Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food Research Institute (and more Fufu)

Today was spent breakfast- and lunching at Barbara Baeta's with the intention to record some more interviews with her. Barbara the ever-hospitable, however, had several guests over for both breakfast and lunch and so we couldn't get the intimate conversations with her that we managed to capture last week, but we did get some quick recordings of her guests talking about their history with Barbara. We had fufu and palmnut soup again, but Barbara has her way of making peasant food feel decadent and gourmet. Between breakfast and lunch, Barbara accompanied Fran and myself to the Food Research Institute where we met with several of the faculty, learned a whole lot, and walked away with 1) the promise of more pineapple chuff flour and 2) a booklet entitled Compositions of Foods Commonly Used in Ghana, published in 1975 but promised to be fairly accurate. I wish I had had this thing earlier in the semester to help me begin with the compositional breakdown of the recipes Fran hopes to publish (that's been an ongoing project since the start of the spring semester, and will continue into the fall for sure). It's got things broken up into food category, such as grains, doughs, fruits,nuts, etc, and it's really interesting to see what they have compared to what the USDA has published in their nutritional database(from which I was working all spring).

And now for something completely different:

Today, on a wall near circle 37, I saw "Ethiopia" scrawled in nearly unnoticeable letters across the corner of an ad for some breakfast porridge. I've pointed out the stickers on the backs of taxis and tro tros, and most advertisements and shop signs are hand-painted (even corporate logos like MTN and Coca Cola). There is, however, a severe lack of street art, of murals, of graffiti. There's no obvious paint covering graffiti up, either. So what is it about West African culture that stops this general practice? I know graffiti didn't emerge as a culture of its own in the states until at least the late 1970s, but painted vandalism and illegal murals have been around for a long time in western countries, especially in times of conflict. I'm wondering why in West Africa the only painted images on the walls are to advertise? I did a quick image search on google for West African street art and found almost nothing. A blog about street art that I follow, Wooster Collective, featured an artist in Senegal, but he's been the only one anywhere remotely near Ghana. South Africa is full of graffiti artists, could this be due to a feeling of us-vs-them that stemmed from apartheid? (Fran suggested that here in Ghana, there is none of that sentiment, that the general attitude of the population is one of hard work and community, that there is no oppressive "them", no "man" to rebel against, even in this packed and sprawling city of Accra.) Is it because of the intense Christianity that seems pretty much universal? In the north, where the population is more Islamic, is this trend any different? How about in Islamic neighborhoods in the south, since there are mosques and Islamic schools around here? This would definitely be something to look into during potential follow-up visits to Ghana when I have more time and more familiarity with Accra.

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