afrofoto day 6 | am I a “sweet mother”?

Today was a hard day. It really tested me not in the general general sense of testing, but in that LIFE revealing way. I will not get into details and save that for my memoir or maybe sometime way down the road when it’s actual comedy…one of those things people tell you many years after the phase that oh remember that time when such and such, now look at you. By the time the day ended early evening baby and I came home and I had a snickers ice cream bar, a glass of wine, some kettle butter popcorn, 2 lollipops, a huge salad, some pasta and mussels I made. I came home from battle I won and enjoyed the spoils if you will. Sooooo in all of that I completely did not think about #afrofoto until literally right now. I don’t even have a picture, but I was like I can’t just skip this day. I already have a skweredi (debt) with you guys for day 3. I really have nothing for you guys today, but also a LOT. But since today has already been a LOT, I will leave you guys with this picture and leave you all to your imaginations on what the mood of the day was and now is.

#mood

Looking at myself in that picture I relish looking like an African mama – it’s a superpower! and as I thought that the song Sweet Mother and it’s lyrics came to mind.

Sweet Mother – Prince Nico Mbarga

It’s funny cuz on Mother’s Day when I went to church (mostly Ghanaian), that was the song they played on the letout. It was originally sang by Prince Nico Mbarga a Nigerian-Cameroonian highlife artist. It’s ever poignant and ever timely for mothers universally and today was one of those days me myself the song could be about me, but just generally a reminder of how much mother’s go through and still keep going. I’m so proud to be a mother and I’m glad in everything that motherhood takes I managed to get #afrofoto day 6 up.

Also, the cloth wrapped around me was my grandmother’s and she got it in Zim and I think I’ve had it since I was like 18. (cloth talk again lol)

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A Cup of Garri ::: #graphAfrica

kokogarri

Months ago D’Banj posted a picture to his instagram that linked to his twitter showing off a bag of garri. Some laughed at the idea while others, myself included, found it borderline fascinating. I will talk first about what garri is, then what my relationship to it is, then a little bit of the sociology of food to show why this matters.

 

What is Garri?:

It is a tiny grain made by putting cassava through a long a tedious process of washing, grating and mashing, then fermenting, dehydrating and sieving, and finally roasting to dry. There are several ways to consume it be it hot water, cold water, milk, as a cereal, snack or meal across several west African countries. It typically has a sour taste from the fermenting and can be sweetened depending on what you pair with it.

gombo garri

My Relationship to Garri:

I first had garri when I lived in Cote d’Ivoire. The maid we had that time was called Geraldine and she was from Togo. Her cooking skills were decent and she had about 5 solid recipes under her sleeve from her previous job where she worked for a family of 5 that had a chef she learnt a few things from. I somehow and randomly remember her love of “un peu de moutarde” in everything…Whenever I would get done with dinner, I had a habit of walking around the back garden and climbing up the steps to the rooftop patio where I would walk past her room to watch the neighborhood fall silent under the street lights. She always prepared her own meals on a small cooker where she would make enough for herself and Émile le guardian who came in the evenings. A few times she entertained my playful curiosity and would let me taste. She was how I first tasted garri. I immediately loved it. It was a starch, but compared to sadza/ugali, rice and couscous – it was not flat. The sourness had me at the first wince of my face. So unexpected and splendid. She would always make it with sauce gombo avec poisson (okra stew with smoked fish) and from then on wards whenever she made it, regardless of whatever “un peu de moutarde” dish she made for mom and I, she would save me a bit. On days I knew she would be making it I would even come home straight after school no passing go no spending my 200CFA buying Hollywood chewing gum at the Mauritanian boutique or with Diage and his questionably scrumptious sandwich brochette across the highway. Garri and gombo were to be had for lunch! I say all that to say I had not previously known garri and I had, until then, lived a culinarily deprived life.

Many of you may or may not know that I have a lot of Nigerian friends..it’s a numbers thing. I remember once expressing nostalgia for it or excitement at having found some at Park and Shop in Abuja. Although I don’t remember her exact words, this friend in no uncertain terms communicated the idea that I was too posh of a babe to be chopping garri AND expressing anything other that superiority over that level of commoner’s provision. I remember vividly, not her words, but the confused feeling in me. It tastes good, I like it, so wettin do you?! Apparently because of how cheap and common it is is, for upwardly mobile [also code for social climbers] people it was/is a no-longer-go zone ESPECIALLY once one becomes an I-just-got-back.

 

Sociology of Food [Garri]

Every country/culture/continent has varieties of foods for certain occasions which are socio-cultural and economic markers. Some of these are shaped and determined by religion, geography and contact with other cultures. For example religiously, Islamic communities, because they do not eat pork, tend to consume a lot of lamb. Ratatouille only recently became an acceptable dish in posh French restaurants because it was originally a peasant dish of whatever vegetables could be scrounged with no meat. Because of geography, a landlocked country whose climate is not tropical like Zimbabwe doesn’t really know what to do with a coconut. I distinctly remember growing up when there was a drought and the only corn meal (mpuphu) one could find was the yellow less processed one compared to the popular white/bleached one. The yellow one then popularly remained a reminder of the struggle, and in it’s being less processed, whether on a conscious or subconscious level, and not something to aspire to for dinner. As consumers of food, whether ours or another culture’s, our relationship to what we enjoy is largely nurture NOT nature.

Garri can taste good or bad based on what it tastes like in your mouth. This is also influenced by your biological chemistry and what happens when the amylase reacts with the variety of starch derived from cassava. Whether you like the taste of it or not is NOT the issue. Can we talk about learning not to like something because of insecurities and keeping up appearances? It is always equally sad to see someone pretend not to like something as it is to see them pretend to. Both seem like such a deception of self, not even worth the pretense.

 

Back to D’Banj

All of the above bring me back to why Koko Garri is so important. One thing we can collectively agree to be problematic is that we neither produce nor consumer enough indigenous goods as a continent. Of course there are several historical, institutional and infrastructural barriers influencing this, BUT there also aren’t enough of invested in ourselves as a market. Coming from a country that was/is largely sustained by an agricultural economy, the richest black people I have ever seen or known were farmers or more generally those who invested a long time ago in making SOMETHING needed by others. Not new money, flashy cars and loud money, but the still waters run deep kind. Long and lasting money. They were/are the people who are invested in the laborious, but high yielding industries that produce food. No matter where you are in Africa, people must eat. The rich people have sophisticated and picky palettes and can consume western imports – let them eat cake! Everyone else does what they can with the staples which tend to be locally grown and affordable. Everyone else is the majority so if you can feed the majority on what they majoritively eat you are exercing the capitalist winning strategy of majoritism. Everybody wins.

I read on a blog today [on his music career from Mo’Hits to Good Music and now…] where D’Banj was described as “former Big Fish in Small River, now Miniscule Goldfish in the Atlantic Ocean” and I admittedly chuckled at the reference. What is serious business, however, is investing in agriculture and better than that is food and better than that is a staple one. If I ever had to predict someone of the cusp of long money and impending membership into the [African] Billionaire Boy’s Club – this would be it. The thing about being a visionary [for/from Africa] is people WILL laugh at you being a Louboutin and Guissepe Zanotti wearing entertainer when they think that is merely what you are. Only when your tree is bearing fruit and your cup runneth over do they want to jump on the bandwagon. The season for sowing seeds into agriculture and investing in ourselves and what we consume is now (before the Chinese get to it too). The hard work and patience paired with faith and foresight is what determines who has to soak their garri in cold water or milk and honey.

mygarri

Anywhoo, I got my personal bag of Koko Garri and I cannot wait to partake!

 

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*@afropolitaine*

#graphAfrica

Read This and READ!

afropolitaine reads

Since I just came back from Zimbabwe and am kind of back to regular scheduled programming there doesn’t seem to be much travel in my forecast right now (although you are all welcome to surprise me with a trip to somewhere sunny where all the food is cooked or drizzled with olive oil and the language is slightly foreign to me). Soooo what’s a girl to do?! Read books/material from around the world. After all, The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” I’ve traveled quite a bit in my lifetime and lately, but I haven’t really been reading. These were all chosen because of a longing to be somewhere else and experience someone else’s life or to reconnect with a past I’ve lived or a future I want.

1. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

afropolitaine Americanah

I pretty much love everything Chimamanda! I have every single one of a her books and That Thing Around Your Neckwas even autographed when I went to her reading at the Shakespeare Theater in DC a few years back. I haven’t been able to put this book down so I highly recommend it to EVERYone. It’s like an amazing conversation and I find myself wanting to highlight, reread, type out, print and frame some of the sentences. If you’ve ever had one in real life, this book is made up of gems someone extremely intelligent and unaware of it says in casual conversations and you’re left in silent awe. I personally love people who are amazing and all kinds of fantastic, but don’t know it so this book does it for me. At so many points i’m reading and thinking WHO THE HELL ARE YOU CHIMAMANDA?! WHY ARE YOU IN MY LIFE and WHY IS IFEMELU ME?! I KNOW OBINZE! I KNOW THAT GIRRRRL/GUY! STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME CRY. WHAT IF I HAD DONE THAT TOO…I am all up in this book as you can tell 🙂

2. ZOMA – Addis Ababa’s best monthly lifestyle magazine

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My mom who knows my taste in reading and many other things very well so she brought me this magazine when she came to the states a few weeks back after attending the AU’s 50th Anniversary in Addis Ababa. She knows I love to read and write in different voices so great choice here. Haven’t gotten to it yet, but definitely curious to examine the quality and standards of editing, content, etc. Excited to add this to my collection of magazines either from my own travels or my moms and they are all always great quick reads. Will let you guys know how it goes.

3. We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo

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For all the popularity NoViolet has gained in the last few years, I still have not read any of her books so the other day as I was waiting for my salad to be ready at a little cafe, I decided to browse the outside sale table at the bookstore (Bridge Street Books) next door. I chose the book below and when I went inside to checkout We Need New Names was right in front of the register staring at me. I’ve read excerpts and reviews already (I wish I hadn’t) and look forward to the beginning of a great relationship with this writer. She is a fellow Zimbabwean after all 🙂

4. Madeline in London – Ludwig Bemelmans

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You guys promise not to laugh? I hope you understand when I tell you why I bought this book. My childhood years were spent in Zimbabwe and one of my favorite cartoons was Madeline – a little Parisian girl who went to a boarding school run by nuns and the [mis]adventures that happened to her because she was so small and outspoken. I internalized Madeline in so many ways and seeing this book on the sale table at Bright Street Books brought so many good emotions and heavy nostalgia flooding back. I BOUGHT THIS BOOK FOR  MY DAUGHTER. No I do not have one yet, but I do think about parts of my life i’d love to share and continue with my future children [along with things i’d like to be different] every once in a while. I want to share Madeline in all her awesomeness with my daughter one day. Of course I will read this myself, but ultimately I want to keep it for her. She will see the world through travel as well as books and no matter how small she is, inside she’ll be tall (theme song reference).

Hopefully I’ll add more to this list and you’ll be inspired to pick these or other books up yourself. I’m thinking I might even review these post reading 🙂
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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto *day 23: Bukom!

BUKOM!!!

Tucked away in the heart of the heart of DC that is Adam’s Morgan you will find Bukom Cafe! It is a landmark of the city and going there is part of experiencing chill/alive/cultural/musical DC. It isn’t the monuments nor is it the white house, it isn’t the museums nor is it the interesting government buildings. It’s it’s own experience and satisfies so many feelings you may or may not actively be in pursuit of when you go out. One thing that is for SURE (put $$$ on it) is that it will always be a right decision to go there. I also heard it was featured in landmarks of DC somewhere. The food is amazing and although, when busy, it might take a little while, the live reggae band interesting mix of patrons of all races, ages, religions etc will keep you going AND the food is always #FRESH. The worst that has happened to me is the food took a little longer than i’d like, but I was in great company and had walked in there FAMISHED.
I had seen people order this on previous visits and was determined to have it one day so it finally happened. It’s a whole grilled Tilapia garnished with spices and veggies :p
(after)
The address is 
2442 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
You should definitely check it out!! It’s Ghanaian and Nigerian owned (a married couple who are always there <3)
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*@afropolitaine*

afrofoto *day 21: green with envy

Image

I had a phase where I was OB-SESSED-uh with recycled glass beads. My darling @naijadiva was going to Nigeria and that was all I wanted. I looked up pictures and sent them to her. She brought me 3 or 4 different colors and I went to Beadazzled on Connecticut and got some leather rope and clasps. I wish i’d gotten more creative and added some brass beads and really put some slamming stuff together. Now that i’ve said it….

Yup yup yup!!
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*afropolitaine* 

afrofoto: what’s more belated than belated?

afrofoto *day 15:

I really had a lot going on in this here outfit! I guess you/I can focus on the necklace – a gold necklace from Egypt a veeeeery loooong time ago that one of my mom’s friends gave to be on my 15th or 16th birthday. It’s got the head of Nefertiti as the pendant 🙂

I mentioned in the previous post that I went to Jazz in the Garden with a group of my good friends and this is then on the patchc of ground we managed to get situated on – the garden was packed. Hardly a patch of grass was free. It was a great time though, as is always the case in good company. Nigerians, Eritreans and Cameroonians in the picture and I know some of them from Abidjan where we grew up together.

 

afrofoto *day 16:

The main feature of this outfit was the purse I was carrying. You’ll see it later in the day…..check the beaded bracelet I wore. I took this picture cuz i was ecstatic about the new matte red nail polish I got from Sephora :)))) (Nails Inc Matte – Gatwick) Loooove it and it looks great with matte red lipstick.
Anywhooo….back to the bracelet – honestly there isn’t anything too special about it because these bracelets are the trademark/easy-to-come-by/ African jewelry at least in my experience here in the US or even in market in different African countries. They come in aaaaallll kinds of patterns and colors and combinations. They’ve made a successful transference from traditional jewelry to contemporary appeal and use. From the hipster to the soul-sister, for yourself or as a gift – it’s hard to go wrong with them.
Wifey had tickets to Beauty and the Beast and the bag I carried I got from the bottom of my aunt’s closet a couple of years ago. It’s made of leather died into 3 different shades. It doesn’t fit much and as i didn’t need much that night – it was my pick 🙂 We all went home afterwards, the next day waaaas…..

afrofoto *day 17:
Nothing much to see here – for some reasons I didn’t take a lot of pictures on this day. Went to a Zimbabwean cookout with my roommate – it was a lot of fun. My barely visible cuff I  got in Ivory Coast from a Mauritanian vendor at  Cocody Marche. There is a very large and merchant based Mauritanian community throughout Ivory Coast. A lot of their jewelry tends to be made of silver or bronze and has designs and patters etched into it. I love the finishing because a lot of it is intentionally made to look rustic of antique-ish. I’ve had that one for almost 10 years now.

That’s all for now…for this post 🙂

afrofoto day 2

Had a very slow start to the day today and then once i got showered and dressed the pace picked up and it has so far been a glorious day! So far so good with my photo-a-day challenge to keep me blogging.

ghana necklace

My aunt who currently lives in Nigeria took a trip to Ghana and brought this necklace for me. It’s a fun piece made of some glassy stone that was dyed over…sometimes stains my skin and tops so i try not to wear it too long at a time :). Not exactly sure what tribe or region in Ghana I could attribute it to lest i embellish or make something up. So i shant ^_^

I went to Silver Spring and as I was walking down the closed off street where there was a street concert going on, i came across a large crowd of people gathered around an opening where nothing was happening. My cousin and I decided to linger and let our curiosity have it’s way….BOY am i glad we did!!! I have a great video lined up for you all!!!