Part of the re-Africanization process is learning your culture, and your roots. You really couldn’t do that without paying attention to the food!It is true that Africa is not a country, but a continent, with many different cuisines. However, the basis of the African diet seems consistent as you can see here.
As the African Heritage Diet Pyramid illustrates, this diet is based on whole, fresh plant foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens; tubers like yams and sweet potatoes; beans of all kinds; nuts and peanuts; rice, ﬂatbreads and other grain foods, especially whole grains; healthy oils; homemade sauces and marinades of herbs and spices; ﬁsh, eggs, poultry and yogurt. It’s naturally low in processed sugar, unhealthy types of fats, and sodium, and includes only small amounts of meats and sweets.
Growing up on a West Indian diet, we ate a lot of the foods that West Africans eat with the exception of fufu. We all have our variations of soups, stews and rice. And we tend to boil our provisions while West Africans tend to mash theirs. We also don’t use teff or sorghum. It’s very simple then, for a West Indian to adopt an African diet particularly since Caribean and African grocers offer many of the same foods, spices and oils. However, if you were raised on a more Western diet, it will take some time to learn to cook like an African.
I have made it a goal to perfect one new African recipe a month. This month I would start easy with omo tuo (rice balls) from Ghana, usually served with fufu and a variety of soups! It’s something I know both my son and I would enjoy.
I recently went out on Etsy and purchased some African traditional attire for my 2 year old son and I. It is one thing to believe in Pan-African values, but it is another to actually make it a daily part of your life, or rather integrate it into your life to the point that Western culture has very little effect on you. By dressing in African attire, it serves as a conscious reminder that we are Africans with a culture and heritage living in the Diaspora, to ourselves and those we encounter.
Just as we may acknowledge an Indian in a kurta, or a Tibetan Buddhist with prayer beads, we can be proud in the fact we have a heritage and culture as well. When I am wearing a crown, or a Kente print dress, I feel a great deal of pride in my African ethnicity and culture. I am not here to compete with people who created their own Western ideal, I am here to experience the culture that was created for me by my people, this is my birthright.
Should Africans dress like Africans even though we may live in New Jersey, or Vancouver or Amsterdam? It’s really up to you, there are Africans from the Motherland who wear African attire for special occasions and some who wear African attire 24/7. It’s really up to the individual. As a Canadian-born African, the desire to wear African attire is completely motivated by my love of my people and culture and a desire to unite with other Africans. It is also motivated by a need to rediscover what an African identity looks like for someone who has been removed from the Motherland for so many generations. I cherish everything I can get my hands on to piece together that identity whether it’s a story of my great-grandmother or an African headscarf.