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These Chefs Are on a Mission to Decolonize West African Food

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When asked “Where is imperialism in Africa?” former president of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara said the answer was simple. “Look at your plates, at the imported grains of wheat, rice, and millet—that is imperialism.” Sankara’s advocacy for African self-dependence in everything from politics to food was considered revolutionary in the 1980s, but today, his message is championed across Western Africa as chefs begin to liberate their craft from the pall of history.

“The present view of West African cuisine is complicated,” says Ozoz Sokoh, a culinary anthropologist from Lagos, Nigeria. “To decolonize it means going back to its origins, to see its connections with other cuisines.” That was the ethos behind Feast Afrique, her online collection of cookbooks and literature relating to African and African-centric cuisine released in 2021, which provides resources to help West Africans understand their culinary identity and heritage.

Starting with books like The Jemima Code by Toni Tipton-Martin, and Doris Witt’s Black Hunger, Sokoh followed edible traces from African American cookbooks back to their fundamental continental African recipes. “European cuisine is always seen as having deep roots because its reference material stretches back hundreds of years,” she says. “These African cookbooks prove the same depth of history.”

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*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.

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