First off, a Ghanaian Highlife band called Uhuru Dance Band, singing a track called Umraro –
If you want a quick round up of the history of Highlife, go here.
And here's another Ghanaian hiphop artiste - Joey B, with a title called U x me
I have a lot of choices for you today – Cesaria Evora and Dorota Miśkiewicz with Um Pincelada –
Ugali – is the first menu item I have for you here. This is a maizemeal dish eaten as staple in many African nations. In interior Kenya it’s called Ugali, in Zambia and Malawi it’s called Nsima, Ubugali in Burundi and Isitshwala in South Africa. It’s made with sorghum or millet flour also. Ugali is similar to the West African Fufu, made with a mix of cassava and plantain flours. Maize flour can be used for Fufu too.
Ugali was part of the buffet everywhere on the safaris during my trip last December. Very similar to polenta and also similar in texture to the South Indian steamed snack called Idli. It’s prepared by mixing maizemeal/cornflour into boiling water and then cooking to the required consistency - fairly stiff and mouldable. The ugali I ate was shaped into half-inch thick cakes, either rounds or, in some cases, hexagonal – rather decorative. In the safari camps/lodges it was always served with meat/fish stews and a stir-fried dish of greens on the side, Sukuma Wiki – collard greens, kale and spinach cooked with tomatoes and a crisp flavoured mix of herbs, yum!
Incidentally, at one of the lodges, the chef came around to our table and offered to make us ‘Poha’ for breakfast, a dish eaten widely in Western India. And ‘Swahili Chapatti,’ prepared on live counters and exactly like the Indian ‘Paratha,’ was also a regular feature on the Kenyan side of the buffets in the lodges and camps. Before going to Kenya, I had not the foggiest that Poha and Paratha had made their way so far into Africa, though of course I knew of Indian settlers and traders operating all along the East African coast from the time of Vasco da Gama. But reading something in a book, and seeing Parathas being briskly rolled by expert African station chefs in an African country as a matter of course, are two vastly different learning experiences.
Kenya has a sizeable minority of Indian settlers, roughly 1.5 % of the population, and last year their constitution has recognised the Kenyans of Indian origin as a ‘tribe’ in their own right. Probably vote-bank politics, but what interested me is the cultural aspect. I saw temples in Nairobi and elsewhere, and a compound with gates in wrought iron displaying the symbol of ‘Om’ in Nakuru town. And intriguingly, no Bollywoody posters anywhere or any fandom of Indian film celebs. Or even Hollywoody ones. Not much of a cine culture in Kenya, our guide told us. That too was news to me. Because West Africa with its Bollywood fans used to be an entirely different kettle of fish. And since the 70’s, Nigeria has graduated to its own prolific film industry – don’t know if they ‘give any face’ to Bollywood still. Anyways, I digress. Keep going off topic! Get back to U!
Ujamaa – this was a policy initiative in Tanzania during the 1960’s and 70’s instituted by the first President Julius Nyerere, who was majorly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and adopted the latter’s approach to the Tanzanian freedom struggle. He also quickly made Tanzania into a one-party state after being elected to power - never a good thing for a fledgling nation.
Ujamaa which means ‘familyhood’ in Swahili was a socio-economic concept based on African socialism, of which Nyerere was one of the main architects along with the leaders of post-colonial Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Guinea. Nyerere’s vision was encapsulated in the Arusha Declaration in 1967, where the extended family was the cornerstone of the African blueprint of economic development. It was founded on three basic ideals – ujamaa, self-reliance and austerity. And implemented through a programme of villagisation, whereby people were forcibly relocated to collective and co-operative villages as building blocks of a mainly export-oriented economy, focussed on cash crops like tea and tobacco. Predictably, food production plummeted and the objective of self-reliance vanished into thin air. Ujamaa proved unpopular and unviable economically and was ultimately rejected.
Nyerere’s policies also included the nationalisation of practically every sector and thus bred a culture of runaway corruption. Altogether all his policies were a recipe for disaster! - they led Tanzania to the brink of starvation, hugely dependent on foreign food aid. In 1985, Nyerere voluntarily stepped down in favour of his hand-picked successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, who then undertook a comprehensive programme of market led reforms. In spite of his policies of socialism failing, Nyerere remains a revered leader among his countrymen. Though nowhere as developed as South Africa or as affluent as Nigeria, Tanzania is now one of the top ten economies in Africa. In addition, it has never degenerated into tribal conflicts since its independence, a beacon of stability in an otherwise turbulent region.
From the Safaris
Books n Stuff
Sandra Uwiringiyimana is the young author of How Dare the Sun Rise, a memoir of her traumatised childhood and escape from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sandra was ten when she witnessed the massacre at the Gatumba Refugee Camp in 2004, in which her mother was attacked. She herself was threatened at gunpoint and her six-year old sister was killed. Sandra faced sexual assault and unimaginable violence to come to America by 2007 where she started at middle school and tried to adjust as best as she could. Now a graduate, she recalls this long and difficult journey with journalist Abigail Pesta in the book. A first-hand account of the kind of real conflict that practically and unfairly stereotypes the whole continent and the layered complexity of the word ‘refugee.’ Read an excerpt here.
Tchicaya U Tam’si (1931 – 1988) – was a Congolese poet who explored the relationship between victim and victor. He was educated mostly in France, and when Belgian Congo became independent, he went back and worked as an editor of a daily journal. In addition to many volumes of poetry, he also wrote radio features, short fiction and a novel. Apart from his stint as editor, he lived mostly in France. Here’s a short excerpt from one of his poems, Brush Fire –
it flows here and there a river
the flames are the looks
of those who brood upon it
I said to you
remembersthe taste of bronze drunk hot.
(From the Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry)
Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018