Wednesday, October 03, 2012

African food in literature

Food studies and literature courses rarely consider African food the same way they do other cuisines, apart from the frequent allusions to Igbo food in Achebe's works. In class we're taking a very quick look at food in African literature, including proverbs, poems, short stories, and novels. 

Today we heard two African poets, who graciously included "food poems" in their repertoires
for us: for example, South African Gabeba Baderoon read food poems like "Hunger" and Liberian Patricia Jabbeh-Wesley's poems included images of broken calabashes and scattered palm wine. In class we read Jabbeh-Wesley's poem "Wandering Child." Both of these talented poets' writings often evoke a sharp sense of exile, loss, and/or nostalgia. We've also looked at some writing by Cameroonian author Angèle Kingué. It seems to me that African women write differently--somehow more intimately--about food than African men, but perhaps I have just not read widely enough.

One student is reading Nega Mezlekia's Notes from the Hyena's Belly  and another Chris Abani's Graceland. Earlier we considered Shirin Edwin's "Subverting Social Customs: The Representation of Food in Three West African Francophone Novels." We also talked briefly about Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions. The assignment is to consider the roles food plays in these novels.

I've also been anxiously awaiting the English translation of Cameroonian Calixthe Beyala’s book  How to Cook Your Husband the African Way. It sounds like it might be in the vein of Brazilian Jorge Armado's Dona Flor and her Two Husbands. I'd love to know more about other African works and/or articles that focus on this subject. Please help me grow my understanding. And, if anyone can tell me of African films where food is important thematically, I'd also love to know about them. 



Unknown said...

You are doing a great job promoting African cuisine.May you be blessed with all the resources you need to achieve your dreams!

Fran said...

Thank you. Truly, it is encouragement like yours that keeps me coming back and posting.

Adhis said...

Hi Fran, I just re-read Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun" a few weeks ago and its interesting the role of food plays during the times of war. It is often used as an indicator, in the book and often real life, of ho good or bad the war was going. There are so many interesting elements there to explore so I'd recommend it to your students.

Great class!

Fran said...

Thanks for the heads up. I haven't read it, but will definitely add it to my reading list.

Ozoz said...

I recently read Nigerian author Sefi Atta's anovel 'Everything good will come'. In it she talks about food, and introduces me to 'Frejon', a Brazilian-influenced dish of beans and coconut that is popular among the Yorubas in the West of Nigeria.

Fran said...

Thank you. Adding Adichie's book to the list. BTW, a couple of years ago I picked up a cookbook in Nigeria about the links between Brazilian and Nigerian food (
Granny's Special Cookery Book--Nigerian and Brazilian Dishes by Virginia Akerele

scrnoth said...

Two thumbs up for this great job on promoting African cuisine. There are lots of restaurants in Africa which serves delicious foods. Actually I've been saving some list for African recipes. Keep it up Fran.