredients in its frozen desserts.

Handcrafted, authentic African ice-cream,” reads a sign at the entrance to Tapi Tapi. Inside, the counter is filled with ice-creams in various shades of beige and brown. They look underwhelming, but the blackboard listing the flavours suggests differently.

Tshego Kale, a 22-year-old student and part-time worker in the cafe, explains the menu. “First up is prekese and kei-apple jam. Prekese is a spice from west Africa, sometimes used in soups,” she says. “Kei apple is a sour fruit, but the ice-cream is sweet with a bitterness coming through.” Rooibos, fermented pineapple and lime is next: “It’s sweet, not as dense; good for hot days.”

There are three ice-creams containing chin chin – a fried snack from west Africa. One is paired with African bird’s eye chilli, and has “a kick that comes towards the end”. Another one features clay as the second ingredient: “It has an earthy flavour, very mellow and smooth with a biscuity texture.”

Egusi, a combination of seeds used in west African cuisine, is mixed with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg in another ice-cream. “People from overseas have said this one tastes like Christmas,” says Kale.

Rooibos

Tapi Tapi and its African ice-cream is the brainchild of Tapiwa Guzha, who first came to Cape Town as a student from Zimbabwe. In the two years since it opened, he has created about 900 flavours.

Each tub he makes is unique and never repeated. His aim is to use ice-cream as a vehicle for educating and inspiring people about African flavours. When making a new flavour, Guzha thinks of an ingredient and what he wants to achieve by using it.

He explains: “What point am I trying to make by creating that flavour? Am I trying to showcase something new that people don’t know about? Am I trying to teach people about a cooking technique that turns out certain dishes or flavours? Or am I looking at a cultural icon?”

The idea for Tapi Tapi came in 2018, when Guzha was doing post-doctoral research in plant biotechnology but wanted a change. “I was looking for ways of communicating about science without having to rely on the scientific process – journal publishing, conferences and keeping knowledge in academic spaces,” he says.

Guzha had been making ice-cream for 10 years with dry ice that was delivered to his research labs, after seeing how it was done on a cookery show. One day, it dawned on him that he had never made a specifically African ice-cream. “I realised there was something faulty in the system. The moment you taste a flavour that connects you to home, your culture, your land – it’s a different experience.”

King Shaka’s Warriors

Sketch of King Shaka from 1824 (found in Nathaniel Isaacs’ book ‘Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa,’ published in 1836)

Below is a description of King Shaka’s warriors. King Shaka is known for the military and social innovations he brought to the Zulu people unifying them into a formidable empire admired by some, and feared by others. What stands out is the great discipline of his warriors.  The Zulu army or Zulu impi was the most powerful war machine the British ever faced in Southern Africa.  The Zulu combat strategy was perfected by King Shaka himself, who added great organization and discipline to the traditional qualities of courage and mobility cultivated within African armies.  During the battle, the Zulu army would organize itself as an arc facing the adversary. This arrangement was known as the “bull horn” formation. At the center (known as the chest in Zulu) were found the most seasoned regiments; on the wings (or horns) were found the regiments of younger warriors.  The latter used their speed and agility to outflank the enemy by attacking him on the flanks while trying to encircle him, while the chest warriors engaged him in the front.  Behind the chest, and with their back turned so as to keep their calm, were the veteran regiments (also known as the kidneys) who will wait as reserves, intervening only to switch the battle to victory. Every man knew his place, moves, and maneuvers with extreme precision. Shaka’s methods reached their high point during the Zulu victory at Isandhlwana against the British forces in 1879.

Zulu warrior in 1913

Although Isaacs’ account below of his visit to Shaka’s palace is a biased view from a European who saw everything African, Black, as inferior, it is still good to note the number, the order of the troops, the strength of the king (who was not just complacent, but an active member of his troops), and much more. This also gives a better idea of the dressing of the warriors and girls, as well as the living structure in the kraal. This account can be found in N. Isaacs, Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa volume 1.

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Reception of the Zulus for Chaka from Isaacs’s book Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa. Descriptive of the Zulus, their manners, customs, with a sketch of Natal.

This morning three regiments of boys arrived to be reviewed. There appeared to be nearly 6000, all having black shields. The respective corps were distinguished by the shape and ornament of their caps. One regiment had them in the shape of Malay hats, with a peak on the crown about six inches high, and a bunch of feathers at the top. Another wore a turban made of otter-skin, having a crane’s feather or two on each side ; and the third wore small bunches of feathers over the whole head, made fast by means of small ties. Thus accoutred and distinguished, they entered the gate, ran up the kraal, halted in front of the palace, and saluted the king.

Zulu kraal near Umlazi in Natal 1849

One boy stepped in front and made a long harangue. When the orator had concluded, the whole of his comrades first shouted, and then commenced running over the kraal, trying to excel each other in feats of agility and gesture, regardless of order, regularity, or discipline. After this exhibition, which lasted three hours, a regiment of men arrived with white shields, having on them one or two black spots in the center; they saluted Shaka, then retired to put away their shields, and assembled again in one body to dance. They formed a half circle; the men in the center and the boys at the two extremities. The king placed himself in the middle of the space within the circle, and about 1500 girls stood opposite to the men three deep, in a straight line, and with great regularity. His majesty then commenced dancing, the warriors followed, and the girls kept time by singing, clapping their hands, and raising their bodies on their toes. The strange attitudes of the men exceeded anything I had seen before.

Zulu warrior in full regalia 1860: carrying the large isihlangu war shield. The upper body is covered in cow tails, the kilt is of spotted cat, genet or civet skin and the shins are decorated with cowtails. The elaborate headdress consists of a browband and face-framing flaps of leopard skin with another band of otter skin above. There are multiple ostrich feather plumes and a single upright crane’s feather.

The king was remarkable for his unequaled activity, and the surprising muscular powers he exhibited. He was decorated with a profusion of green and yellow glass beads. The girls had their share of ornaments, in addition too they had each of them four brass bangles round their necks, which kept them in an erect posture, and rendered them as immovable as the neck of a statue. This ceremony was performed with considerable regularity, from the king- giving, as it were, the time for every motion. Wherever he cast his eye, there was the greatest effort made, and nothing could exceed the exertion of the whole until sunset, when Shaka, accompanied by his girls, retired within the palace, and the warriors to their respective huts. Many, however, first went to the river and performed their evening ablutions.

Nowadays We will Respond in Kind

Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga speaking at the UN General Assembly (Source: DW – South Africa)

I have listened to the Malian Prime Minister’s speech again and again. Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga stated quite a few things which are not only worth restating, but also mark the beginning of a new era for relationships with Africa. For me the clear message was that, faced with the West’s insults, defamations, and aggressions, we will no longer respond with fear, we will stand up and respond in kind; we deserve respect and will be treated as such! France, the west, uses Africa to become 4th world gold producer (without a single mine), yet France walks on Africans, and insult us… the era when our backs were broken, and we held back how we felt by fear of retaliations, or by fear of the master, that era is long gone! We will respond in kind. We are human beings too, we are proud sons and descendants of long generations of great kings, we deserve respect, and we will fight to be treated respectfully. Abdoulaye Maïga honored Malians, and Africans as whole; he said openly what we have all been feeling in the depth of our bellies.

In his speech, Maïga called France’s government, a junta, which by the way is how the French government has been referring to the Malian government… but I ask you, is it not what France’s troops and allies have been doing in Mali? in the DRC? in Libya? That is nothing new for France’s behavior (and the West) in Africa. Isn’t neighboring Ivory Coast a recent example? He added, “The French junta has damaged universal values and betrayed its long tradition of humanistic thought,” … [Paris has acted] “in service of obscurantism” and engaged in “neocolonial, condescending, paternalistic and revanchist” politics.

Move on from the colonial past and hear the anger, the frustration, the rejection that is coming up from the African cities and countryside, and understand that this movement is inexorable,” Maïga said, addressing France.

Your intimidations and subversive actions have only swelled the ranks of Africans concerned with preserving their dignity,” he said. Why, because Africans have all had enough! How can anybody understand that Africa is funding Europe! up to 500 billion Euros per year goes to France through the  FCFA, and yet France leaves abject poverty in its wake? and then France (and the West) treats Africa with the greatest condescension? We are not looking for love in these relationships… we just want what is owed us, respect and dignity!

At the United Nations, Outstanding Speech by Mali PM who Slams France, Praises Russia Ties

Flag of Mali
Flag of Mali

Last week, Mali new interim Prime minister Abdoulaye Maïga gave a speech at the United Nations’ Tribune. It was an amazing speech detailing Mali’s battle for its freedom and its struggle against France and its commies. Excerpts below are from Al-Jazeera.

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Abdoulaye Maiga lashes out at the former colonial ruler, the UN as he praised the ‘exemplary’ cooperation with Russia.

Mali’s military-appointed prime minister has lashed out at France and the United Nations in a grievance-filled address over his nation’s deteriorating security situation while praising the “exemplary” cooperation with Russia.

Map of Mali with its capital Bamako

Addressing the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Abdoulaye Maiga slammed what he called France’s “unilateral decision” to relocate its remaining troops to neighbouring Niger amid deteriorating relations with Mali’s two-time coup leader Assimi Goita.

… “Move on from the colonial past and hear the anger, the frustration, the rejection that is coming up from the African cities and countryside, and understand that this movement is inexorable,” Maiga, who was appointed prime minister last month, said.

Your intimidations and subversive actions have only swelled the ranks of Africans concerned with preserving their dignity,” he added.

The Malian prime minister also offered a grim assessment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, while openly praising the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia” and the influence of mercenaries from the Wagner Group.

… “We must recognise that nearly 10 years after its establishment, the objectives for which MINUSMA was deployed in Mali have not been achieved,” Maiga said. “This is despite numerous Security Council resolutions.”